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I have this thing for whodunits. Cop shows, classic radio programs, private dick mysteries, all of it. I think it’s because no matter how complicated the story gets, I know everything will be resolved before those final credits roll. There’s the DNA that links the perp to the deed; there’s the vigilante who rolls in and takes over when the law won’t; there’s that rogue cop just this side of what’s right, willing to tweak the facts to nab the culprit. The best part is the witness.
Sometimes the witness is the timid bystander who wasn’t looking for trouble, didn’t want to get involved, and will absolutely NOT testify under any circumstances. Until about two-thirds of the way in. That’s when the story turns around—the case cracks open, there’s some kind of justice for everybody and I can pat myself on the back if I’ve watched carefully enough to piece it together before the TV cops did.
The witness. It’s good to have one. Even more important to be one. Not just in difficult times, but in good times too. I was sitting in a Starbucks once and when an absolutely spectacular woman walked in. As she stood waiting for her coffee, I couldn’t help but stare in admiration—the outfit, the hair, the composure, the entire deal—all sparkling well before 8am. How? I marveled. I left my seat to bear witness to her fabulosity. Excuse me, I said gently touching the buttery leathered shoulder of her coat. I just have to tell you. You look wonderful, I exclaimed. I let her know that I’d seen her walk in, awesome at first glance and that I figured she needed to know that I’d seen her. It was a simple act of witnessing, but based on her response, you’d have thought I’d just added years to her life. As she took in what I’d said, she beamed back at me, gushing with gratitude, telling me how much I’d made her day.
At the other end, witnessing someone’s grief, acknowledging another’s pain goes a long way too. Think back to the last time someone said to you, I know you’re hurting, I see you suffering and I’m here if you need me. That kind of witnessing offers comfort and embraces us in the knowledge that we’re not alone. It’s a heartfelf hello in the highest order.
Today, be willing to be a witness for someone else. Let somebody know that you truly see them. I talk with lots of people, and if you didn’t know it already, one of the things we want most deeply is to be seen by others, to matter, to really register in the world somehow. And while you’re at it, be willing to bear witness to what’s going on in your own life, while you’re at it. It’s easy enough to say Be noble and gracious to others, but let’s not forget this is Honey Help YourSelf for a reason. Besides, if you can’t stop long enough to look at your life and take it in with compassion, how will you manage to do it for someone else?
Have you ever been dogged by mental flashbacks of yourself doing things badly, saying the wrong thing, storming off, or losing out in one way or another? I certainly have. Sometimes those images come in waves and threaten to flood any ambition of living fully in the moment. Sometimes, they’re so painful, I don’t want to look at them. How could I have acted like that? How could this or that bad thing have happened to me? I ask myself. Sometimes the culprit is that I’m looking too long at the past and not moving on. Either way, same result. This is where witnessing comes in. Having the willingness to see into all areas of your life, to honor your own story right up to its edges (and acknowledge it all without judgment) is freeing indeed. This is clairvoyance (French for ‘clear seeing’) at its best, honey.
Witnessing might not be as dramatic as it is on TV, though it involves risk. Coming forward isn’t always clear cut, and you won’t necessarily know how your act will ripple out in the lives of others. Even so, I can assure you that this act of extending yourself will usher you out of your comfort zone and bring you that much closer to true connection with yourself and those around you. You will be changed and there’s no crime in that.
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