Women In Business

Stop being voyeurs


Every once in a while, I watch talk shows.  Not the informative or even entertainment shows that provide celebrity interviews and current events.  I like those but there are times I want to look at the shows that bring out the worse in human behavior.  Yes, I’m guilty.  I guess there is some deep desire to live as a voyeur as I watch the lives of others.  If I’m honest, I think it really is because I love stories. But we have to stop being voyeurs.

A recent episode of trash television was about two adults who had sex as teens.  23 years later, the mom introduced the daughter to the man at a funeral.  The daughter, for years, assumed this man was her father.  She was angry with him for not being involved in her life.  After a lot of heated arguments, the result was more brokeness.  He was not her father.  I felt so sorry for the father.  The mother.  The daughter.  More stories of brokeness.

We are inundated with stories of pain, loss, love, and hope.  The media continues to share stories that serve as an eye opener of the disparities and disconnections we have in our society.  Part of the reason for so much pain is the fact that our stories are often unheard especially for marginalized groups.  Our identities are embedded in the stories we tell about ourselves.  Identities are critical to who we are and how we navigate the world.

“To understand the identity formation process is to understand how individuals craft narratives from experiences, tell these stories internally and to others, and ultimately apply these stories to knowledge of self, other and the world in general.” (Singer, 2004)

We live in a world that allows us to have soundbytes of the experiences of others.  Just as I was a voyeur today, I did not really know their stories and yet, I was able to make assumptions about their lives.  This is something we do every single day to others.  We make judgements about people without really getting to know their stories.  The oddity of it all is that we don’t really understand our own stories and because of our lack of making meaning of our ‘stuff’, we are often unable to offer empathy to others.  Every day, we make meaning of our experiences which helps shape the way we see the world and see others.  Our relationships, our conversations, even the images that we see, all influence the way we make meaning of our experiences and the experiences of others.

One of my favorite quotes is “Who tells the story and who does the telling serve?” (Breuggeman).  So often our stories do not serve us well.  Even though we might believe there is a direct benefit, the reality is that our stories limit our experiences.  For most of us, our stories wound us even more and are from voices that keep us disconnected from ourselves and from others.

I realized in my own life that my experiences were shaping the stories that I told about myself and began to impact the way I built relationships with others and even how I saw myself.  Often we tell stories, that in the past, served as a way to protect but no longer serve us well.

It is important that in the midst of so much confusion and chaos, we have to begin to unpack the stories we hear, that we tell ourselves.

  1. What do you believe about yourself?  Is it true?
  2. What do you believe about those around you?  Those who are different?  Why do you believe it?
  3. How can you take the time to pay attention to the stories you hear and instead of being a voyeur, dig deeper to seek truth, understanding and compassion?
  4. How do you make sure that you are providing yourself the compassion and love for your wounds so that you can extend that to others?
  5. Are there ways that you can create space to connect with others to change the way you make meaning about yourself and how you see others?

We have to stop being voyeurs in the lives of others and in our own lives.  Let’s stop wasting possibilities to truly engage and create opportunities for safe spaces to share who we are.  It is in these experiences that we can see that we have more in common than we are different.  Although I have my own personal thoughts about the guests on the talk show today, I learned a valuable lesson.

I only heard a glimpse of their story.

How often do I make rash judgements based on glimpses without taking the time to really understand?  How often do I limit my understanding of others because of not taking the time to listen to their stories?  It is unrealistic to think I can do this for every story and for every individual I encounter.  I can ensure that my desire to be a voyeur could limit not only the stories of others but also impact my ability to reflect on how their stories are also a part of my own pain, passion, and possibility.

About Dr Froswa Booker-Drew

Dr Froswa’ Booker-Drew is a PhD graduate from Antioch University in Leadership and Change and the National Director of Community Engagement for World Vision, US Programs. She provides coaching and training for individuals and organizations on social capital, relational leadership and identifying one’s Immunity to Change. For more information about the book or to purchase, please visit www.austinbrotherspublishing.com

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