If I could choose a superpower, it would not be invisibility.
Because invisibility is not as fun as you might think it would be.
Have you ever been seen through? Been looked at, but not noticed? Glanced over, but not recognized? Unless it’s someone you don’t want to see you, it’s not a good feeling. Realizing you’re invisible to just one person at one moment can you make you question the value of your entire existence. Your mind might not consciously go there, but the pit of your emotions turns into an abyss– emptiness rumbles in your soul, sorrow in your heart.
To be ignored by another human is to be treated as less than human. People deserve acknowledgement just for being people. A word, a smile, a nod, a stare– heck, even obviously looking at your phone to avoid eye contact is something.
But for some reason– to appear cool, to avoid interruption, because we don’t want to take a chance on being the one ignored, whatever it is– we all at some point have pretended someone else was invisible. I know I have– both intentionally and unintentionally. And every time I feel invisible myself, I regret it.
Recently, I was watching the documentary Rich Hill, about three middle school-age boys growing up in poverty in a small town in rural Missouri. There was one scene in which one of the boys was excited about his birthday, and was going around to the other kids in his school, trying to get someone to pay attention to him and tell him happy birthday. Everyone ignored him. In the end, he cut class and went home. There was much that was both beautiful and troubling in this film, but at the end I was left trying to remember if I had been a good friend to kids like this when I was growing up. I had this sinking feeling that though I often considered myself an outsider and tried to be kind to others on the fringes, I hadn’t been the friend and advocate I should have been for the kids in my schools that were struggling— the kids that most people saw as trouble, or more likely, didn’t see at all.
I’ve ignored my share of people, and I’ve been treated as invisible my share of times. I think most of us have. But the problem is we don’t live in a world of ghosts. We are a world of beautiful, complex, emotional, intelligent, unique, created-by-God human beings. It’s amazing that we get frustrated that God isn’t tangible to us, when we are surrounded by tangible beings created in His image that we choose to ignore. I find that so incredibly sad.
I’m not saying we need to go out of our way to be overly friendly– or even to say hi– to everyone we see. But I think there are many times throughout the day when most of us have opportunities to be agents of God’s love, and we just let them slip away. What people need more than anything is to be known, to be seen, to be loved. And we have the power to know, see, love them, with something as small as a smile and a nod, or with something only God can dream up. This doesn’t just go for strangers, but for the countless people in our lives we take for granted. Sometimes, we need to go beyond the normal and show someone they are worth something to us.
To my fellow introverts (and posers), I think we often use our introversion as an excuse to keep us from having to confront awkward situations, ultimately to be selfish. Yes, small talk can be very painful for us. Yes, going out on a limb in our interactions with others can leave us crippled with fear of rejection. Yes, sometimes we just want to be alone. But sometimes we should power through these things to reap greater rewards in our relationships and sow growth in who we are.
For all of us, we need to stop saying and acting like everything is awkward, as Jefferson Bethke pointed out in a recent video. We need to be stop being self-absorbed and lazy. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s actually the most natural thing in the world. God made us to interact and commune with one another. In a fallen world, that takes work. But it’s worth it. Because we’re worth it.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” — C.S. Lewis