“The most basic need is a sense of personal worth, an acceptance of oneself as a whole, real person. The two required inputs are significance (purpose, importance, adequacy for a job, meaningfulness, impact) and security (love — unconditional and consistently expressed; permanent acceptance)” (Larry Crabb).
THERE IS NO USE DENYING THAT “SIGNIFICANCE” IS ONE OF THE MAIN QUESTIONS WE HAVE TO WRESTLE WITH. First, we want to know that the world in which we live has a meaningful significance. But second, we also want to have a personal significance. Larry Crabb speaks for every one of us when he says, “I long to know that someone sees something in me that’s valuable.”
As Crabb suggests in the beginning quotation, our sense of personal worth rests on two pillars: significance and security. Men seem to need significance more, while women appear to need security more. But the truth is, we all need both of these, and we need significance no less than security. If a person’s presence in the world didn’t make any difference to anyone — that is, he or she was completely insignificant in every way — it would be an existence hard to bear. So it’s important for each of us to find truthful answers to these questions: What difference does it make that I am in the world? Why do I matter?
In this book, however, we’re paying special attention to gifts we can give to those around us, so I want to suggest that we should be concerned not only about our own significance but also that of others. We never do a finer thing than when we help another human being see why they matter. Indeed, to the extent we focus on encouraging others, our own significance tends to take care of itself.
One of the saddest facts in the world is our tendency to go down so many dead-end streets looking for significance. Desperate to believe our lives are meaningful, we look to popular culture for answers. We let the advertisers and entertainers tell us what makes a life significant — and in the end, we find out we’ve been misled.
But make no mistake, the question of our significance is critical. Our lives in this world are either more than they seem or less than they seem, and the difference is huge. The stakes are unimaginably high.
“We begin to lose our humanity as soon as we begin to lose the emphasis that what we do makes a difference” (Francis Schaeffer).