The majority of the earth’s people are not famous. They will not be remembered in history books, and in millions of cases, not even with a gravestone. They are not influencers on social media or reality show participants. Millions go about their lives quietly and are overlooked by those around them, even at work where they show up every day. Expectations are low by many; intentionally so to prevent the experience of more pain. Attempt to make eye contact with a service provider, who is determined not to do so. See the discomfort surface as the possibility of rejection looms in their mind, further entrenching them in avoidance – much easier and safer than risking another disappointment.
Thank someone who cares for a public restroom or picks up the garbage others so carelessly toss about. Witness the look of shock, followed by puzzlement, and then the beaming smile and elevated tone of voice in their thank you that validates the benefits of appreciation and being noticed. We yearn to matter – to those we love and to those to whom we contribute our gifts and talents every day. We seek affirmation and recognition that our lives are meaningful to others.
In the business world, research confirms 70% of employees are unengaged in the workplace. As Marcus Buckingham says, “people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses.” Leaders who don’t notice, don’t appreciate, and don’t care create toxicity that bubbles up, brews, and expands. They literally communicate, “You’re invisible to me and unimportant, unless you are causing me a problem (‘cause I’ll take credit for your successes anyway.)”
That’s not just at work, but at home as well – with family and our friendships. It’s easy to show up with a casserole at the initial point of someone’s traumatic injury or upon the death of a family member. It’s a whole lot harder when the situation goes on week after week, month after month, year after year, and a caregiver is faced with long-term overwhelm. After the initial casserole and card, people step back into their lives. Continuing to notice and show up is a lot harder. We think, “I’ll run by and pick up and drop off and hug and show up at the funeral if I can make it, but I can’t sit with you all night. I can’t hold you in silence when there is nothing to say. I can’t take a shift and give you some relief.” Isolation sets in for your friend, and time goes by. If you can’t show up when there simply is no bandwidth due to your friend’s circumstances, you’re now absent from their life. Over time, they become overlooked, as you simply don’t see them anymore. Their expectations lower, while their invisibility is enhanced by separation.
Many of us have heard the names of God – Mighty Counselor, Emmanuel, The Ancient of Days, Father, The Beginning and The End, and so on. Somehow, I missed “El Roi” – “The God Who Sees Me” – first declared by Hagar, the Egyptian slave and mother to one of Abraham’s sons. Can you imagine, a former slave, a single mother, an outcast, and in her desperation, God shows up, acknowledges, and comforts? The God who formed the universe sees our circumstances and responds. Compassion, validation, presence, hope, and assurance are all on full display to a woman that society would have had at the bottom of its socio-economic hierarchy for so many reasons – all false constructs, but nonetheless real and a heavy weight for her to bear. From that moment of acknowledgement, she has no reason to question her worthiness in the eyes of her Creator, while she is on this earth – never, ever again. Everything shifts. We can lean on that as well.
God does not look at us through a lens of where we are in society. He does not judge our bank accounts, cars, and houses. He shows up for us in relationship – in circumstances both of, and not of, our making. He notices. He is present. He assures. He points the way. When we set our daily framework from the vantage point that we are already of supreme value in the eyes of our Creator, we have no need to expend energy on the things that society, our boss, the media, or our neighbor deem to be important. Our self-esteem originates from an inexhaustible supply of divine notice and appreciation. There is no need to feel like we are not enough or to behave in that fashion. The desire to chase after an unending list of “and then’s” is removed. We can rest. We are never invisible and could not possibly be valued more than we are right now.
How do we act as ambassadors for that framework? We are charged to love one another as He has loved us, which means step one is to notice daily – at home, at work, in the grocery store, at the park, in the airport. No one should spend a day feeling overlooked or under appreciated – first, because God notices and declares worthiness, and second because we choose to intentionally banish invisibility with every interaction no matter where we are. Let’s challenge ourselves as leaders in our homes, work places, and communities to banish the experience of anyone feeling overlooked, under appreciated, and invisible by those who surround them daily.