When walking alongside the suffering – the traumatized, the abused, the vulnerable – know that though they might never utter the words to you, they are inwardly pleading with you to answer the question:
Who Do You Say That I Am?
I have been called many things by many people – but you, who do you say that I am?
You have invited me into your space, quieted your voice to come closer to my voiceless pain – but who do you say that I am?
You have asked me to trust, and so I try – through sideways and straight-on glances I watch to see if I might.
You have spent hours to help me find words, to listen – to help me bring order to the chaos in my mind.
You speak slowly, calmly, truthfully. You have waited for what must often seem an impossibly long time for me to try to explain.
You have offered tissues and silence in the face of deep grief. But who do you say that I am?
Your project? Your case? Your ten o’clock?
Your subject? Your burden? Your alphabet soup disordered mess?
You refer to us – the others and me – as “they.” With distanced compassion that reminds us that we are not like you, and you are emphatically not us.
I tell you I am inherently bad – ruined, disgusting, filthy. You say “not true” but you do not see any good.
I tell you I am trash – and you say, “no, not you” but you stand above holding tight and close your sheltered life so it cannot be soiled by mine.
I confide in you that I hate myself – and you say, “that needs to change,” but you keep a safe distance so that my pain won’t contaminate you – because you hate it, too.
You see me through a glass darkly – the filter of trauma has obscured your view.
I am a human being – hurting and raw, to be sure – but I am more like you than you want to believe, and you – you are more like me than you are willing to admit.
Your great life is a gift I did not receive but that was not because of me – or you.
I have qualities I keep trying to show you, but they are hidden from your view because you only look at one thing – the damage I must cope with.
You say I lack stability, skills, and understanding. You are the expert of my lacking, and because I am desperate for filling, I submit and absorb your limited estimations. I lack so many, many things.
But perhaps you lack something, too? Perhaps you, too, are weak, and frail, and needy. Perhaps my slowness might reveal your impatience, intolerance, haste. Perhaps, because you’ve seen it all before you no longer see it all clearly. Maybe, in fact, you’ve misjudged, short-changed, and dismissed the hurting human before you.
I can teach you, too, you know – a great many things – but you won’t stop to listen – not to me. You think I am only beggarly, not rich enough to share.
Yes, I am a wounded soul. My body has been broken by those who should have been good – my heart, and mind, too. I am scared and weary, distrustful and confused. I need a great deal.
But do you see that I am also a loving parent, a friend, a teacher? Do you know I’ve shown great capacity and strength in terrible times and have helped many others find their way?
Have you learned that I am kind and gentle? Compassionate, patient, and loving despite the murky filth they tried to steep me in? Can you tell that I possess resources and creativity that even you could be impressed with?
I am someone you might like to know – apart from the damage – but you don’t see me as an equal, an ally, and certainly never a peer or a friend.
I am a person, but you seem to only see a problem.
I’ve been called many things by many people. But you – who do you say that I am?