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What if People Don’t Believe Our Stories of Fear and Injustice?

In his Nobel Lecture, Elie Wiesel explained why Holocaust survivors told their stories during, and after, the war. As a corollary, he related how hard it was on those survivors when they weren’t believed:

And then too, the people around us refused to listen; and even those who listened refused to believe; and even those who believed could not comprehend. Of course they could not. Nobody could. The experience of the camps defies comprehension.

When a person’s story of trauma or pain or fear is hard to believe, for someone who has not personally experienced anything similar, how should the listener respond? How should the teller of the story proceed?

Do we need to comprehend before we can believe? Why, or why not?

Have you ever sensed that someone whom you trusted did not believe the personal story you were relating? If so, how did that make you feel? Did you continue to trust that person in the same way as you did previously?


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