The Art of Validation – how God’s silence is a sign of solidarity

Let’s talk about the art of validation. To validate is so much more than active listening. It’s not just repeating back to someone what they have said, it’s taking the time to try to understand another person’s perspective – even when you disagree – especially when you disagree. It is temporarily putting yourself in their shoes and saying, “I would probably feel the same way if I were you,” or “I see why you’d feel that way under the circumstances.”

Think of good therapists, for example. They don’t argue or give unsolicited advice: instead they walk alongside a client, listening and validating. After a client has finished articulating their feelings to this non-judgmental listener, ideally they’re able to come up with their own solution to the problem. When it comes to friends and family, however, finding someone who’ll be a non-judgmental listener can be difficult, no matter how close we are. When someone interrupts us to argue or give unwanted advice, it feels like we aren’t being heard and we aren’t being allowed to express our true feelings. We end up debating in self-defense, or simply shutting down. In the frustration that comes from longing to be understood, we find ourselves stuck in feedback loops: sharing our view again and again in the hopes that they’ll finally get it. Ongoing invalidation can be greatly damaging to a relationship. We’ve all experienced being misunderstood, and therefore know how hurtful it is.

What’s more, it’s human nature to take a contrary view whenever we feel backed into a corner and put on the defensive.

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Remember those in prison

This year for Lent I decided to try a spiritual exercise (rather than fasting) and chose to daily pray for the current victims of terrorism. I already do pray for them but on a sporadic basis. First, I was taken aback by how much of a burden it is to pray for strangers every single day. I don’t find it hard to pray for friends and loved ones regularly, but this was truly hard. And I know why.

Self-preservation keeps trying to kick in.

As someone who has long struggled with intermittent depression, it has been one of my coping mechanisms to say a prayer for the victims of violence/tragedies and then put it out of mind by choosing not to dwell on it. We call this “positive thinking.” Yet Hebrews 13:3 says:

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

For this reason I have always made a point of saying a prayer for the suffering people mentioned in the news. But while I might be heavy-hearted and haunted for weeks at a time, to actually pray for these same people makes it doubly hard to mitigate disturbing thoughts. Those we fervently pray for, care about, donate to, and ponder the plight of, become part of us. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Second, I began to have nightmares.

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