Seeing and Being Seen
“True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person.”
I recently learned this Zulu “hello” at a 2016 If Gathering simulcast. In the Zulu language it means, “I see you.” A speaker with us at the conference expanded the meaning to, “I see you. I see you as God has made you.”
But this exchange often begins with the first person saying, “Sikhona,” meaning “I am here to be seen.” So the full exchange, if we were to use these greetings, might go something like this:
Sikhona. I am here to be seen.
Sawubona. I see you. I see you as God has made you.
Beautiful. To see and greet each other in this way becomes a compassionate acknowledgement and intentional welcome of each person’s full presence.
Can you imagine entering a conversation fully present, ready to be seen and being greeted with words confirming you are seen? Or the other way around, fully acknowledging someone’s presence by responding with, “I see you”?
You are beautifully and amazingly created, here to be seen.
What do you long for others to see in you?
What would you courageously voice about who you are?
It’s interesting how once you become aware of something powerful like this, you begin to notice it in other contexts.
Attending a recent coach training intensive in Sacramento, my biggest take-away came from an emphasis on how we view our coaching clients, or really anyone. The instructors brought this in through various experiences. In one, we sat across from a fellow participant, knees nearly touching, looking straight into the other’s eyes.
Oh yes, this felt awkward. But as the workshop leader coached us in ways we were to view the person before us, I became less aware of my discomfort and began to focus on who that person might be. I didn’t need to know much yet, just that she was a human being, a deep well brimming with much to pour out to others.
To see her absolutely changed how I then listened and how I responded.
I saw this person before me as someone with gifts and dreams and contributions to make. What naturally flowed from that intentional viewpoint was deep value and curiosity. What else might I learn about this person and her ideas, interests and life goals? I wanted to cheer her on!
And I thought,
What if I were to see each person I meet this way? Each person I lead, each person I coach? What if we all were to do that? And what if as we met each person, we were fully present, ready to be seen by them?
Every person. Yes, even those—especially those—we find difficult to love or be around.
What contexts come to mind where you might practice
being fully present and seeing the person?
Who needs to know you see them?
With such authenticity needed behind a wholehearted greeting of presence and welcome, I cannot help but pray that Christ would allow me to see each person as he sees them, listen to them as he would listen to them, love them as he would love them.
For this is what he sees when we come to him:
Sikhona. I am here to be seen by you, Christ.
Sawubona. I see you.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
How might you practice this seeing and being seen within the contexts of your relationships and leadership? Let’s talk about creative ways to cultivate a welcoming influence. We’d love to hear your story and experiences, your thoughts and ideas.