I have very little to add to Fred Clark’s post today; I just want to call attention to it.
Beck describes a couple of men like that who attend his church. They’re lonely and powerless and seeking a sense of significance in a world that regards people like them as insignificant. One has become a “confabulator,” using tall tales to find a sense of importance. The other seems to be perpetually injured. Beck says of these Eleanor Rigbies:
Though his stories don’t jibe with reality, you listen attentively and express interest and concern. Because he wants to matter.
When you see him you inquire about his most recent injury. And he tells you the story of the accident. And you listen because this is how he matters.
[…] To be honest, in my case, it’s not always accurate. I often look for any chance I can find to escape from people like those Beck describes, to avoid having to listen to their stories, which tend to be frustratingly long and time-consuming, and I haven’t got a lot of time to spare. I have other things I have to do — important things, things that matter, and …
[…] In Richard Beck’s terms, “We all want to matter.” We all require some sense of “respect, esteem and interest.” Once I realized that cheerfully accepting the superfluous instructions or inaccurate advice of one of those various bosses was an opportunity to allow them that, I was able to take the focus off myself — and thus off of my reflexive resentment over being denied even that slight source of mattering. I began, instead, repeating the mantra: This is water. This is water.
When you meet someone who maybe feels like they don’t matter — or who has been told they don’t matter, or who has been assigned a lot in life that the world says doesn’t matter — you have the chance to choose consciousness over unconsciousness. You have the chance to regain a piece of some infinite thing.
I’m going to go into this more in the video I’m working on critiquing Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, but the tasting portion for now is: you cannot always, in every situation, be the person making other people feel that they matter. That’s an unrealistic expectation, and it sets you up for failure. Nobody has limitless reserves.
But Fred Clark and Richard Beck’s point here, I think, is that you don’t have to give that much to make someone else feel like they matter. Just — give someone a few minutes of your time and listen. Let them tell you what matters to them. Let them know you heard them — “reassure them that they are deserving of respect, esteem and interest.”
Because they are.
Don’t forget that.