The Struggle for Significance

A good friend of mine is leaving a long-held job and finds a certain sadness in it.  Another has just returned to the familiar only to plot a new course toward the unknown.  And yet another is in waiting, hoping to be discovered by those he holds in high esteem.

I look at all these.  And then I think of all the people over the years I've been privileged to encourage and to minister to.  And in them I see pieces of myself. 

What is it that drives us?  What is it that churns our emotions and motivates us to take action, or in some cases merely stand by in muted desire?

Psychologists have long discussed the need buried in each of us for significance.  The need to be validated by others.  The need for our lives to mean something.

In some of us, this struggle for significance has erupted into full-blown narcissism.  We simply must have more and more accolades and ever more fawning fans.  We see, and we wish others to see, only ourselves.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of us have become so tentative that we have nearly become invisible.  We cannot imagine that our lives will ever amount to anything, and this sense of inadequacy has brought paralysis.

And then of course, most of us are somewhere in between.  We're neither self-centered egoists nor immobilized underdogs.  We just bump along somewhere in the middle.

You know, I realize every day the truth of something my mom told me many years ago.  She said that everyone - the narcissist, the underdog and everyone in between - is stricken with a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt.  They all feel, to one degree or another, "less than".  Yep, I think she was right.

So let me take this opportunity to encourage you to take your eyes off other people and simply be what God made you to be.

You have been uniquely made to do and to be something significant!  You have a special set of gifts and passions that, when discovered and fanned into flame, will bring you into that place of significance and satisfaction you've longed for.

I've seen this so many times over the years.  The depressed student that saw something new, perhaps in class or on one of my adventure trips.  They took the new, made it a part of themselves and in the process a world of possibilities opened up.

I've witnessed many a fearful young man - more able to say what he couldn't do than what he could - realize his unique potential and then blast off into the future with the resolve that he could achieve his goals after all. 

And I've seen this principle at work in myself.  As I learned that my real boundaries were far more distant than what I thought - as I learned that I could make a difference and that I could overcome - I found a comfort in my own skin that I never had before.

Remember this during the Christmas season - God has placed in you gifts and talents and energies and abilities and desires and dreams and strengths and weaknesses - all for the purpose of having a significant part in building his Kingdom.  And that's no small thing!

I dunno who needs to hear this - I dunno who this is for.  But according to Mom, there's probably more than one!  :)

4 comments:

Dustin said...

Good stuff. I have always been kind of the underdog. I am thankful for the opportunity to become more.

Lowell said...

Its scary out there. But I think where everyone can agree whether your Nietzche or Job. Struggle is good for your character. Struggle, risk, and failure have made me the man I am today.

Dean said...

It's funny, I wrote Inferiority complex this morning then clicked on your blog and read yours... Recognition from God is authentic, if we wait for man to praise us, well... it's a waist of time.

Mike said...

Yeah Dean - no need to wait on other people - that's just wastin' time... Let's rock!