Donna Morley on the Significant Life
Interviewer: Debra Peppers of the Debra Peppers Show at KJSL-AM in St. Louis, Missouri
DEBRA: There’s a lot of talk today about how to feel significant. How does
your approach in the book differ from most of the popular views that tell us how
to attain it?
DONNA: There have been a lot of effort over the years, including within
Christianity, to make people feel more significant, by raising their self- esteem
for example. And, despite the fact that a lot of people have embarked on the
“esteem” journey they have yet to reach their destination. The advice they
navigated by said only to think more highly of themselves while ignoring their
genuine shortcomings and personal limitations. But groundlessly puffing
ourselves is really a form of self-deception.
The book helps the reader rely on the sufficiency of Scripture and discover what
God thinks of us, the significance we already have in His eyes apart from our
achievements. Now, positional significance is to be our foundation in the book
for building certain character traits by which we can, through God’s strength,
also become significant in the unfolding of His will. This is called practical
significance. Our concept of ourselves must be formed not by putting on
rose-colored glasses and looking within ourselves, but by looking to God and
seeing in His eyes our reflection, which includes who we now are by His grace
and who we can become through His power.
DEBRA: What are the wrong ways people seek significance?
DONNA: We can wrongly get our sense of value or worth from focusing on
our appearance, or from what other people think of us--or from how we
perform in life. These things hunger for personal affirmation. And, feeding off
the affirmation of others can do strange things to us. Not only does it allow us
to be controlled by what we continually guess others think of us but it tempts
us to be continually dissatisfied with ourselves.
For instance, in regard to our appearance, we can end up becoming a slave to
our own image. We can strive to lose weight and exercise like mad, not because
we want to be healthier, but because we want the approval of others. All too
often this leads to deeper insecurity. Why? Because once the affirmation dies
down (and it always does), we will most likely feel worse about ourselves and
go back to our old eating patterns and sedentary life.
I have discovered that personal affirmation can be a special gift from God when
it comes to us from others and based on our character, our choices in life, and
our ministry to others. We can thank God for the kind words we may receive
from others as we serve Him. But its nearly impossible to feel affirmed when
we get compliments on our physical appearance. That is because God is the
artist, and He deserves the credit for the way He made us. Scripture compares
Him to a skilled potter, and we are told we have no right to be critical of His
DEBRA: There are a lot of women who don’t like themselves. They feel
inadequate and would prefer to be someone else. What would you say to them?
DONNA: Many of us think that others are better than we are, and we try to
deal with the discomfort by desiring to be someone we are not. When we feel
this way, we can think as little of ourselves as Mephibasheth who said to King
David, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (2
Many of us simply feel we have nothing to offer. But this attitude only takes
away our motivation to discover and appreciate the good and unique qualities
God has given us and wants to further develop in us. In my book I talk about
how we get into this sad state and how we can get out of it.
DEBRA: For many women their sense of insignificance is tied to a fear of
failure. How does your book help a woman who feels like a failure?
DONNA: The book helps them by first showing the reasons why they may
be fearing failure. It then discusses some of the behaviors that stem from
having a fear of failure--or feeling like a failure. Lastly, it gives the women
some things Scripturally to focus on...truths that will help them from fearing
failure, or fear what others think in order to have a sense of self-worth.
DEBRA: You make a statement in the book that is quite a paradox. You say,
“Our true significance is grounded in our inadequacies.” Tell us how that works.
DONNA: Many people could probably look at their lives, and all they see is
their inadequacies. I think of David Brainerd who dropped out of Yale for awhile
because of illness, but shortly after his return, he was expelled. This was
probably a great humiliation for him. But, had he not been forced to leave
school I doubt he would have become a missionary to Native Americans.
Paul adamately believed that “God causes all things to work together for good
to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose
(Romans 8:28). This confidence helps us see God’s purposes where we might
otherwise see failure. Faith that God can work in any circumstance (even with
our inadequacies) helps us focus on ultimate spiritual victory. It’s a victory won
in spite of and even through our inadequacies. In fact, consider this–Who we
are potentially in Christ is founded upon God rescuing us from our sinfulness.
Who we are practically in God’s plan is founded on personal inadequacies that
God divinely empowers. In otherwords, we are significant for who we are in
Christ--that’s our position. And, as God uses us in His plan we have practical
significance as He--get this: takes our personal inadequacies and uses
them--He empowers them--that is why we can say along with Paul the apostle,
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from
ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
DEBRA: You talk quite a bit about dignity. What’s the contrast between
false and true dignity, and what is the secret for attaining a truly dignified life?
DONNA: In the book I give a lengthy illustration of a friend named Farid (I
changed his name) who is a part of a royal family in the Arab world, I talk about
the day I shared Christ with him and his response.
