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My search for significance

This is a continuation of yesterday’s blog . Have you ever noticed how when you look at a picture of a group that you were in, you always first try and find yourself in the picture? You are unconsciously meeting your need for significance. You need to know that you’re important. Maslow d…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

This is a continuation of yesterday’s blog
.

Have you ever noticed how when you look at a
picture of a group that you were in, you always first try and find yourself in
the picture? You are unconsciously
meeting your need for significance. You
need to know that you’re important. Maslow defined this need in his hierarchy of
needs.

All our lives we’re caught up in this search for
significance. We want to know that our
peers esteem us. In a way, we’re
imprisoned by their opinion of us. Here’s
how it played out in my life:

As long as I was unclear about my identity in the Kingdom of God or my role in it, I felt insecure –
my sense of significance was in jeopardy.
I still remember Dan Swanson,
one of my first bosses, writing me a three page letter in which he said I was
impetuous.

To my way of thinking, he’d thrown down a gauntlet
that needed to be picked up. I wrote
back that I wasn’t – that I just make quick decisions.

What did it matter?
As it turns out, Dan was right. I
regularly did stupid things as a college student. It nearly kept Dan from hiring me in the
first place.

So why defend myself?
Because I was struggling with my own sense of identity – fighting to
become somebody that mattered. Not
really knowing myself, I didn’t know what territory needed to be defended and
what didn’t make much difference. Too
many of us fight for territory that doesn’t count and don’t advance our cause. So many people spend their lives chasing
their tails on this score.

In my 20’s, I suffered a series of blows to my
ego. My next boss continually corrected
everything I did. And then he asked me
to leave the organization. I worked temp
jobs and collected unemployment. Later,
my first job out of business school blew up in my face. Karen had to get Medicare to pay for the
birth of our fifth baby (Leah). Life
seemed to be sending me the message:
“You’re incompetent.”

It got worse before it got better, but gradually,
piece by piece, God began to put me back together, focusing me on his
perspective and priorities. It was a
slow process that gave me a graduate degree in humility. I learned what hills to die on, what was true
about me and what wasn’t. I began to
embrace reality independent of what people said.

I wish I could say that now I’ve arrived; all too
often I find myself still scheming to boost myself in someone’s eyes. But life is much simpler with the issue of my
significance more or less resolved.

Do yourself a favor and settle the issue of who you
really are and what God really thinks of you.
It may feel selfish, but it’s the best gift you can ever give those you
love the most.

Comments (6)

  • I love this line: Do yourself a favor and settle the issue of who you really are and what God really thinks of you. It may feel selfish, but it’s the best gift you can ever give those you love the most.
    That’s great stuff. Now, onto how to do it…

  • Sarah D. WR June 07

    Seth without you I wouldn’t be preparing for the World Race and I am so glad that I am. Thank you for being obedient to the call of God. You are a blessing to so many!

  • dad – this is great stuff. Thanks for always being real. I was thinking today about how you and mom have taught me how its okay not to be in front and how to get over your ego. It’s okay not to matter in others eyes. You’ve pushed us to develop our identities and I really appreciate it. I love you!

  • I’m unlearning “Success to Significance” (Bob Bufford). This theme is often in God’s plan just a stepping stone to another theme, “success to insignificance.” In fact, am I really willing to be satisfied with being insignificant and invisible if that is the Father’s destiny for me without ever being significant? I don’t really know yet!

    By the way, insignificant in the world’s opinion does not mean unimportant in God’s plan. In fact, although not stated in this format, God’s methodology seems to imply “an inverse relationship between visibility and influence.” The more invisible you are the more influence you will have.

    Sounds up-side-down but it is true even in the secular world; nonetheless, in the spiritual battles we all fight.

  • Thanks, man. I need to come to grips more with who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing here. I need to be okay with letting some people down who have false expectations of me. My fault (in the job field) is not being able to focus. I take on too many tasks, over-load my plate, and my commitment suffers. I remember talking to a couple different professors in college that had hired me and needed to rebuke me for falling asleep in a meeting, not following up on a task, etc. It wasn’t that I was unreliable (in my opinion); it was that I had so much else going on. It’s been a slow process of refining what really counts and only committing to that. I’m getting there, enjoying the ride, and learning to /learn/ from mistakes.

  • I am a FIRM believer in Maslow’s heirarchy, its so easy to see it displayed in real life and helps empathize in ministry settings. Good stuff!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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