Notice me as I am
Last spring I received a long, convoluted, phone message for a wedding from the mother of a bride. Anxiously, she explained how the pastor had dropped out and the family was panicked about who was going to marry the couple – a justice of the peace just wouldn’t do. She rambled, nervousness in her voice, reiterating in a lengthy five-minute message.
I called back, and before she had said too much, I interjected, “Katie, take a breath of air. I’ve got this. You don’t have to worry – I will make this happen. I promise.”
As she was still in panic mode, my soothing, calming tone didn’t do the trick. She just rolled along in her elaboration about snags, complications, and worries. She went on and on, continuing to tell me her woes about the difficult situation.
I decided to try a different approach. I opted to mirror exactly what I heard. “Oh my, it does sound like it’s very difficult,” I parroted back.
“Yes, it is,” she said her speech halted. She took a breath.
She felt heard by me. And, then, only then, after she felt that she was heard, could she hear my assurances that I could handle the situation. (I did the wedding. I did a great job. And, it was complicated – not every clergy person could easily wed the pregnant daughter of a Mormon to a 7th day Adventist.)
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, recognizing another and responding to them are two of the four aspects of love.
Love has four parts to it: to recognize, to understand, to accept and to respond.
(I’m working on a fuller article to be entitled L-O-V-E, that will explain this further.)
- To recognize, you have to see the other person.
- To understand, you have to have empathy, not necessarily agree with what the person does, but understand why they do what they do.
- Acceptance goes along with understanding. You have to accept people for who they are, not love them because of who you think they can be.
- Respond means you have to respond to them. You have to do something besides just have a nice feeling. You have to respond tenderly and honestly.
To love another, we need to see the other, not as we see wish to see them, but as they wish to be seen.
People want to be seen as they are.
And, so do I. And, so do you.
Unfortunately, we have all lived through too many situations in which we weren’t seen as we wish we were.
Maybe you’ve seen the video by Jason Headley called, “It’s Not About The Nail.” In it, a woman with a nail sticking out of her forehead wants to be listened to as opposed to told that she has a nail sticking out of her head. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the 3 minutes.)
We want to feel acknowledged and heard – seen for who we are – how we wish to be seen.
And, that’s how it is for everyone with whom we interact – they want to be acknowledged and heard – seen for who they are – how they wish to be seen.
When one of my students comes to class with now brilliantly colored, bright blue hair, I am going to mention it when we interact. Similarly, if the man behind the cash register has five eyebrow rings, he is making a statement about himself and to ignore this statement misses the mark for being loving.
And, for the theologically minded, let’s think about God a little here. You want God to recognize, accept, understand, and respond to you… and, probably God wants the same from you?
This week’s #wisdom_biscuit:
Respond to people as they present themselves. That is love.