The same story that has the power to promote healing, if misunderstood, can cause much harm. Therefore, it is essential that we check our understanding with the speaker of the story before we act based on our own interpretations. This is especially true in cross-cultural communications. Too often the words being spoken mean something very different in the mind of the speaker than the way they are interpreted by a listener from another cultural context.
The story the neighbor told was “he got on to her”, the story the mother heard was “he got on to her.” The words are the same. The harm lies in the multiple ways meaning was made from the words “he got on to her”. The story teller meant he molested the child. The story hearer interpreted, he scolded the child. As a result of misinterpreting the story, the mother believed that her child had misbehaved and caused trouble at the neighbor’s house. The mother then scolded the child because she believed the child needed to be corrected. That correction convinced the four-year-old girl that the molestation was her fault, that she did something wrong. In fact, since she could not figure out what she did wrong to cause herself to be molested, she internalized that her very existence was, and is wrong.