Tuesday, September 29, 2015

IT'S AN ADHD WORLD: Part 1 - Do I Have Your Attention?

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are [a]God Who Sees”; for she said, “Have I not even here [in the wilderness] remained alive after [b]seeing Him [who sees me with understanding and compassion]?”
Genesis 16:13, AMP

Admit it.  We live in an ADHD world.

Never before in history have humans been so tempted to mentally flit from one thing to the next.  With information crowding and flying past us at the speed of light, we barely have time to focus or digest an item before it is forcibly shoved out by the next.  The 24-hour news cycle has been a huge menace, driving this pace of life.  We are outraged by a social injustice until our attention drifts to the news of another.  We would barely remember there was a murder down the street a year ago if our addled, over-filled brains weren't reminded by the interruption of apps like Timehop.  

Yet, isn't attention what we all want?  

Sometimes the biggest heartache we can endure is the one of feeling invisible, ignored, isolated.  Few people know that pain like we families living with special needs or complex health challenges.  There's that desire to be seen, to be included in all of the wonderful things in life that every other person enjoys.  Additionally, there is that desire for compassion, understanding, for the world to see and care when we are suffering.  Nevertheless, the majority of the time we are hearing the heavy ache of silence, life seemingly passing us by, and marginalization when we crave the smallest amount of attention.

Hagar, the slave of Abram's wife, Sarai, knew the value of attention.  When God sent His angel to meet her, comfort her, and instruct her in the desert, she realized that attention demonstrates:

  • That we matter
  • That this is where understanding begins
  • That we are part of something bigger than just ourselves
  • That we have intrinsic value

So how do we gain the attention every human values in an overly-distracted world, while not becoming overly needy?  Here are some thoughts:
  1. To GET attention, GIVE attention -- It may seem overly simplistic, but as with so many other things in life, we reap what we sow.  Especially in light of the cultural challenges we all currently face, people are naturally drawn to those who people who show a genuine interest in them.  When we affirm others by giving them the gift of our attention, they typically want to reciprocate.
  2. Be fully present -- Along those same lines, step away from the tablet, and put down the smart phone.  We cannot give others our undivided attention when we are continually distracted by texts, e-mails, instant messaging, social media, and electronic games.  Neither can we be aware that someone is OFFERING us their complete consideration when we are distracted. 
  3. Model it to our children -- Given the fact that our children weren't raised in a generation that just went outside and played for hours and hours, they have a much greater challenge with this issue.  While we can become depleted and desire mental space from our kids, it becomes way too easy to push them away by ignoring them.  Demonstrate active listening to your child by making eye contact when they are speaking to you, responding to what they are saying, and putting down the electronics.  The best place for our kids to receive affirmation and validation starts at home.  They cannot receive and pass on those positive attributes if they have not learned them from their parents.
  4. Speak words of value -- Don't waste a minute of the precious time you receive from others.  Be impactful by speaking life into others.  People dread being around a "Negative Nancy," so be mindful of who you are able to be real and raw with.  For the others, it is okay to share your difficult realities, but be certain to include with those thoughts how crisis is positively impacting you.  Let God's glory be reflected in your conversation, in spite of your circumstance.  THAT truly makes people sit up and take notice!
  5. Build awareness -- While we are not always up to the task, educating others is critical when we are able.  The apathy and disengagement from others can truly be born of ignorance.  The typical world does not know the ins and outs of what we live with every day, so how can we expect their compassion and attentiveness?  When I share with people the fact that our son needs to learn to administer his own intravenous clotting factor every-other-day or that his medication costs nearly $200,000 per year, it makes them stand up and take notice.  After a number of years, however, they can even tune that out.  (Remember?  It's an ADHD world!)  I continue to build awareness by sharing with people how the learning curve is going (difficult), and exactly what that looks like (experiencing the dangerous natural consequences of neglecting treatment).  When they see us press on in spite of things that would emotionally paralyze the average person, they learn that God IS a reliable force in all of life's most challenging storms.
Hagar was fortified in matchless ways when she knew that she had been seen and heard by her Almighty Creator.  The difficulties she would face didn't end with her pregnant flight into the desert to escape cruel Sarai.  Even so, she endured because she was refreshed by learning there was Someone attentive to her plight and problems.

I will have much more to say in the weeks ahead about living in this ADHD world of ours.  For now, however, let us all commit to giving people our undivided attention, so that we can foster the renewal of a culture where we are fully present to one another again.

PRAY:  Lifter of our heads, keep our focus where it belongs -- on You and Your people.  As Your ambassadors, let us  affirm the value of each and every person we encounter by offering them the same kind of attention we would like to receive.

~ Barb Dittrich


  1. Genesis 16:13 Heb El roi; God never sleeps, He sees, He is aware, He is the great Omnipresent God.
  2. Genesis 16:13 Or seen the back of Him who sees me, which would suggest that at some point in their conversation Hagar requested to see the divine Angel (see note v 7) and, as in Moses’ encounter with God (Ex 33:18-23), was granted the privilege of seeing His back. The wording of the Hebrew is not clear enough to further narrow the possibilities.

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