On the Longing to be Seen, Heard, and Known

“We all desire to know and be known.”

“I just want to be heard.”

“I feel seen.”

The desire to be seen, heard, and known is universal. We all want to feel significant, worthy of attention, and validated by others. It’s painful to feel ignored, anonymous, or irrelevant.

Yet we often find ourselves in situations where we feel exactly that:

“No one understands how hard this is.”

“Why am I even doing this?”

“Does anyone even care?”

The need to “be seen” is so great that the multi-billion-dollar industry of social media has built itself around posts, clicks, and likes that provide people with solid, measurable evidence that they have indeed been seen and approved of by others.

We all have this desire to one degree or another—which isn’t surprising, because we were created to know and be known by God. He has made seeing, hearing, and knowing him easier for us in so many ways:

  • through the person of Jesus Christ
  • through his Word
  • through evidence of his saving grace in our lives
  • through the beauty, majesty, and intricacy of his creation

Wanting to be seen, heard, and known isn’t sinful in itself (it’s part of our human nature, given to us by God), but as with everything in life, sin has tainted it in a big way. It turns out that Jesus had some things to say about being seen, and it’s what’s going on in our heart that’s actually important.

What Jesus has to say about being seen

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautions his disciples that when they give, pray, and fast, they need to first check their hearts. Because, as with so many aspects of our spiritual lives, it’s not so much what we do or don’t do that can trip us up—it’s the focus of our heart and the motivation behind it.

In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus speaks of those who give generously to others … while sounding trumpets to announce that they’ve given. Of people who love to pray … so they may be seen praying by others. Of those who fast as a spiritual discipline … and make sure that others know they’re doing it. In every case, Jesus says, “They have [already] received their reward.” And we all know that that temporal, immediate reward is gratifying. The here-and-now reward feels good because other people are recognizing us, showing us their interest and approval—perhaps even their admiration or envy. And our self-centered and self-absorbed hearts enjoy this.

But sadly, if our heart motivation is to be seen by others for the purposes of admiration, recognition, or approval, we will fall far short of true satisfaction and joy. We’ll feel the need to go back, over and over again, for that approval from others because it will never give us the lasting fulfillment that we were designed for by our creator. The quest for worldly affirmation or approval is a vicious circle that has no end.

“Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

What matters, both now and eternally, is being seen, heard, and known by God. And God does this in a way that goes against our grain as people who desire quick, unmistakable approval: “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18, emphasis mine)

Our fallen natures can tempt us to seek worldly acknowledgement (over and over) and let it go at that. But our true and lasting reward, while now “in secret,” comes from the Lord. The only reward that can truly, enduringly satisfy is his loving declaration, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

What things do you do quietly, not in order to be seen by others? Maybe you’re caring for very young children day in and day out; you may be working in a humble, service-oriented job for little pay; you might labor alone and uncertain over some creative work; you may be the sole caregiver for an elderly parent or a spouse with Alzheimer’s; maybe you rise before dawn to pray for others … the possibilities are endless for the worthy actions that occupy our time with little visible or public reward. The good and faithful actions that you accomplish quietly, without affirmation or praise from others, are the very things that God sees, hears, and knows about you. Take a look at these short passages as a reminder:

God sees you…

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 33:18)

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God hears you…

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” (Jeremiah 29:12)

God knows you…

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” (Psalm 139:1, 2)

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:3)

God knows your heart. You can rest in the knowledge that he sees you, hears you, and knows you, and that your reward is great, if not immediate or visible to others. The Bible is filled with God’s promises and reassurances that he knows you, and you are seen and heard in the way that matters most of all.

(This post originally appeared on enCourage.)

Photo by Matt Brett on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “On the Longing to be Seen, Heard, and Known

  1. Wonderful article. It takes more not to be noticed or lauded or recognized. It’s the discipline of doing the mundane daily.


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