human condition Jan. 10

Years ago, when starting on my self-help journey, I learned a powerful word — validation.

Simply put, validation is acknowledging another person’s feelings. Learning the tool of validation helps me navigate through difficult conversations. Instead of immediately firing back my point of view and defending my position, I am patient and do my best to listen to the other’s needs. It’s not always easy.

Validation defuses arguments. Validation is a step toward peace. Validation is an act of compassion. Validation is kindness.

When I voice a concern or a grievance, I want to be heard. I want you to listen to me. The comforting words “I hear you” releases a pressure valve.

On the other hand, if I get resistance and push back, the fight is ignited in the dog. It’s all growling from there. Nothing is solved, and the building of resentment and loneliness are constructed. I’m on my island and you are on yours.

The tragedy is that we are both stranded.

This is how I’m working through the racial injustice conversation. I’m using the tool of validation to understand, acknowledge the truth, and, quite frankly, do better. How could any change happen if it doesn’t start with listening? Really listening. Validating.

The Black community must be exquisitely exhausted from trying to be heard.

I’m guilty of not listening. I’m guilty of enabling. I’m guilty of racism.

For years, I’ve passed over and justified stories with the same pattern of thinking that starts sentences with “But …”

But what about Black on Black crime?

But what about his prior record?

But we had a Black president.

But I have friends that are Black.

But I posted that quote from MLK.

Something shifted for me when I saw George Floyd dying in the street, begging for his life, calling out for his mother. I am a mother to a son. A son that will never be second-guessed.

It shouldn’t have taken me 50 years to hear. To listen. To acknowledge. To validate.

When something is uncomfortable to talk about, that’s the indicator that change needs to come.

It has become time for me to have a sit-down with myself. What is really the truth here? Why am I holding on to something that is no longer serving me, or humanity, for that matter? I must question my mind.

This is spiritual work.

God keeps me honest with myself. If he showed up on my doorstep, would I have any explaining to do?

We hear, “Let go, and let God.” I’m listening now. I’m letting go of my White-knuckled grip.

The grip of defensiveness.

The grip of being right.

The grip of denial.

The grip of hiding behind religion.

The grip of not speaking up.

I’m releasing the weathered and braided rope of past biases, separatism and self-righteousness. I will evolve or be dragged along.

No more rope burns for me. My hands are your hands.

— Barzenick lives in Hammond

Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to The Human Condition at or The Advocate, Living, 10705 Rieger Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. There is no payment, and stories will be edited. Authors should include their city of residence, and, if writing about yourself, a photo.