It starts in infanthood. We come into this world needing to be noticed, to be cared about and we never outgrow it. As a baby, we need to be fed and cuddled and bathed. As a toddler, we need happy smiles and hugs. As a pre-schooler, we need affirmation that we are “big boys and big girls.” We need approval when we learn our ABCs or say our numbers. As a school age child, we need to fit in and yet feel like we are special. We need to be good at something and bragged on. As a teen, we try to find ourselves, to be cool, to stand out and to fit in. We don’t want to be the “weirdo” the “freak” but we do want to be different and special. As a working adult, we want to be valued by our co-workers, our friends, our spouses, etc. And as an elderly person, we want to know that we still matter, that we still have worth and that we are not a thing of the past. Throughout our lives, one thing never changes…we need to matter, to have worth and to be valued.
When we come to believe we have no value, that our lives don’t matter, suicide looks like an option. Sometimes, people sink into despair, getting caught up in drugs and alcohol. Sometimes, it’s as simple as hanging with some friends and just going along with the crowd (because of the need to be valued) and next thing you know, a person is hooked on something they originally abhorred deep down, but the need to be accepted or the deep-rooted belief that “I’m worthless anyway,” has taken ahold of them. Some people turn to food. Some turn to keeping religious rules. Some bounce from one broken relationship after another
Then somewhere along the way we develop mechanisms to ensure that we get some kind of “energy” from other people. We are going to make ourselves matter in one way or another. Some turn to acting out in some way. It can be anything from belligerent behavior to a child stealing at school. It’s not like we consciously think about it. It just sort of happens to us like freckles appearing on our skin after too much sun. Some people become interrogators, pestering others to death with relentless questions. Some become intimidators, always trying to make others cower to their will by being gruff and forceful or an all-out bully. Some become aloof and indifferent, giving the dreaded silent treatment making others “pull” and “beg” for their attention and some become poor-pitiful-me people, always ailing and always complaining and always worrying.
No matter what life throws at us or who we encounter, there is one commonality among us all, regardless of our skin color, our language, our culture or religion, we need to feel like we matter, that we have worth, to somebody–somewhere. And anyone who denies that they need to matter is lying. Even the toughest “bad” guys I know of have had at least one person in their lives that, in whose eyes, they wanted to matter. I’ve known men who spend their entire lives trying to get one kind word from a father who couldn’t or wouldn’t give it. I’ve seen neurotic women cleaning baseboards at 3 a.m. just to get their shallow, disdaining mothers to speak one word of approval to them. I’ve seen women become promiscuous because, deep down, they believed that was their only value. Insecurity often parades itself as arrogance. The most arrogant, boastful people I know are also the most emotionally insecure and unsettled fragile people with glass egos.
I guess I’m just thinking at the keys this morning. No matter who we are, what we’ve done or where we’ve been, we all have a need…we need to know that we matter. So, what do we do about our dilemma? How do we affirm that we matter? Maybe it starts with letting someone else know that they matter. Maybe it’s as simple as a smile or sharing lunch with someone. Maybe it’s just a phone call or a text message or even a Facebook post. Maybe one word is all it takes to let someone know, “You matter. Your life has touched mine in a good way.” We can’t touch everybody in the world, but we can all touch one person and who can say if that one person isn’t the one who needs it most from us at that very moment? I have not always taken every opportunity to be kind, to do good, but from this moment forward, I’m going to do my best and if I fall short of my goal, I’m going to just get up and start over again. Today…somebody needs to hear from you and they need to know that you think they matter and today, I am saying to everyone who reads this…you matter…and I’m glad you took the time to read my thoughts. Thank you.