How to stop worrying about who isn’t listening or reading or watching and start loving the people who are

photo courtesy of flickr creative commons jennifah007

photo courtesy of flickr creative commons jennifah007

I have a confession to make:  Sometimes when I’m talking to my children about something particularly amusing or ridiculous, I project a little louder for other people to hear.

“You learned about how Jesus will heal as long as we cut a holes in the roof? Wow that’s crazy!”  
(big look around to see if anyone else heard that and wants to exchange a grown up eye with me as I ignore the child trying to talk to me about God… <facesmack>)

And sometimes I do this with my husband, especially at parties or social gatherings. If we say something funny together I’ll dump him to go tell other, new-shiny people about it.

And sometimes I do this with my friends

And very often I do this online.

And when I do this, you know what I’m saying? Dear person I’m actually talking to:  You’re not enough, I need a larger, more important audience.  Others matter more than what’s going on between us.  

My need to be noticed trumps what we are sharing in this moment.

It took a season of therapy and a good hard look to realize that the heart of this problem is this:  So often I worry about who isn’t listening and miss out on who is, because I’m valuing the wrong things.

We all do this in life, don’t we? Come on, please normalize this with me so I don’t feel like such a jerk…

We’re chatting with our friends, our people and across the room or the twittersphere when we spot someone we wish we were friends with, chatting with a crowd we wish we ran with and we feel… jealous and small and less than… maybe even crummy and insignificant.

Why? Because we want to be noticed and successful. It’s perfectly normal… but if we’re not careful it can become utterly consuming.  And we should be careful.

We should be careful with the people we’ve been entrusted with, the audience we’ve been given. 

Because odds are that if you look around, you’re already as noticed and significant as you need to be.

Let me give you an example that will potentially make you hate me and burn my blog in anger (I don’t know how that would work, just go with it):

Sometimes when a new person responds to me on twitter I go to check their profile.

Not a big confession, Normal right?
What am I looking for you ask?
Am I trying to see if we have common interests and beliefs?
Nope.  I’m checking to see how many followers they have to figure out how much time and attention I should give them.
I know, I know.  Awful. But I swear It’s getting better…

Why? I’ve stopped worrying about who’s not listening and started loving everyone who is.

I actually remember the exact day that this switch flipped. I got put off by an acquaintance online, someone who didn’t do anything wrong but who, through inaction left me with a wound.

I literally looked at myself in the toothpaste covered bathroom mirror and yelled. “What (name of person) thinks doesn’t even matter! I have people, good people and what (he/she) does or doesn’t think of me doesn’t get anymore airtime in my brain or my time.”

Then I talked about it at therapy. A lot. I talked about how I want to intentionally cultivate depth with the people I’ve been given (gifts each one!) and how badly I needed to stop worrying about who wasn’t paying attention to me.

Then over dishes about a week later I received some news from God.  The kind that just pops into your mind and feels at home, like sweet mind-truth, life giving and free.

“I’ve given you exactly the influence needed, the people you were meant to tend and grow. Love them well and forget the rest.”

And so it was that I learned to love my people, my place in this world.  Not in a passive way, but in an active, daily choosing that leaves me feeling full of life and peace.

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There’s always twitter and Facebook too, you can join the conversation on all fronts. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my favorite.

  • Natalie Hart

    I’ve been struggling with just this quite mightily this fall/winter — this post will be part of helping me get over myself/it/being disappointed by the wrong things, etc.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Oh Natalie, I know. Really I do, therapy has helped me, and some blogging and then very much some stepping away from the internet and the opportunity to compare/contrast/be reminded of it.

  • Emily Wierenga

    YES!!! Love this so much girl… thank you.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank YOU Emily :) And safe travels! May your paths be smooth and full of easy flights and convenient Starbucks. My heart goes with you and prays grace over all that you will see and learn and be and give…

  • http://www.addingaburden.com/ Jill – addingaburden.com

    Love this Leanne! Respect you so much for sharing this journey.

