June 8, 2010

Prominence vs. Significance

prominent - adj - 1. Projecting outward from a line or surface: PROTUBERANT. 2. Immediately noticeable: CONSPICUOUS. 3. Widely known: EMINENT.

significant - adj - 1. Having or expressing a meaning: MEANINGFUL. 2. Having or expressing a covert meaning: SUGGESTIVE. 3. Momentous: IMPORTANT.

Can one be significant without being prominent? This is a question I have grappled with for several years now. The vast majority of us are not, and will never be, "prominent" but I firmly believe we can all be significant. The difference is, I believe, well, significant.

There is much desire for prominence in our culture. Gaining one's fifteen minutes of fame seems to be the life pursuit of many. Some see prominence as equal with significance as is illustrated in the celebrities who find it necessary to comment upon subjects about which they have little or no knowledge. Sadly prominence does not necessarily carry with it the weight of significance.

Significance may go largely unnoticed by the tabloid tititlated public. Significance may pass quietly under the radar of the prominence seekers. Significance rarely seeks prominence preferring the quiet and steady rhythms of meaningful change.

On rare occasions there are those significant individuals who are contentedly carrying out their significant livs that, much to their surprise, become prominent. One thinks of Mother Teresa, or Rosa Parks, or Billy Graham, or Martin Luther of the reformation (Perhaps Dr. King would fit this category though I might argue from his biography he was always seeking prominence), and these are only a few who come to mind quickly.

Can one be significant without being prominent? In my little life there have been many significant people whose names would mean nothing to you, yet for me they are the sources of life and inspiration. Here's to significance! Live it well!