In his 1962 essay, Greenleaf noted ‘three issues’ that emerged rather sharply out of my own experience.  This morning, gentle reader, I will conclude this topic as I share with you Greenleaf’s third issue.  Greenleaf writes:

The third issue that needs to be dealt with is the struggle for significance

 One of the hazards of prolonged schooling is that one becomes accustomed to living in a system in which the ends of the system are to nurture significance for the individual.  This is what a school is for.

 Once in the world of work, the institution one serves…uses people for its own ends.  All such institutions have other obligations and they commit people who do the work to these obligations.  Most modern institutions are also concerned that the people who do the work find personal significance in their work…

 But what is it that one is expected to find?  I see it as something latent in the individual to be fulfilled: not something fixed or predetermined like a seed, but a potentiality for growth into something new and unique.

 A health adulthood requires that each one find a way to nurture his own uniqueness, and find it among the choices of experience available to him…

 Often, too, significance is blocked by compulsive drives for goals that do not provide fulfillment…  When we achieve what we pursue…there is an emptiness…

 The warning here is that our society holds up values which confuse the search – status, property, power, tangible achievement – even peace of mind – which subvert the emergence of true uniqueness, the only real significance…

 Neither institutions nor aggregates of people have significance, except as it is given to them by living individuals who comprise them.  Even traditions, powerful as they sometimes appear to be, are not viable unless contemporary people understand and believe in them and, by their thoughts, words and deeds, give them current significance…

 Qualities like dignity, significance, integrity are internal attributes of individual people.  They should show on the outside; but the essence is inside, not outside. 


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