All of us know what it feels like when we are not heard. Being unheard is unacceptable. As adults on those occasions we experience feeling invisible, humiliated, disregarded and disrespected. A child feels these things and is helpless to boot.
Recently, I read a story about being unheard by a woman named Darlene:
Eventually, at some point in my childhood, I accepted the fact that I was not heard and not going to be heard. I did not consciously accept it , but it was an effective part of the grooming process and I came to understand that was “just the way it was”.
When I grew up… nothing changed. I had been taught compliance and subservience and I didn’t step out of that role just because I became an adult.
I wasn’t heard so I stopped expecting to be heard… I continued to have bosses, parents, boyfriends who communicated that they were more important than I was… I accepted that I was not going to be heard and that my voice didn’t really matter. Not having a voice and not being heard had become “normal” to me…
Keep in mind the false definition of relationship that I had learned; I still thought that if I did what the other person wanted, then I would be loved so I kept trying harder to achieve love by “compliance to others wishes”… however it was never enough.
Not being heard and not being allowed to have an “impact” on the people that I believed were important in my life, is a common part of growing up with emotional neglect and psychological abuse.
It is a very big part of the grooming process to be taught that (my) opinions, feelings etc. are not valuable… It got me “respecting” and sometimes even “worshiping” the very people who were causing me the most harm.
Darlene’s experience resonates with me because it reflects my own experience. It’s also a familiar story I hear time and again from women in my social circles, women I meet at conferences, women in my church, women in my extended family, women I’ve worked with and women whose books and blogs I read. So. Many. Women. Why? I believe the why can be summed up in one word.
It goes back to what Darlene revealed in her personal story, she said she:
- was groomed to be compliant and subservient in her primary relationship as a child
- grew to believe her voice didn’t matter in primary relationships
- believed her compliance and subservience would earn the love she desired
- accepted her relationships as normal
Not being heard in a close relationship is not normal. Being unheard is unacceptable.
When we are systematically not heard in a significant relationship, it is intentional. It is a form of oppression, here’s the definition: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power; the act of pressing down.
Slaves are oppressed. Prisoners are oppressed. Women and children caught up in trafficking are oppressed. Women who live with an emotionally abusive man are oppressed. Children who live with an emotionally abusive parent or caregiver are oppressed.
Men and women can find themselves oppressed on their jobs.
At one time I worked as assistant to the Dean of Students at a college. It is fair to say her behavior was that of a tyrant. My husband and I were each in new jobs in a new community and expecting our first child. I couldn’t afford to lose my job and my boss knew it. Add to that she recognized my personality as compliant and a people pleaser. The stage was set.
“Can’t you do anything right? How many times do I have to repeat myself?”
A familiar refrain whenever she couldn’t find a document or had forgotten where she placed a file. She yelled at me in frustration when she couldn’t immediately put her hands on what she wanted. Next, she chastised me – in front of other staff and directors.
Her behavior was demanding, demeaning toward me and she often refused to acknowledge my presence when I dared enter her office unbidden to ask a question.
My work environment was oppressive.
Other more important relationships in my life have been oppressive, with serious consequences. In each relationship, the common denominator was that I was unheard, and accepted being unheard. What about you?
If you are in an oppressive relationship, if you are not heard, it is not acceptable.
Paul told the Galatians that, “It was for freedom Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
My life journey would be far different if I had taken to heart that scripture as a young woman. Instead, I traveled from one oppressive and manipulative relationship to another. A slave to my upbringing and my misconceptions, bound by a false definition of relationship. Like Darlene, I believed if I did what the other person wanted, then I would receive love and affirmation. I tried harder and harder to achieve love by complying to the wishes of others. But no matter how hard I tried – it was never enough.
A voice worthy of being heard
It is not God’s intention that any of His children should suffer being unheard or be slave to a tyrant. This language sonds harsh, you may even think it extreme. But I witness this situation all the time – women pressed down and held back… I recognize their plight because it is familiar, and because I am no longer blind to the truth.
Coming to the truth was a process of discovery for me. It has taken time to come to the place where I am no longer vulnerable to oppression. To a place where I no longer accept relationships in which I am unheard. Being unheard is unacceptable.
My journey began when I released my closest relationships to God. I stopped striving to control these relationships by my own slavish behavior. I also:
- made sure God was first in my life, the One I longed to please above everyone.
- allowed myself to be vulnerable and transparent with a trusted friend who loved and supported me and then to a group of friends who faithfully prayed for me.
- sought the help of a professional counselor to guide me through all my old misconceptions so I could rid myself of them once and for all.
- learned that healthy relationships are defined by mutual respect and mutual submission and unconditional love.
- read books on the topic of oppression and manipulation in relationships, I studied the Bible and journaled daily.
- prayed and enjoyed the fellowship of friends, stayed grounded in God’s word and in community.
… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
God has given each of us a voice. He calls each us to use our voice for good in this world. He has called us to be heard. Remember, being unheard is unacceptable. Just as any manipulative and tyrannical treatment is unacceptable. We each have the power to equip ourselves to be heard because:
Jesus loves us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works…” Ephesians 2:8-9a
Jesus cares for us.
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Jesus hears us.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
Jesus was sent by God to “…proclaim release to the captives, and recovery
of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18b
The unique voice God has given to you is worthy to be heard. If your voice is unheard, please take steps to find help and support, seek counseling if needed, so that you may…
Be bold and live free in Jesus,