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A significant equation

14 June, 2003 5:03 PM

Significance = Others Opinion of You + Your Achievements

Tomorrow I'm speaking at Horsham Church of Christ (which is about 3 hours to the west of Melbourne. I'm doing a 'Holistic Spirituality Workshop' in the afternoon and then in the evening speaking at a youth gathering.

In the evening I'm talking about the messages that our world says to us, largely through the media.

The average Aussie teen is exposed to 600 commercials every day (I'd say that's a conservative estimate). So by the time they are 60 they've seen or heard 13,140,000 ads! Add to that the 8 years of television shows that they watch in a life plus all the time online, in magazines, at the movies and in front of computer games and you've got a lot of messages!!!

We are hearing ALOT of messages. Some are really worthwhile, but I suspect that many may be outright lies! For instance, one study showed that one in four commercials made some direct statement about beauty. Another showed that 69% of women on TV were significantly under the weight of the average weight of women. Another showed that overweight men on TV were always cast as the funny guy who was the butt of the joke, bald men were generally cast as geeks or nerds and that the powerful, romantic and serious roles generally ended up with guys with athletic bodies and full heads of hair!

I think the equation above (which is taken from a course a church here in Melbourne runs) is a pretty good way of summing up a lot of these messages that we hear. To be significant you have to make others think highly over you and be a high achiever. The more I think about it the more I see this as true...both in my own life but also in the lives of those living around me.

Today I asked myself the questions: When do I feel most alive? When do I feel most worthwhile and valuable? When do I feel at my lowest?

The answers surprised me and point to the fact that I often feel most valuable when another person has told me I did or do something well or when I've just done something that I'm proud of...whether it be a good grade at school...buying my latest gadget/toy... writing a good post on my blog ...or standing in front of the mirror and realising that those push ups have been having an effect!

Not that there is anything wrong with being liked or achieving - they are fine things in their own right - however when we base our value and significance upon them we're setting ourselves up for a fall. Its just impossible to always have others like us and to always be successful

There have been two times in my life when I've contemplated ending it all. In hindsight I realise these two times were when I went through times of rejection by others and realisation that I had failed at something I saw as important.

Its a risky equation to buy into! It therefore doesn't surprise me that Australia has the second highest suicide rate in the world per capita and that so many of those ending their lives are 18 -25 year old males. All day every day they are told to achieve, succeed and make sure they are loved. So when the day comes when the rejection of another or a failure inevitably comes the reason to go on living disappears.

The people who came up with the above equation also came up with a second one that they say describes how God views our significance. When I first looked at it I cringed a little, it sounds a little corny...however I can't think of a better way to express where true significance comes from. Its definitely a better 'equation' than the first, but I'd invite your response to it if you feel moved to do so.

Real Significance = Gods Opinion of You + Jesus' Achievements



Hi Darren,

Boy...that really takes the heat off, doesn't it?

I think valuing people because they are, and not because of what they do, helps one to love others better.

p.s. I haven't been able to get to your site for the past couple of days. Kept getting page unavailable.

Laura » 14 June, 2003 6:20 PM

Hey Darren -

I've been thinking a fair bit about this question too. Here is my proposed equation:

real significance = your true self + your natural limits

I've been reading and rereading a book by a Quaker named Parker J. Palmer called "Let Your Life Speak" (highly recommended). In it, he talks about living your truest self; our truest selfs only show when we also acknowledge our God given limitations. Society tells us, nay demands us, to achieve, gain, soar. And we can't. Or at least, most of us can't. Hence suicides, depression, etc.

When we embrace not only what we _can_ do and are good at, but what we _can't_ do and suck at, that's when real achievement comes. For in the embracing of our limits, we no longer put ourselves in places where we are bound to fail consistently. Failure, however you want to define it, is a normal and natural part of life. It does not have to be the defining feature of life, however.

I believe the above equation is full of God, because in acknowledging our true selves, limits and heights, we are coming face to face with our God-given natures and acknowledging them as good.


Lisa » 15 June, 2003 3:51 AM

I just wish I were able to see others', and myself, through God's eyes. My sight is so limited.

Susan L. Prince » 15 June, 2003 11:00 PM

I tried to come up with a "real significance" equation Darren but, for some reason, it has no meaning to me, strange that!

It is most perplexing. I will have to ponder on it some more.

At the moment I am struggling with the concept of whether significance actually matters. If the light bulb comes on I'll be sure to let you know.

chris » 16 June, 2003 9:50 AM

On another issue raised in this entry, I think you will find suicide rates in the bush far higher than in the city.

You might like to challenge the group to consider whether they know someone they believe is at risk and if so what have they done about it. Often it requires as little as holding out your hand to them (metaphorically I mean). People who are suicidal cannot see anything beyond the blackness that is confronting them. Sometimes even clumsy compassion and caring is all that it takes to turn on a small light bulb in the darkness.

chris » 16 June, 2003 9:59 AM

just realised I used a light bulb in both posts. hmmmmmmm interesting.

chris » 16 June, 2003 10:01 AM

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