I watched it the other night, and it made me sad. When the group prods Allison to reveal exactly what her parents have done to cause her so much angst, she replies, “They ignore me,” and not a single kid refutes her. They sit silently, nodding their heads as if they get the pain.
They all know that being ignored hurts.
It hurts down deep in the part of ourselves that hopes desperately for someone to care, to listen, and to help.
Being ignored discredits our feelings, our struggles, and eventually who we are.
It drives us to go places we would never have dreamed of going, just to ease that loneliness.
Being ignored is a great offense.
Maybe because it’s not a slap on the face or a curse word, it doesn’t seem so bad, but being ignored in some ways is worse. It sends the message that I’m not worth the effort, that I don’t matter. And it somehow makes the ignoring my fault because I wasn’t able to get my message across.
Well, I say it’s time to tackle being ignored head on.
There are two players in this game. The parents and the child, and I have a word for each.
To the child:
You matter. No amount of anyone’s ignoring will alter the fact that YOU MATTER. Write it down and hide it away, so that you can pull it out every time someone walks on by. You matter.
Your feelings are important, and when you try to share them and the other person uses that as a springboard to share her pain or experience, she has failed, NOT YOU. Feelings are feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. They just are. Respect them. Listen to them. And use them. They shouldn’t guide your life, but they are important. How you feel matters. Pay attention to it, even if no one else does.
You are not alone. I know it’s hard to grasp, if you haven’t been close to God, but there’s a reason why Jesus calls him “father” in the Lord’s Prayer. He is the perfect parent. He listens. He doesn’t fix our problems, but he doesn’t leave us alone in them either. Read Isaiah 43:2, Psalm 34:18, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Romans 8:15 and write them somewhere, so you won’t forget.
You have a voice. It might not seem like it, especially if no one’s listening, but what you say is important, and YOU saying what is on your heart helps YOU. Because when you walk away, YOU walk away—not some shell that’s been discounted, not a problem for someone to solve, not a silent void that has no hope—YOU, a living, breathing, wonder who has dreams and hopes and a future. Your voice helps you grow, don’t deny it.
You are responsible for YOU. Don’t let someone’s ignoring or failure to love keep you from being the person you want to be or from discovering what God has planned for you. They might never get it right, but you can.
To the parents:
It’s not about you. This might be hard to remember, since you have a world of experience and pain to draw from, but being a parent isn’t about reliving your young years or improving your image. It’s about helping another human being discover things that you might not even know yet.
Listening is active. It doesn’t involve cute stories, looking at your watch, or thinking through your “To Do” list. If your teen is talking, listen.
Relationships take work. If you’ve been married for more than two minutes, you know this already. It’s no different with your child. Good relationships don’t just happen. It takes work, and since you’re the adult, a lot of that work is on you. Make the effort. Lazy parents aren’t parents. They’re innkeepers.
Ignoring someone is NEVER okay. If you don’t have time, then tell them that. If your heart is hurting, then tell them that. If you don’t know what to do, then tell them that. Ignoring them sends the message, “you don’t matter to me”, and that’s not what you want your silence to say.
You are not alone. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to miss something important. You’re going to hurt them. There’s only ever been one perfect parent, and his son accused him of leaving him alone when he needed him the most. God knows how to do this, and his arms are wide and his forgiveness deep. Read James 1:2-5, Isaiah 43:2, Romans 8:15, Psalm 34:18 and write them somewhere, so you won’t forget.
May the ones we love never think of us and say, “They ignored me.”
I know I’m guilty of this, and it breaks my heart. But each day is new and seeing the issue is half the battle.
How are you doing on the listening front?