Searching for Significance
I read a couple of Bible verses, one in Matthew 10 and the other in Luke 12 talking about sparrows. In Matthew, Jesus said two sparrows were sold for a penny. In Luke, we learn that five are sold for two pennies. In other words, the fifth one wasn’t worth anything substantial. It was thrown in for free. Do you ever feel like that fifth sparrow? Do you ever find yourself searching for significance?
All of us want to be important to someone. We want to be valued and wanted. We want to be needed and cherished. Yet, life leaves us feeling empty sometimes. Maybe we were abused by someone (as a child or as an adult). Maybe we feel like damaged goods. Maybe we have always been told or just somehow felt like we didn’t measure up to other people’s value. And so we spend our lives searching for significance due to a fear that we are insignificant.
What are some of the things that show we are searching for significance? I’m sure there are a lot of things people could list. Here are four that I commonly see.
Being a recovering people pleaser, I can relate to this. People get disappointed or angry when we can’t or won’t do the things they want us to do. We take on their emotions and make them our responsibility. If my spouse/friend/neighbor/sibling/parent (you get the idea) is upset, then I must have done something wrong. In fact, it’s a certainty in our own minds. As we go about searching for significance, people pleasers make decisions based on what we believe will make others happy.
People pleasers avoid conflict. We internalize conflict. We interpret conflict in a way that confirms our lack of value and, even worse, our brokenness. As a result, we have a hard time saying “no” to others in an effort to be important to them.
Perhaps it’s obvious, but attention seekers struggle with not being noticed. When they’re not the center, or close to the center, of attention, they feel inadequate. They feel as if they don’t measure up and are insignificant. As a result, they find ways to bring attention to themselves. In extreme cases, they even sometimes fake illnesses. I recently heard of someone who faked a high-risk pregnancy in order to get attention from others. She wasn’t pregnant at all, let alone high-risk!
As they are searching for significance, attention seekers believe they are only valued when the phone is ringing, their text notification is dinging, they are the center of the conversation, someone notices them sexually, others feel sympathy toward them, or any other number of attention indicators.
For achievers, the guiding belief is the more they achieve, the more important they will be. They spend extraordinary effort trying to achieve more and more only to remain empty on the inside. Achievers set goals. They usually reach those goals. They’re great at what they do and they go after it! For all of us, when we reach a goal, we set another one. This is a natural process. Because they are searching for significance through goals, achievers set new goals in hopes that reaching that goal will finally be important enough to make them significant in the world.
Withdrawing is not really part of searching for significance but it may be an indicator the person has given up on finding significance. Depression and even suicide can occur when individuals have given up on feeling important to the world. Their assumptions often include that people tolerate them but no one would really care if they were absent. So they withdraw in an effort to be absent from others.
Feeling unimportant, life that fifth sparrow, is a difficult thing to overcome. The truth is, the world needs you to be the best you possible. The world doesn’t need another me (my wife just agreed). The world needs you. As a recovering people pleaser, this was a conclusion I came to – that I was created to be me and I need to be more of that. This doesn’t mean I don’t need to change (my wife just agreed again). What it means is the best version of myself is the best thing I can offer the world.
If you took a poll of the people around you, the majority of them would have great things to say about you. They’re not all lying. There may be some people that don’t particularly like you. Guess what? You’re a member of the club that has 7.4 billion members – the human race.
The truth is, I don’t need your approval to be okay and you don’t need mine. I don’t need your love to be happy and you don’t need mine. Once I can stop depending on the words and actions of others to help me feel important, then I will be able to live freely. I can then live, being who God made me to be, trusting that He did it right the first time!