Significance

(Originally written November 1992)

Every one of us is unique. Each finds significance in different areas of life, but normally these areas are the ones in which we feel competent, accepted, comfortable, and loved. The high school kicker made the game winning field goal as the time ran out, the professional golfer made the putt to win the tournament, the salesperson closed the sale, the artist finished the painting, the singer received the annual award, the mother watched her five year old child walk into the classroom for the first time, the doctor finished the surgery to save a life, the politician saw the passage of her bill, and the grandfather watched his oldest granddaughter walk down the aisle. Each found significance, acceptance, and love as they relished the moment of glory or satisfaction.

Significance is not common in our lives. It’s usually rare and only comes after long years of preparation and struggle. Most of us are not gifted in many areas. I was never much of an athlete because I never felt competent or comfortable. My youngest brother Craig may have not had much more natural ability than me, but it seemed to flow with grace as he added his determination and made the catch, the basket, or the shot. I marveled at his talents. My other brother Kirk was an outstanding pilot and always seemed to know what to do to figure things out and make every detail fit together.

Where do you find your significance? Where do you feel accepted and satisfied? I am neither a hunter nor a fisherman, an artist nor a cook, a mechanic nor a gardener. But I can organize and motivate. So, I have normally become involved in things that required these abilities. I feel comfortable looking at new package designs and financial statements. I enjoy standing before a group explaining a radical idea, sharing my enthusiasm about a new project, or challenging others to action. Where do you find that sense of importance, value, and worth? Most of us will never gain the distinction, prominence, exaltation, or greatness. Certainly few are allowed to experience the nobility of a queen, the grandeur of a famous artist, or the notability of a president. Yet, rightly, each of us will seek significance and meaning in two or three areas of our lives.

Most of us seek meaning in a marriage relationship and in raising children, but we come neither experienced nor gifted in these areas. After twenty-five years as a husband, I’m beginning to know a little about marriage, and after rearing three children I wish that I had had today’s wisdom when I was twenty-two years of age. But where else do we seek significance? For me it was family business and an active involvement in our church. These were both worthy pursuits, and I wanted to be careful of my choices because few of us find significance in multiple areas.

At mid-life we must pause and evaluate our progress. It is a sobering time. This month marks the end of a unique period in my life. The last three years have been ones of transition. After seventeen years in business with my two brothers, I one day found that It really was “lonely at the top”. As I faced a time of intense competition and economic pressure, I missed the balance that my brothers had added to our firm. About the same time that I was dealing with these challenged in business, I was involved with a group which was leading our church away from the institutions and traditions into relevancy and change. (We found that many people wanted to meet the challenges of the 90’s with the methods of the 60’s.) Also, during this time, our children were either going off to college or getting married. As my wife and I faced these times together, we found less confidence than we had possessed in our 20’s and 30’s.

It wasn’t that we had chosen to be significant in the wrong areas. But as we gained business success it led to more debt and responsibility, religious success led to more challenges and controversy, and successful training of children meant we were no longer needed for daily decisions. The wisest man that ever lived wrote that he sought significance in wisdom, pleasure, labor, and wealth. The result was only vanity and futility. Solomon’s conclusion at the end of Ecclesiastes was to “fear God and obey His commandments, for this is the entire duty of man”.

Even in the successes and significant areas of my life I have had to deal with fear, doubts, rejection, pain, and loneliness. It amazes me that the God of the universe considers me significant and in that relationship alone will I find acceptance, meaning, and love. How about you? How’s your search for significance?

Finding His Pathway,
Kent Humphreys

Ecclesiastes 12:13 TLB

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About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

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