It is no small matter to be a witness to another person’s life story. By listening with compassion, we validate each other’s lives, making suffering meaningful, and help the process of forgiving and healing to take place. And our acceptance may make it possible for a person who feels outside the human community to gain a sense of belonging once more.
Any significant, soul-shaping event becomes more integrated into our consciousness, and more universal, when we can express the essence of the experience and have it received in depth by another. I am convinced that any human being who can serve as witness for another at a soul level heals the separateness and isolation that we might otherwise feel. Witnessing is not a one-way experience; the witness is also affected by the encounter. To comprehend the truth of another person’s experience, we must truly take it in and be affected.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., from Crossing to Avalon: A Woman’s Midlife Pilgrimage