We must be certain to properly recognize accomplishment, founding, leadership, transition, and other types of effective work. As I’m writing to you, I have in mind a comparison between significance and recognition. I thought for the longest time that these were the same thing—synonymous terms.

Not so.

Significance has to do with mattering as a person. If I don’t, there is no reason to keep breathing the planet’s air.

Recognition has to with being appreciated and noted as a person who has contributed something important.

My sense of things is that we must gain our conviction of significance from our Heavenly Father. Only He is up to this requirement. We can’t live healthy lives without feeling we are significant, i.e. the world would be a poorer place without me because I matter!

But when it comes to recognition—while not absolutely essential—it is extremely important.

Knowing I’m significant is essential. Being recognized is important.

Recognition is rendered to us by those closest to us—the people who really know us and what we contribute. If my wife, the Board, my direct report, my peers, my closest friends, and so forth recognize me, my soul is assured that I have contributed in a meaningful way. If I don’t hear this feedback, I’m vulnerable to self-doubt.

It’s nice to hear “well done” from those who don’t truly know what it takes to do what I do, but it is very important to hear “well done” from those who know what I do. I have the assurance that I’m significant from my Heavenly Father, but I’m dependent upon you to recognize me. If you do, I’m affirmed. If you don’t, I’m tempted to desperate measures to reassure myself. That’s dangerous territory.

So significance and recognition are different, but the line separating them is narrow. Significance is essential to my wellbeing. I must have this—it is a fundamental need.

Recognition is really, really important. But if my significance is secure, I can make it without the recognition I desire.

Here’s the summary of my point: If I fail to receive recognition from those who comprehend what I’ve done, the enemy of my soul blurs the line separating recognition and significance and tells me that because I was not recognized I am not significant. While not true, unless I can maintain absolute clarity (doubtful) I receive a fundamental wound to my psyche, i.e. my heart, that is remarkably hard to heal.

Now I’m unnecessarily wounded and confused for lack of adequate affirmation and clarity.