Everyone wants it.
Authors, bloggers, musicians, pastors. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers, your Instagram admirers—all jostling for attention, for a like, a retweet, a double-clicked heart.
We place our message on online billboards hoping more people will champion our stuff, our message, our brand and our point. We want the attention, the notice, the likes of people we don’t even know.
Everyone is shouting at the same time and, often, it’s impossible to hear through the commotion.
We recognize the problem, but just accept it as “the way things are now.”
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The overwhelming urge for constant attention is a human problem, not a 21st century issue. How do we sift through the noise to see and hear clearly? Or even more importantly, how do we avoid becoming part of the noise? Here are two helpful shifts in mindset to help you stop trying to get noticed.
Make a Difference Instead of a Point
Jesus performed many headline-worthy miracles. Afterward, He often provided specific instructions to those He healed. In one instance, Jesus gave two blind men sight and then said, “‘See that no one knows about it,’” (Matt 9:30).
Why would Jesus hide His miracle? To change the course of someone’s life and then keep it quiet—so opposite of what any normal person would do. Jesus wasn’t seeking attention, He simply wanted to make an impact in these needy lives. Jesus never performed mass healings, and He did everything He could to make sure He became known for having an intimate touch on people’s lives.
We’re all trying hard to get noticed. Jesus wanted to be ignored so the attention would go elsewhere.
Earlier in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus teaches about prayer and instructs His followers, “go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” (Matt. 6:6).
Jesus taught a similar message when it came to giving to the poor and fasting: Don’t shout about your good deeds to the masses.
When you take a good deed and tell others about it, the deed becomes propaganda instead of selfless service. It exists for your benefit so others will notice you. Instead of making a difference, you’ve made yourself the point.
Change Your Posture
In life we can live with clenched fists or open hands. A clenched fist signifies a desire to control, a lack of faith and a reluctance to adapt. Open hands signify a servant’s heart, a faith manifested in Holy Spirit promptings, and a persistent asking of “What now, Abba?”
You cannot move beyond the pursuit of getting noticed while living with clenched fists.
During his ministry, the prophet Micah felt an overwhelming burden to please God, but he was never sure what God wanted. The people around Micah had clenched fists trying to get God’s attention, but God remained silent, unmoved by their ulterior motives.
Micah captures this human struggle in describing God’s ultimate desire:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
God says through Micah, “open your hands, pursue me in sacrificial deed.”
This tension of wanting recognition for achievement, while maintaining a willingness to serve others, gets down to our everyday interactions with classmates, co-workers, friends and family. Not many years ago, I served in a ministry that put me under the lights in front of thousands of people every week. I struggled to know how to care for people when the lights were off and the crowds were smaller. One seemed so important, the other, insignificant.
I voiced some of this struggle to a wise man who told me, “What happens off the stage always trumps what happens on the stage.” I took that to heart even though it felt discouraging at the time.
Being noticed by many will never matter if the people who are directly in front of you don’t feel noticed by you. This is what God was saying through Micah. There’s nothing wrong with being noticed and recognized or having your name sparkling under shiny light, except when you care more about that than helping the few people right in front of you feel noticed.
Push yourself toward loving others. Open your hands. Seek to make a difference. And in the process, you’ll begin to find a new way forward in this attention-seeking culture.
Tyler Braun is the author of Why Holiness Matters: We've Lost Our WayÑBut We Can Find it Again. Tyler lives in Oregon with his wife Rose and son Judah. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, www.manofdepravity.com, where he writes about Millennials and finding the significant life we're all searching for.