Today’s Instagram culture doesn’t leave much room for the authentic.
Have an imperfection? No problem. There’s a filter for that! And who needs real friends when you can have 1,000 followers on Twitter? With the right lighting and proper angles, everyone can look like anyone but their real selves.
The world looks at the exterior, leaving people frantic about covering blemishes. No one is perfect. But society can pressure us to fake it.
Some of us just barely getting by. But does anyone notice? It seems maybe not.
I came across this – more than once, in times when I needed someone to care, to see my wounds, to help heal them. Or at least, acknowledge they exist.
I remember a time that I was panicking, burying my face into my pillow. The father of my children had just walk out on me. After a terrible weekend of wrestling with what to tell my kids I had to return to work that Monday.
The entire drive to work my body seemed numb. It was a miracle I managed to stumble through the doors of my job. Then my heart started racing all over again. “What will people say? What are they going to think?” I was practically hyperventilating.
There she was… The receptionist. What now?! I was nearly hysterical drumming up an excuse for my appearance when she uttered, “Fine, fine, thanks. You?”
Exactly. What. Just. Happened?
Not only was she oblivious to my bloodshot raccoon eyes, but she didn’t even take the time to notice me. She didn’t so much as ask how I was doing. Then maybe she’d know something was off and offer me her ear, a shoulder to cry on, a prayer or at least a tissue.
Had our conversations gotten so superficial that she was answering a question I never asked? This woman, my coworker, someone I’d consoled in the past…just totally blew me off.
At first, I’ll admit I was shocked. Then I was relieved. If we kept our conversations light enough, I’d never have to go deeper, touching on my feelings and explaining the battle I was facing. Or worse, my part in it all that helped create such a mess.
I chuckled at the irony of it all. But soon I got upset. Then sad. The experience was so perplexing…
Unfortunately, my children had a similar experience the summer their grandmother died. It was so sad watching them suppress their feelings. And worse, seeing them attempt to open up just to be shut down before they could even begin.
Later on we saw friends– real friends–that didn’t say a word about the death. They just opened their arms into which my kids went running. My children clung onto them, without words, letting out all their stored tears.
That summer I made it my mission to listen intently. To give people my full attention. I couldn’t change those who had hurt me but I could change me. I wanted to show others I cared. If I had time, I’d ask them follow up questions and I’d actually hear their answers. I’d also watch for body cues and notice voice inflections.
Their stories were astounding. From the receptionist who was walking two miles to night school after work, to the single mother who’d just moved in with her dad after his cancer diagnosis, to my daughter’s classmate recently placed into her third foster home… So sad. Each person I spoke to carried a burden too heavy for surface-level chitchat. I wasn’t able to lighten their load but I let them know I cared.
Scripture says tells us to “cast all our anxieties on God, because he cares for us” (1 Peter 5:6-7). And God does more than care. He sees, hears, comforts, helps, strengthens, loves us, and fights for us.
I understand now and seek to do better everyday. That fall I learned struggles hide behind each person’s smile. I learned to focus more intently on my friends, family and colleagues. I extended a little more grace and lent a shoulder to those I felt needed it.
Since then, I do my best not to dismiss God when He talks to me either. I highly encourage you to do the same. To go deeper, to find that something real and fully experience His presence. To open ourselves to Him. To be vulnerable and allow His grace to permeate our lives. It’s something I work on still today.
Have you have ever felt overlooked or dismissed? How can you grow deeper in your relationship with God and others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Before you go, have you checked out our next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, yet? You can find it HERE.
Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you grow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.