Why are we afraid?
Where does fear come from?
Those are the questions my wife asked me on our date night last night.
I was a little caught off guard. We were driving to dinner as Tessa was looking out the window at the city when the words flew out of her mouth.
I sat and thought a minute. I’m a deep thinker. Sitting and thinking is a prerequisite to any response I make...usually.
I finally responded with, “I think we’re afraid of not being significant.”
Significance seems to be this monumenal achievement. This unattainable “thing” that is so high in the sky and utterly unreachable.
But if it’s so unreachable, why do we strive so hard to reach for it?
I heard the incredible story of a man named Viktor Frankl. He was a Jewish doctor of sorts in Austria during World War II. He and his family were eventually taken to concentration camps in 1942. And what they experienced was horrific.
All of Frankl’s family died in the camps (except his sister who fled to Australia). Yet, everywhere Frankl went, the suicide rate dropped dramatically in the camps.
Because Frankl helped the people in the camps see that their suffering mattered...that they could eventually redeem their suffering...that it would mean something later. That they were significant, even in the face of horrific circumstances.
There’s that word again...
Hitler saw the Jewish people as insignificant. But Frankl was able to rescue many a suicidal Jew just be helping them see that they were significant. That they had meaning and value and worth.
What it seems we have in our society today is a search for pleasure. Pyschologist Sigmund Freud’s research seemed to conclude that man’s primary desire was for pleasure.
But Frankl disagrees.
Frankl says that man’s desire for pleasure is a cover. When people feel insignificant, they reach for pleasure instead to fill that void in their soul.
And our society is rampant with pleasure-seekers.
Pleasure is easily attainable. Our world is filled with opportunities to distract us from what really matters.
Significance is also easily attainable. I just think we’ve been looking at it wrong.
Many of us see significance as that unattainable pie-in-the-sky I described earlier. And I’ve been there. I've had that perspective.
But what is significance? Really?
The dictionary defines significance as: “the quality of being worthy of attention; importance.”
There’s a key word in that definition, and it’s not what you think.
It’s not attention.
It’s not importance.
I think deep down we don’t see ourselves as worthy. Because of that, we’d rather pass the time entertaining ourselves with pleasure so we don’t feel that empty void.
But here’s the thing...you ARE worthy.
Not because of something you did or do, but because of who you are.
As a follower of Jesus, one of the reasons I believe I’m significant is that I was designed and created with a purpose.
Part of that purpose is connection and relationship.
Our relationships are so much more significant than we can think or imagine. My relationship with my wife, my kid, my friends, my family.
They all matter. A lot.
There’s a Proverb that says, “A wise man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
I don’t believe that’s merely talking about financial wealth.
How we treat people, how we do business, how we cultivate and create and make something of the world around us...all those things can be communicated and passed down...to make the world a better place.
I’ve barely scratched the surface with this topic, I know. But here’s what I want you to walk away with:
- Significance doesn't have to be daunting.
- Significance happens every day, in every interaction, with everyone we meet.
- Choose to be significant today, and help shine a light on other’s significance.