“Look at me, Mom!” “Watch this, Mommy!” “Mama, see me!” I have been blessed with three sons; the first two 16 years apart and the last arriving six years later. As you can imagine, as boys they were very different in many ways. The one thing they all had in common was the constant desire for my attention. “See me” was a constant demand. Whether showing off a new skill, such as drawing a picture, doing a cartwheel, riding a bike, or just playing a video game, each one wanted to know that I was watching and clamored for my attention.
The desire to be seen, to be acknowledged, is innate in all of us. At first this need is indiscriminate, we just want to be seen. As we mature we begin to differentiate between the approval we receive for some acts and the disapproval or punishment that follows others.
We get smiles and praise for our first scribbles on drawing paper and frowns and chastisement for our first scribbles on the dining room wall. This is the way we learn right from wrong, as well as what makes others happy with us, or not. Gradually, most of us learn to temper this urge for attention with humility or just good manners.
It is the need to be seen that propels many people into roles of leadership or careers in entertainment where their actions bring immediate acknowledgement.
When all of a child’s actions receive the same reaction, or no reaction at all, the child becomes frustrated and may experiment with increasingly extreme behaviors and/or withdraw into apathy and depression.
I wonder if it is this sort of unfulfilled need that motivates people who commit such very public atrocities as shooting random innocents in a crowded movie theater or church. These are very public actions that force a reaction. They shout “I am here, you will look at me!”
There are lots of reasons why some of us don’t get as much attention or validation as we might like from the folks around us, but it is my belief that there is one cure for the feelings of loneliness, sadness or frustration we may feel.
A sure faith that our Lord watches over us and loves us, that he “sees” our every thought and action, provides us with all the audience we really need.
Getting God’s attention is as easy as a whispered prayer. Feeling that attention is as simple as consciously looking for his answers.
In order to grow strong, living things must be fed. If we nurture our faith, our relationship with God, that faith will grow strong and sure. We will know that whatever we do, we are seen by the one who created us and who loves us most of all.
…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.