My guest blog today comes from my father, Marlin Birkey. All of us who have struggled with value, worth, and significance need these words, these critical truths.
The need for a sense of security, and the need for a feeling of significance, are two fundamental human needs that have been woven into the fabric of our humanity by the One who created our humanity. These needs are God-created, God-acknowledged, and God-validated. They are part of the human psyche as God created it to be. Every person who has ever lived has had a felt need for security and significance.
We cannot outgrow these needs because these needs are central to what it means to be human. When these needs are not met, emotional and spiritual suffering follows. There is much to say about both needs, but my focus for this blurb is the need for significance, the feeling that we matter, the feeling that we are important, the feeling that we are lovable and worthy of acceptance as individuals. Expressed in a negative way, the need for significance is the need to believe that we are NOT worthless or inadequate or unimportant.
We all learn as we grow up, whether the message comes through imperfect parenting (which, by the way, is a given since no parents are perfect) or from social pressures experienced in school, in friendships, in the workplace, etc., to attach our feelings of significance to the quality of the feedback that comes our way. That feedback comes in myriad ways through the affirmation or criticism of parents or significant caregivers, through the acceptance or rejection of friends, through achievement or failure in athletic or artistic endeavors, through positive or negative evaluations at work, through feeling loved or devalued in romantic relationships, and the list could go on and on.
When the feedback is positive, we feel significant; when the feedback is negative, our sense of significance takes a hit, which usually results in frantic and anxiety-laden efforts to get the feedback turned back in a positive direction. It is easy to see why mistreatment in childhood through emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or being bullied in school, or growing up with the belief that the only way to be ok is to “have it all together,” results in profound feelings of insignificance or worthlessness.
The problem with attaching the belief about our own significance to external feedback is that human performance is always variable, and thus the feedback will always be variable. No one gets it right all the time. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose; sometimes we understand, sometimes we misunderstand; sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail; sometimes we feel accepted, sometimes we feel rejected; sometimes we get the promotion, sometimes we are passed over; sometimes the opinions of others toward us are favorable, sometimes those opinions are unfavorable.
This is just the way life is. So if our sense of significance is tied to external realities, it will always be uncertain and at risk; we will never be truly at peace because what feels solid today may crumble tomorrow.
The only possibility any of us have for a settled and enduring sense of personal significance is to connect that sense of significance to something that cannot change. And there is only one thing about us that will never change, only one thing that will remain constant from the moment of our conception, or birth, to the moment of our death – the fact that we are a Person. Babies are born with no ability to perform or accomplish – unless we consider peeing and pooping accomplishments! And yet we recognize them as persons who are worthy of being loved and cared for. People reach the end of life with vastly diminished capacity for achievement or accomplishment, and yet we still recognize them as persons who are worthy of love and care.
What is true at the beginning of life and at the end of life must also be true throughout life. Regardless of achievement or accomplishment, or the lack thereof, we are persons, and our significance, i.e. infinite worth and unsurpassable value, is attached to our personhood. It is not something we can gain, nor is it something that can be lost. It cannot go up or down when external feedback changes because it is not attached to external feedback. We are persons of infinite worth and unsurpassable value regardless of how anyone else may be evaluating us at the moment – and even regardless of how we may be evaluating ourselves at the moment.
For Christians, this is the only way that God’s love can be properly understood. God’s love is attached to our person, not our performance. God demonstrated his infinite love toward each person before any person had a chance to either qualify for it or be disqualified from it. God’s valuation of us does not rise or fall depending on how we are doing on any particular day. In fact, God’s love is completely disconnected from our performance. Even people who have no potential for either success or failure, either through tragic birth defects or accidents along the way, are deeply loved and valued by God.
When Jesus said “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” this has to be one of the things he had in mind. When we know the truth that our significance – our infinite worth and unsurpassable value – has already been established and cannot be changed, then we can be set free from our relentless striving to get it some other way. We can be free to be ourselves in relationships when we know that our personal worth is not at risk and is not dependent on whether or not the other person accepts or approves of us. We can even be free to fail because our personal significance is not tied to our success or failure.
So, no matter what you have done or left undone, no matter what your sense of success or failure in life is or has been, and regardless of the approval or disapproval of others at any given moment of time, you are a person of infinite worth and unsurpassable value. You matter! You are important! You are SIGNIFICANT!
SEE IN THE SPIRIT NOW! Is this Friday with Jesse Birkey and Michael Van Vlymen, best-selling authors of, How To See In The Spirit, Angelic Visitations And Supernatural Encounters, and Life Resurrected. Check out the testimony in the video below.
**Everyone who registers will be sent a replay link to watch on your own time if you can’t make it LIVE