The Danger of Recognition

Empty-stageI follow over 1,000 people on Twitter, and a good amount of those people I would describe as friends. Sure, we’ve likely never met face to face, but I put enough effort to engage conversations with them, that I sense that I know them. I could pick them out of a crowd, and sit down for a long dialogue over coffee with each of them.

When I moved back to my hometown 17 months ago many people who I had limited interaction with during my teenage years assumed I knew them. Maybe it was too hard to assume that I could be a different person one decade later. The assumptions frustrated me—”you don’t know me just because we said hello to each other a decade ago.” Or maybe my frustration came from a lazy mindset toward human interaction on my end, my willingness not to fight for more depth in my connections.

Growing up as a pastor’s kid there was a long line of people who would say they knew me. They heard my dad talk about me on Sundays. They saw me on stage when I played music. And outside of, “hey how is basketball season going?” I never had a conversation of length with any of them. I was recognized, not known.

I wonder if I haven’t too quickly gone from recognizing a person, to thinking I know them. After all, there is a vast difference between recognition and knowledge.

To be known is to be exposed. It’s to have your hopes, pains, mistakes, past, all of it pulled out into the open. When you’re merely recognized, it’s all surface.

When it comes to church, school, jobs, and friends, we must fight against mere recognition. This cheap recognition might take place around the workplace coffee pitcher, or in the hallways of a school, but if it never extends beyond a conversation about the local sports team and the awful weather, it’s a recognition that baits you into thinking you are known.

Recognition is isolating in a blinding way. Being known takes risk. Being recognized only takes showing up. Showing up isn’t hard, but stepping out is.

The question you must wrestle with now is whether you spend more energy on becoming recognized or being known?