He said to me, in a condescending tone, “Donna, Donna, Donna. I am already
rich! I have everything I could possibly ever want. This Jesus of yours doesn’t
even have the prestige I have in my homeland.”
Farid then started laughing, and in a high pitched tone with his Arabic accent,
declared, “If I were to tell others that I have accepted this Christ of yours and
that I have become some sort of ambassador for Him, I would become a
laughing stalk, stripped of my reputation, robbed of my royalty, and treated
worse than a ‘common’ man!”
Then in a nervous tone, Farid said, “No thanks, Donna, I have my dignity to
Little did Farid realize, I was offering him true dignity. It’s a dignity that reflect
not earthly glory, but God’s own glory. All earthly glory derived from worldly
nobility, reputation, and success is a false dignity. But the Lord offers us a
dignity that will never fade because it is from God Himself. Bernard of Clairvaux
said it well, “we are, but by His dignifying us, not by our own dignity.”
In the book, I show Paul’s own contrast between the true and false dignity and
how true dignity works.
DEBRA: Most Christians have heroes of the faith they admire. And yet, they
feel there is no way they could ever have the kind of impact they had. What do
DONNA: From the beginning, God has taken what seem to be ordinary men
and women and used them in extraordinary ways. They may have done very
different things, using diverse gifts in various places on the globe, but it is likely
that their lives had something in common--the traits that make for a significant
Now, had they simply sat on the beach all their life doing nothing other than
enjoying life’s pleasures--they still would have had positional significance (who
we are in Christ), but they would not have played a significant part in the plan
If we want to have a significant part in God’s plan there are a few traits we
must embrace. They are faithfulness; sacrifice, being salt and light; and having
patience in the outworking of God’s plan. These topics and more are discussed
at length in the book.
DEBRA: What is the relationship between being significant and character?
DONNA: Again, let me reiterate that we already have positional significance
(who we are in Christ), but practical significance depends largely upon us
whether we are going to be salt in this world--as well as--light. Jesus showed
us practical significance when He said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew
This significance of being light has much to do with our character. There is a
biblical Proverb that shows us this. In contrasts two very different lives. The
first part of the Proverb encourages me, “The path of the righteous is like the
light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full of day” (Proverbs
4:18). The next verse is tragic, “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they
do not know over what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:19).
Here we have human drama revealed. One is a godly life whose way is lighted,
not just dimly, but brighter and brighter, as she stays to one path--the path of
righteousness. The other person stumbles in life because righteousness is far
from her; therefore, she lives in complete darkness. While the righteous can
see the road ahead; the unrighteous can’t see even what’s in front of her and
“The path of the righteous” consists of all that is good, including truth, purity,
joy, peace, and love. I discuss each of these character traits in the book, but
let me just say, if we are weak in these areas, then our light is dim, and our
character is weak. The weaker we are in character, the less we will guide
anyone to the Lord. So growing in righteousness means growing in character
before a watching world.
It’s a fact, you are being watched, especially by non-believers. Your words are
scrutinized. Your deeds are weighed. Your choices in life are judged.
Non-believers evaluate us not on biblical grounds, but through their own eyes,
whether or not we are genuine. This can be a good thing, if indeed we are living
in truth, purity, love and joy.
DEBRA: Many of us would like God to use us in a significant way--NOW!
What can you say to this?
DONNA: All of us need patience. And for me personally it’s been a hard
virtue to master. I love action; I hate to wait. I want answers--now. I want to
get things done--now. I want God to use me--now. But I’ve learned that now
isn’t always best. There is much wisdom in waiting for God to put me in a plac
of signifcance rather than striving for it. In the spirit of Ecclesiastes, everything
has its time (Ecc. 3:18).
In the book I talk about how the young man Moses tried to live in a significant
way, but he failed because he was out of step with God. We too can be out of
step with what God may be trying to do through us when we are impatient with
His ways, His will, and His timing. Many of us don’t think about the fact that as
we wait--we are becoming spiritually fit. Possibly God’s most important
blessings in our lives await our willingness to relinquish something or to grow
into some godly attitude. Waiting also had to do with God’s glory. Consider.
Christ could have healed Lazarus when he was sick. Jesus allowed him to die.
But isn’t God more impressively revealed through the resurrection of a dead
Lazarus rather than the healing of a sick Lazarus?
DEBRA: That’s a great point! Well Donna, I feel we’ve just skimmed the
surface of your book. There’s so much more we haven’t even discussed, but
we’ve run out of time. Thanks for coming on the show.
DONNA: Thanks for having me. May God continue to bless you and your
Copyright 2001 by Donna Morley.
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