Many of us have felt invisible at some point in our lives. We have based our value on the judgment of others or our own long list of mistakes and failures. We’ve felt misunderstood, controlled and rejected, but rarely have we felt seen for who we are.
In a book entitled The Beautiful Risk, author James Olthuis talks about the psychology of loving and being loved, offering a profound love pattern:
I see you
I see you seeing me
I am seen
I feel loved
There is also an alternate pattern that blocks love:
I see you
I see you not seeing me
I am not seen
I am not loved
Who am I?
Something happens when we are seen. We learn that we matter. We know that we have intrinsic value. We experience acceptance and approval and ultimately, we are freed to live purposefully out of a secured sense of who we are.
However, when we aren’t seen, the results are devastating: despair, shame, confusion, self-doubt, anger and fear abound.
So much of our addictive behavior was undergirded by a longing to be seen for who we are—to feel loved and “good enough”.
Our Higher Power offers an alternative to the judgment of others or our own negative self-image. The love of the Divine is not contingent on behavior—this Love cannot be earned. When we make space to meet with the Divine, we reconnect with ourselves, being reminded that we are more than the difficulty we face or the things with which we are struggling.
Our Higher Power sees us as we are.
I met Sharon when I took my son, who was born with a liver tumor, to one of his first oncology appointments at Dallas Children’s Hospital. Sharon is the lab tech for the oncology clinic and she is famous.
When she came to get Owen and me in the waiting room, she was ambushed by love. A girl with short fuzzy blonde hair yelled hello to Ms. Sharon. A boy ran up and grabbed her leg. She greeted every child in the room by name. She told me how much she loves what she does—explaining that this is where she feels alive.
I sat in her office as she did my son’s lab work. The walls are covered with pictures drawn by her oncology patients. She has hundreds of letters from young children who love her and older children thanking her for being their best friend. And every picture and letter is signed with a big, beautiful, crayoned name.
Ms. Sharon is valued by the oncologists and patients alike. She has a strong presence in the pediatric cancer world.
But she doesn’t cure cancer. She doesn’t perform life-saving surgeries. She can’t give chemo treatments. She can’t even prescribe pain killers.
But, she sees. She sees every child who walks into her office and she knows their names. She knows their stories. She listens and cares. These kids don’t love Ms. Sharon because she makes their pain go away—they love her because she sees who they are.
Sharon is a miracle worker. She gives life, not by taking away cancer, but by seeing others. She gives what even cancer can’t steal—acceptance, belonging, and love.
More than answers to our questions, we need to know our Higher Power sees us. It is in being seen that we are loved and it is through love that we are transformed. Change happens not through our Higher Power’s willingness to take away our pain or erase our mistakes, but in our willingness to wake up to who we are.
When we feel seen, we can begin to trust and let go of all the other ways we’ve sought to escape, numb out or try to earn approval and value. We can let our Higher Power peel our fingers off of the worthless attempts to control others. When we are seen, we can stop destructively fighting for the love that God is already extending.
We receive this comforting, compassionate love as we meet with God. This love is far more for us than we could ever be for ourselves.
This is the kind of love that sees us. And being seen gives us what we need to be fully alive.
Chris Gibson, MDiv