Visible and Valuable
Daniel Gulati recently posted an article at the Harvard Business Review’s Blog, entitled, “Our Dangerous Obsession with External Recognition”. In it he identifies in the professional world a growing obsession with visibility. Gulati cites as an example, “John,” a middle manager at a Fortune 500 Company who admittedly attended an inordinate amount of industry conferences in an attempt to “increase his overall visibility.” According to John, “It’s all about optics...and you need to be everywhere.” Gulati offers a second example, “Steven,” a consulting partner who has his own Facebook page with over 50 fans. Steven tweets over 40 times a day primarily because in his own words, “it makes me feel good.”
This is not just a “professional world” problem; that is a human problem. We have a deep desire to be visible and valuable. We crave attention and want the approval of others. We have a gnawing ache to be known and admired, to have our name in lights. And, we generally fear being unseen or unnoticed, passed up or passed over.
That is why social media is so intoxicating. It creates a platform whereby we can broadcast ourselves to the world and overcome our invisibility. As a society infected with a low grade narcissism, we give undue attention to our digital images and obsess over amassing followers and fans—all in pursuit of the exhilaration of being known. The state of invisibility is a frightening prospect. For many, social media has become a savior to rescue us from this dreaded hell of obscurity.
For many, social media has become a savior to rescue us from this dreaded hell of obscurity.
But what we quickly discover is that being saved from social obscurity is no salvation at all. This universal ache to be visible and valuable, to be known and loved, reveals something to us about the reason for our existence. The deep need we have to be known and loved by people reveals a deeper need we have to be known and loved by the Ultimate Person. God has made us for himself and until we are content being known and accepted by Him through Christ, we will spend our lives in the bondage of being known and accepted by everyone else. The Apostle Paul addressed this idea of bondage with the Church in Galatians 4:8-9:
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God****, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
To be known, loved, and befriended by God! To be visible and valuable to Him! That is the key to breaking free from the bondage of “optics.” This is why Jesus came.
In Christ, we can live under the smiling gaze of God. By his cross he has secured for us the unending acceptance and approval of the Ultimate Person. And, we need not have our name in lights when it is graven on his hands.