Thursday, December 18, 2014

Attention Seeker

I guess it's no secret at this point that much of what I write about is centered around what I believe. I wish I could say that I planned it that way, but it really is just something that happened when I started to write about what was on my mind. However it may have started, I have tried to continue writing about what I think and feel about whatever is going on in my life in a way that relates to what I believe. In keeping with this strategy, I was unsure about how to begin writing about something that has been on my mind lately, and needed some inspiration to get me started. So when I began planning how to write this post by half seriously Googling the question "Is it okay for Christians to want attention?" I admit that I felt pretty guilty when the top search results included an article called "Seek Impact, Not Attention" and a reference to 1 Corinthians 10:24 "No one should seek his own good, but the good of others" Definitely not the validation I was secretly hoping for. But along with the guilt came a feeling of frustration. You see, lately I have at times felt a little selfish. I feel like I work hard to be a good friend to others, and I try to always be there when people need me. Unfortunately I have had to begin learning that you cannot buy the attention of others by giving them  your attention. No matter how good of a listener you are, and how many times you go out of your way to be supportive, you cannot guarantee that people will return the favor. Sometimes, instead of feeling the satisfaction of friendships that have an equal give and take, you might find yourself burnt out from to much giving and not enough taking.  So what can be done when this happens? Must we seek only the good of others at all times, even if it is damaging to our own well being?
     I had a surprising moment of clarity recently when I was talking to a two year old and realized it was the best conversation I had experienced in a while. Sure, we were talking about trains and favorite colors and other arbitrary things, but the content of the conversation isn't what made it a good one. You see, no matter how trivial it was, he was fully focused on our conversation. I think children that young are fun to talk to because they still know how to be in the moment. They don't promise to "talk to you soon" in some fictional time when they will no longer be busy. They're not thinking about someone else they'd rather be talking to, or plans they have later. They're not checking their phones or looking at the clock. They're focused on the
conversation they're having in the present, and I think there's something significant about that. I realized that a conversation like that, where the other person was fully focused and interactive, was just what I needed.
     After doing a lot of thinking, I have decided to try to let go of my guilt about needing attention. I can't exactly find any biblical backup for this decision, but I still feel at peace about it. I know that I should work for the good of others, and I believe that I do. But I also know that even Jesus had a group of 12 disciples  who were also his friends, and I don't think that's entirely coincidence. I think maybe that in the midst of all of the good He was doing, the fact that he was on earth as a human meant that he needed people to support him, and to be his friends so that he didn't become exhausted from all of that giving he was doing. So I guess it's okay to expect your friends to take on the listening and supporting role sometimes, so that you can be refreshed and better prepared to be supportive the next time someone needs you to be.

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