• Dana L. Butler

The Power of “I See You”


My friend walks across the church building toward where I sit holding my baby girl. Arriving at my seat, she squats down to make eye contact with me, and there’s no escaping her unwavering gaze as she looks right through my eyes and into my soul.

She says it quiet, but confident: “Do you realize how your freely being who you are has unlocked my heart?”

She goes on for a minute about how she feels seen by me. How just knowing I’m there, amid a roomful of others, sets her a little more free.

And this isn’t, of course, something that’s uniquely “cool” about me, because the thing is — this friend has done the same for me. She has helped unlock my heart too.

She sees me. Deeply.

It’s a skill I’m practicing these days — the art of seeing hearts. I have intentionally set myself among women who I feel are so much better at it than I am, and I so clearly see how far I have to go, how much I still want to grow.

But despite my distance from where I’d like to be, this has become one of my core passions.

Creating safe space for people’s hearts to come out and be seen is for sure what makes me come most alive inside.

So as a method of discovering what makes others’ hearts feel safe to peek out and be seen, I find myself taking note of what types of circumstances allow my own truest self to naturally emerge. And, conversely, noticing in what circumstances I’m more likely to feel bound and blocked from being myself. Where I tend to coast — just ride it out till I can escape the situation.

If I’m scared of your opinion of me, or if I’m trying to make some kind of impression, forget about it (<– to be read with a goofy northern accent of some sort). The real Dana will absolutely stay locked up inside my rib cage. I’ll probably be a little socially clumsy, and I’ll for sure say All The *Extra* Stupid Things, because I’m stumbling around in an awkward fog, trying to MAKE myself BE myself.

And failing miserably.

I find that where I’m most free to let my deepest self be known, is where compassionate space is carved out for my heart and my story.

Where I’m viewed as a friend (or even a potential friend), and not someone to be fixed. Where I’m asked honest questions and my responses are genuinely desired. Where my thoughts are heard with a nonjudgmental heart. Where clarification is sought if a person doesn’t fully understand my communication.

Where the shared goal is a mutual discovering of each other’s souls.

And here’s the crazy thing: If you lay down your need to try and change me, and instead create this type of heart-space for my soul to emerge and my story to be heard and held with grace?

Then you will have plowed the ground of my heart, and you can encourage and exhort me and call me on the carpet and even speak painful truth to me, and friend? It will LAND. It will fall on soft soil in my heart and whatever of it is the heart of Jesus for me will take root and bear fruit.

When space is created for my heart to come out and be seen, it makes way for true encouragement to be received. And it will make a lasting imprint on my soul.

For me, the friendships that encourage my heart the most deeply — the friendships in which I find myself inspired with courage, spirit, and confidence — are the ones where it’s safe for my deepest self to emerge and be known.

So please hear me — this is my heart’s deep cry: See me, my friend. Carve out space to discover who I really am, and please trust me to see who you really are too. Way down deep, in your core. And we will cultivate soft, receptive soil in each other’s hearts, and we will speak words of life, and we will permanently mark one another’s souls.

Desired. Seen. Known. Valued. Received. Held.

And this deep, authentic friendship and encouragement — they’ll be game changers for you and me. They will unlock us in our deepest places. By them, God will lead us to a new level of free.

I wrote this post in community with the other (in)courage group leaders on the prompt: “The Power of Encouragement.” You are welcome to join us – click on over!

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