We see people but not really. You can never tell someone’s story till they share it.
It’s not that we wear masks, but sometimes we do hide. Fear of rejection, whatever the reason we are not comfortable letting people see who we are.
And it’s the same for me. I got real good at hiding behind a smile. I found out early in life people don’t like to be around people who are “down.” So, I made sure my smile was on straight before I headed out the door.
Don’t be fooled when you look at me;
things are not as they seem to be.
The smile I put on carefully
does not reflect the inner me.
It cannot hide the pain inside,
so don’t be fooled when you look at me.
The problem was the smile would slip. And somehow the real me would be exposed. The hurting, empty me.
There are a lot of people pleasers in the world. You know what I mean don’t you? We have learned how to only let what others think register. After years of denying our own feelings we became unaware of what they were.
But we had radar that would pick up the slightest bit of disapproval so we would give it our full attention. What you thought mattered more than what I thought.
The problem was, eventually I disappeared. All that was left was the empty smile. And it was half-hearted at best.
I challenge you. When you are out next time notice who’s around you. Then let your imagination wander for a few moments and try and figure out what kind of life the person before you is living. What struggles they may face, what obstacles they’ve overcome. I can guarantee you one thing. No matter how good your imagination is, you won’t get close.
People need grace. Kindness extended instead of judgement. People need to know they will be accepted right where they are. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? And if we did that to one another, we’d find more people would let their guard down. They would be vulnerable and they’d be more understanding.
Life is hard. When you struggle alone, it’s almost impossible. Today we hear of more suicides than ever before. People are lonely. They travel their difficulties alone. Feeling like no one knows and if they did know, no one would care.
The social media gives a false sense of community. Even so, people who are hurting feel alone. Like they could disappear from the face of the earth and never be missed.
I know a man who felt invisible as a young boy. One of five children he often felt no one heard him. That carried throughout his adulthood and still there is a need for him to be validated. To know it would matter if he wasn’t here.
Every person has value. They have dignity. And yet, some people have lost their dignity through the circumstances of their lives. Time after time they have been devalued and this just stirs up those old familiar scars of long ago.
Scabbed over to be sure, but still sore underneath. Telling the person who feels devalued that he does have worth is like giving a cold drink to someone who has been without water for hours. As he drinks in the refreshment it overwhelms him in every way.
Never before did he feel so wonderful, so alive.
People are hurting, right in front of us. If only we would open our eyes and see them.
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker and published author. Some of her books include her memoir, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, Real Love: Guaranteed to Last, and children’s books, including: Emma’s Wish, The Crooked House. She recently published Droplets, a poetry book for those in grief. Anne has also authored 42 published Bible Studies and over 30 articles with christianbiblestudies.com Today’s Christian Woman. Anne is also a regular contributor to www.crosswalk.com. Her poetry is available in gift stores throughout the U.S. as well as in 23 countries. While Anne enjoys being a poet, speaker and published author, her favorite title is still, “Grandma.”
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