End the Search for Significance
We all strive to be significant to others. Even if it is a select few people, we all want to be important. Leonard Bernstein, the renowned composer and conductor of the New York Philharmonic, was asked a question. An interviewer asked him which instrument is hardest to play. With no hesitation, he answered,
The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.
The problem with being second (or third, fourth…) is that it gives us the opportunity to compare our significance with others. Am I noticed as much as the other guy? Everyone likes her better. I wish I could be given that opportunity. Why don’t I ever get the chance for that position? I don’t understand why he doesn’t love me.
Whether we admit it or not, we all want to be important to someone. We want significance. We want our lives to mean something to someone else. The problem is, we chase significance from other people when our personal significance doesn’t come from them in the first place. That is, we want something from them they don’t even have.
The Source of Significance
In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus makes a couple of statements that tell us how God sees us.
Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
You’re not a sparrow. You’re so important to God that He knows how many hairs you have. This is the true source of significance. To go on, Psalm 139:13-14 says,
For You formed my i]”>[i]inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for j]”>[j]I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
No matter how anyone treats you. No matter what anyone says or doesn’t say. No matter how alone you feel. God loves you more than you can understand. You have significance with Him!
The Results of Searching for Significance
The first family of the Bible gives us a pretty clear picture of what the search for significance can bring. Genesis 3 tells us about Eve being deceived. Whether or not you believe the story of the Garden of Eden is literal or allegorical, the message is still the same.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate
When Eve believed the fruit would make her wise, she could suddenly envision herself with elevated status. Significance. Eve was convinced she could elevate her own status. She sought this apart from God. The result was sin and brokenness.
Again, whether you believe it’s literal or allegorical, the message is the same. Searching for worth and value outside of our relationship with God will leave us empty. In fact, I personally believe this is the essence of “the sin nature” that we talk about. We have a tendency to search for significance outside of that which God has already given.
Need another example? Cain got angry with Abel. At the end of the day, he believed Abel was being uppity. “Cain” means “acquirer.” He wanted to be above Abel, mostly in his own eyes. He killed his brother for the sake of taking his farm (Genesis 4). Again, the search for significance apart from what God has already given resulted in destruction.
Think about the past month or so of your life. What things have you done to gain a sense of significance from others? Here are some examples to help you get started.
Did something to please another person even though you did not want to.
Tried to convince someone you are a good person even when you had done nothing wrong.
Tried to reconcile a relationship when the other person wants nothing to do with it.
Begged for forgiveness from someone repeatedly.
Lied about an accomplishment.
Tried to get attention for a problem by making it more dramatic.
Those are just some examples. There’s no way for me to make a list for you. What ways have you tried to gain a sense of significance and importance?
Once you have that, identify some alternatives. It might be visit a friend, read a book (Psalm 139 is a good place to start), or pray. Find some way to remind yourself that your value does not come from that other person(s). Have a friend who will call you out when he or she sees you searching for significance elsewhere. Make sure they can remind you of God’s love for you.
Accept Your Significance
You are a human being. You are the height of God’s creation. Read Psalm 139. Read the whole thing. If you wonder whether or not you have significance, look at the cross. Jesus, God with us, died because of your significance to Him. You and I both have been important to a lot of people. How about the creator of the universe? Talk about being a VIP!
Your struggle to find significance and meaning continues because you place too much value on others’ opinions. We all do this. We want people to like us. We want people to love us. Our chronic search for significance and meaning leads us into bad relationship, codependent behavior, and ultimately, empty and still searching.
Remind yourself of these things. Hey, repeat these 9 times a day if it helps!
I belong with God. His greatest desire is a relationship with me.
God accepts me as I am. At my best or worst, God accepts me even though I am not perfect
God may want me to change, but He is with me in my struggle to change.
No mistake I have made is bigger than God’s grace.
God loves me more than I can understand because I am significant to Him.
Regardless of what anyone else says or does, their approval or disapproval of me cannot change God’s mind about me.
Internalizing those statements is not easy. One thing that will help is to discontinue efforts to gain significance in other ways. This doesn’t mean you will stop contributing to other people’s lives. What it means is that you will get your self-worth from your Creator rather than other, fallen, fragile, broken people.
Veggie Tales episodes always end with, “God made you special and He loves you very much.” How true that is!