    I know I told you this once before but it is worth repeating. The verses that help me the most in the comparison/worthiness/etc game are the contrast of Genesis 11:4 and Genesis 12:2:

    People building the tower of babel: “Then they said, “Come, let us… make a name for ourselves…”

    versus

    God’s word to Abraham: “I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

    We both know how those turned out :-) I’m always reminding myself that I’m not making a name for myself. If I have any influence at all, it’s God making my name great so that I might be a blessing.

    Sorry that got so long! Thank you for this awesome post! xo

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Long is great! Thank you Jill I still remember the first time you shared that scripture and I need to post it somewhere more noticeable. You perspective is always a joy in my life and I am thankful.

  • Briana Meade

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  • Mark Allman

    Leanne,
    I just want you to know I listen closely to all you have to say. If I ever leave a wound please tell me.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Oh Mark, no worries! You are one of my best blog readers and encouragers. Truly.

  • http://punkinhood.blogspot.com/ chrisgharmon

    Story of my life. Must evaluate further.

    And on the flip side… there are people out there who think the same as you…wonder why you’re not listening to them, etc. I once had someone tweet about “finally” getting a follow from me & that it made them feel special… and I was like, “HUH?! Why?”

    But thanks for sharing this post… I need to ponder on it for awhile for myself.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      I recommend a good ponder, it’s certainly not one of those “to do” list personal growth issues
      Good point, although it makes me feel odd knowing that someone would be thrilled by a twitter follow from me…

  • http://courtneydignam.com/ Courtney Dignam

    I’ve recently come back from a month-long internet hiatus [and still haven’t blogged since mid-october]. self-esteem, comparison, thinking I should be more important to people I view as important … you wrote what I just can’t, not quite yet.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      I’ve been there too Courtney, blogging breaks and all. I’ve actually deleted Facebook and twitter off my phone so that I can walk away as need and still return texts asking me to get milk and eggs.

      Bless you as you seek to heal and get off the comparison roller coaster. It’s not an easy ride to get off but I think the peace and stability on the ground level are worth it.

  • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

    Hurrah!

  • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

    I love everything about this. I too had one of those ‘aha’ moments – exact same situation, where an online acquaintance ‘through inaction left me with a wound’ as well. And my husband had to be the one to sit me down and say, Anna. She doesn’t deserve that space in your brain and heart. Let it go. It was really hard, and it’s happened since (even with offline friends and family who ignore me online, but not others) and I have to repeat that same conversation to lower my blood pressure. Thanks for this, friend.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you for chiming in! (I thought for sure I responded to this a few days back apologies!)
      Blogging isn’t easy on the self esteem but I think it can make us stronger, MORE self-assured if we’re willing to go through the process… yes?

  • Kim Murden

    I’m one of the love-them-well people. Always read. Always feel better for reading. Love it that we can sometimes ‘like’ each other’s knitting on Pinterest

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you Kim! I still cannot knit but I can crochet up a storm, knitting is on my radar though… will you offer support when the concept of two needles overwhelms me?

  • Jo Inglis

    I was thinking similar thoughts on 15 January & you were writing about them. Have had another few days hearing ginormous silence after posting tweets & ruminating too much.
    I know it’s parental affirmation that’s always been missing & the inner crying out need to be heard. But yes ‘our’ people matter & those small shifts in our spheres of influence DO mean more than we will ever know.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Yes and absolutely. Parental Affirmation? That makes me want to go see what my kids are up to right now, I want to affirm them and always forever help them know that it’s not my opinion that matters, I will support them, but it’s who they are in God, not in a cliche way but in a life-giving, affirming, freeing, better than anything I could plan for them sort of way.

  • Anne Borrowdale

    This blog post has stayed with me over the last few days, and been really helpful. I know that feeling Jo Inglis mentions, of worrying about whether I’ve been heard or noticed. It doesn’t help that every use of social media shows us our “numbers” of friends, followers, likes etc. Even commenting here, I see clicking on my picture tells me if I’ve got any followers or received any “up” votes!
    Thank you for reminding me that what really matters is to build deeper relationships with the people who are given to me to serve. It’s liberating.