Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Invisible people

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I have talked with people, who tell me that they often feel taken for granted by pretty much everyone. They are nice, do their jobs perfectly and are always available when others are in need. Often making great sacrifices in order to do so, yet they feel unappreciated. I had a talk with a woman this weekend, who pretty much said the above, and in ending also said: “I just feel numb”.

So we talked, and I shared some ideas with her, things that have helped me in my life. I know that if someone is very helpful, always there, ready to sacrifice for me and who also never speaks up about themselves, or their needs……then, without meaning to, I often tend to take them for granted. They are someone who is simply there, to be called upon in time of need. This is not something that is done consciously, for I usually like people like that, though I very seldom become friends with them. Over time, again without malice, they can be looked upon as objects, which can be moved around at will. Why? Well because they do not communicate with others, they are too busy being needed.

Those who make themselves invisible in this way, often suffer from resentment and anger. Yet if they are not willing to speak up, in the end, it is unfair to those for whom they try to be indispensable. They can’t be helped or talked to. So things after awhile through passive/aggressive activity, will often times ruin everything. The needy become a burden, since their needs can never be dealt with, unless there is courage to speak up. Speaking up is not yelling, accusing, or walking off the job, that is just an accumulation of repressed emotions. Either way, speaking up, or out, will happen, best to do when some kind of rational thinking is possible. Of course many of our problems are not rational, but emotional, so in the end I feel very few really learn. I have learned that after awhile, it is best to simply not take them for granted, and let them be. Though even that can cause trouble, for then they feel rejected if not needed. It can be an endless cycle, so I try to stop it, at least on my side of the fence. How well I do, I have no idea.

Once this kind of person speaks up, it can be a shock to those who work with them. For suddenly they become real, have feelings, needs, and need to be respected and not used. Some can show chagrin when this happens, for something new has entered into the relationship that will impact on their lives. Yet after a while, the dust will settle, and relationships can take on a different flavor entirely. Also respect for the one who speaks up is gained, and that leaves an opening for friendships to develop. People respect courage; admire those who speak up for themselves. It also keeps relationships open and honest. Respect is earned, so is friendship.

So we talked on ways that she does herself in. It was painful for her, but I think she understood. She told me that when she got back she was going to find a support group to help her, and also talk to her boss. If she does this, I think she will be fine. For she did make herself indispensable at her job; hopefully she can now be happy at, and seen by others.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO

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