The desire to be seen, to be acknowledged, is deep, and its lack augments the person.
Each of my four kids have gone through a phase of “Momma. Momma. Momma! Watch! Watch! Watch!” To which I reply, sometimes on cue, sometimes exasperated, “I see you, buddy. I see you.”
This request echoes the heart of man. The desire to be seen, to be acknowledged, is deep, and its lack diminishes the person.
When a child is ignored, their cries turn from exclaim to frustration quickly. This still rings true in the heart of adults. We long for response.
On the other hand, the child who is met with eager repose receives greater than a glance or passing acknowledgement could ever convey. Imagine your own heart when you are seen, when you are acknowledged, when you are understood.
There is a notion that a glance is enough, but I would argue that it is worse than pure disregard. For a glance speaks that you are seen, but not seen enough for attention or for unadulterated awe.
This is why silence in the face of grave evil is met with incredulity. Last night, I saw a story on the news where a fast food worker was explaining to a customer that straws were only available per request and no longer available in the lobby. Trivial, I know, but the customer was very upset and proceeded to grab the worker and pull her across the counter in anger. And someone recorded this.
We live in a time when this is an option. Is it an option that at the suffering of another, one would take photographic proof instead of eliminating said suffering?
Accomplishment requests response as does suffering. Both states of being request the gaze of the other. Not the glance but the gaze.
For children and for adults, this need exists regardless of age, state, or even awareness.
Think of the objectivity that the priest and religious must suffer. With their ontological gifts, there exists a temptation to disregard the person that operates within these gifts in servanthood and love. How their hearts must long for the gaze of the other as more than a dispensary of sacraments or a willing ear for prayer requests.
The same can be said of the mother, the father, the doctor, the chef, the mailman. Do we reduce our brothers and sisters to their operation with no regard for their person?
When one is acknowledged and receives the gaze of the other, their soul is told, “It is good that you exist.” There is nothing more profound than this.
And you that read this, be at peace in that. It is good that you exist. This world needs who you are. It needs your heart. Your gifts. Your frailties. Your fears. Your love. It is good that you exist. My world is better because you exist.
Let us remember these words from Josef Pieper recalled by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in an address to the Roman Curia:
Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist.