Something You Have Never Told Anyone

During the final four-day workshop with our current mentorship group, we gave the assignment for each person to share something that they have never told anyone before. Seven of the nine people said there was nothing they hadn’t already shared. Barry persisted and shared something himself. Then I shared something. Pretty soon hands were being raised throughout the room. Everyone but one person said they had something. We thought this assignment might take an afternoon. Instead, it took three days and was profoundly healing for each person, and especially for the person who “didn’t have anything.”

We all have things we have not shared with anyone. Perhaps we tell someone part of the details, but leave out the parts where we feel ashamed or embarrassed. Perhaps we feel that no one would be interested. But telling another person a never-shared story from our life is very healing.

Several years ago we had a Vietnam vet in one of our longer groups. People were sharing stories from their past. This man said he had a story but was not going to share it. He said it had happened so long ago and he just wanted to forget about it. His wife of thirty years had never heard the story, though she knew that something significant had happened to him during the war. Try as she would, she could not convince him to share his story. I sat with him for a long time and just looked into his eyes urging him to be healed of whatever it was that had happened to him. Finally he agreed to share his story. We set up a time when he and his wife could meet with Barry and me for an extended period of time. The story took three hours for him to tell. When he finished, he cried and his wife held him. He had been blaming himself for a terrible tragedy in which an innocent Vietnamese woman had been killed when it was clearly the fault and full responsibility of his superior officer. There was absolutely no doubt as to his innocence. For all of those years he blamed himself and never told anyone. In the telling of his story, he realized that he had trusted his superior officer as he had been trained to do. That officer committed cold-blooded murder, which was never reported.

I asked him if he would be willing to share his story with our nineteen year old son, John-Nuri, who was exactly the same age as he was at the time of this incident. Our son was studying psychology, knew this man, and jumped at the opportunity. This man shared his story all over again with our son and, as he did, he looked at the innocence and trust in the eyes of our son and realized that he had been the same at that age. Something very profound was healed within this man, and he was able to live a much richer life with a deeper connection to his wife.

The woman in our group who did not have anything to share, ended up sharing the most of all. Her story went for over two hours. When she started, she still insisted that she didn’t have anything, but as the time went on a deeply painful experience enfolded. The rest of us sat in silence just listening and loving her. I believe that sharing her story is going to have a deep positive effect on that woman.

We can offer the gift of listening to another person’s story. Just the act of listening without judgment can be so healing for a person. I remember well a time when I too was nineteen. I had been visiting Barry in New York City and missed my flight back to my parent’s home in Buffalo. Since it was a holiday weekend, there were no flights for several days. Barry drove me to the bus terminal and then had to leave for his summer job a distance away in the opposite direction. I waited in the New York City bus terminal feeling very young and a bit scared. Finally the bus arrived that would take eight hours to arrive in Buffalo. I settled into my seat hoping to be alone. The bus was crowded and soon a woman in her late twenties sat next to me. I got out my school books and attempted to look busy. But I quickly figured out that this woman was very upset and needed to talk. Being a quiet person by nature, I had learned to ask questions and just sit back and listen. I asked this woman a few simple questions. She realized that I was a good listener and soon she was telling me a story she had never shared with anyone. I was a science major in college and had not even had one psychology class. I did the only thing I knew to do; I listened with my whole heart and was mostly silent.

We sat like that for four hours. Finally she was done and she thanked me profusely. The stress in her face was replaced by peacefulness. She told me that no one had ever bothered to really listen to her and that just being able to tell this story had been so healing for her. We both closed our eyes and slept the rest of the trip. In Buffalo, she hugged me and told me I would never know the gift I had given to her. I did not even know her name and never saw her again.

If there is a person or people in your life that you trust, perhaps you could take turns and share a story you have never told anyone. If you are afraid to tell this story and do not feel safe enough with anyone in your life, then seek out professional help. It will be so healing for you to tell your untold story to someone who will listen without judgment. Even your listening to your own story as you speak will help. Each of us carry shame and secrets from the past that keep us from opening our hearts fully to others as well as to ourselves. As we allow the light of non-judgment and love to enter into the story, we are free to let it go. Isn’t an important part of this life all about letting go and opening to trust and love? I believe that it begins with ourselves. 

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