"But Alexandra," he said wistfully, "I've never been any real help to you, beyond sometimes trying to keep the boys in good humor." Alexandra smiled and shook her head. "Oh it's not that. Nothing like that. It's by understanding me, and the boys, and mother, that you've helped me. I expect that is the only way one... person ever can really help another."
I read the above a couple months ago in Willa Cather's O Pioneers! (trust me, the book is waaaaaay more interesting than it sounds) and it has stuck with me. I don't have any ready proofs (scriptural or secular) for why being understood seems like a basic need of humanity, but isn't it?
It seems to me, too, that this need, or at least the degree to which we feel this need, has dramatically increased in 21st century America. As our society becomes increasingly self-focused and expressive, the felt need to be understood has increased and the hurt and despair when we are not has multiplied.
It seems to me, though, that with so much desire to be understood, we are loosing our ability to understand. So often, it feels like we are all trying to out-shout each other in our attempts to express our thoughts and feelings. Maybe that is what I am trying to do with this blog. But where are the listeners? Where are those who don't desire to always express, but rather to hear others? How can anyone be understood if no one is listening?
It takes sacrifice to listen and understand. It means letting go of being understood yourself for the moment. But isn't that the only way one person can ever truly help another?
"So much information is available, locked up in the minds and hearts of each person in every city. It is there, if you will but ask... When you listen, you validate their experiences and thoughts."