Insignificant significance

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, A theme that continues to pop up both in counseling and business these days is that of significance. Am I significant? What does it mean to be significant? How will I know if I am significant? There seems to be an inherent fear of being insignificant in all of us. We dread living lives of mediocre existence, of humdrum sameness, of being no more than background noise in the grand symphony of life.

Yet few of us who live seemingly insignificant lives realize the significant roles we play in the journeys of those around us. Many years ago I gave a lecture at Middlebury College on the importance of blending ones scholarly worldview with everyday practicalities— like taking out the trash. Eight years later I ran into a successful businessman in Mad Martha’s Ice Cream on Martha’s Vineyard who reiterated the eight points of my talk back to me; and then he thanked me for changing the course of his life. I didn’t even remember speaking at Middlebury College, let alone what I had said. What I deemed an insignificant lecture was quite significant for someone else.

Often, what we consider an insignificant act is used by God as something of great significance. “God is in the details.” once said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), a German born American architect. It’s the little things that one does in life that are the ultimate contribution. Only a few are designated to discover the great mysteries of our God. [And you may yet be one of them.]

But there is a flip side to this coin too. There are hundreds of thousands of people whom the leaders of our society deem insignificant. The “little people,” the hoi-polloi, the middle class, the lower class; the people who matter not a grain of salt until the next election. If you believe you fit into this category, do not disdain your status in life; for you are truly mistaken. You are higher than the rulers of this world. The little acts of kindness, your heart of forgiveness and graciousness, add to your measure more than anyone with the power to govern a nation with a hand of might. Do not think of yourself as insignificant, a stay-at-home-mom, or a dad working far below his educational level; you are giving to others what you can to the best of your ability. You are of little insignificance; you are, rather, quite significant, beyond what you imagine.

Life should not be about the pursuit of trophies. To be sure, in sports, trophies are appropriate, as are markers through rites-of-passage, and awards for great achievement (like graduating from elementary school or receiving the Nobel Prize). But our significance, no matter our station in life, should come within— from the humbling realization that whether we like it or not, we are mirror reflections of the God of the universe. This alone should elicit a desire in us to contribute to the significance of others. Is this what you are about? Is it part of your company’s ethos and core values? Does your church seek to serve those outside its walls or only the faithful? (We already have Country Clubs doing just that.)

Significance, like beauty, is found in the eye of the beholder. You cannot make yourself significant. You can only BE significant. Your significance lies within the core of your Being. Rest assured in that. What you DO may never be noticed; but it will never be insignificant. We are all made of greater stuff.

Have a nice week,


4 thoughts on “Insignificant significance

  1. Absolutely agree! I was about to write my own blog on this but you capture the heart of the fact there is no such thing as being isignificant when it comes to our relationship with God.

  2. This is something that I have been talks about with a couple of my male friends who are in their twenties and struggling to find work and struggling to find their meaning in this life. Thank you for sharing this Gary!

    1. Nick,
      I am so glad to hear that this piece on insignificant significance touch a cord in your life. I’ve oft wondered if I’ve mattered or just wasted other people’s time. so far, the evidence is that I have made a difference. And I am not done yet. Neither are you!

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