Importance is defined as the quality of being important, which is explained as of much significance; momentous; bearing weight or consequence; of high standing; pompous.
We thus see that the word itself possesses a quality that gives standing to the people, principles and things referred to as belonging in this category. Technically, therefore, when we say that a man is of little importance it still establishes his standing as very high merely because he is at all important. This should never be forgotten in connection with our use of the word when referring to friends and acquaintances, to principles and ideals, to the activities of life and to other things of interest. We can readily understand that this divides itself into two classifications, those things which are important to one’s self and those which are important to others or to the world.
It is not so usually recognized that there is another division of its meaning into two classifications. First, those things which mature judgment and time prove to be important, and second, those things which only seem to be important due to egotism or selfishness. We can easily recognize that a person’s character, their high standards of conduct, their code of ethics, their loved ones, their friends, their community, state and nation, are all extremely important to the individual, and the fact that we place this importance upon such things is of great importance to the entire world and to the progress of mankind, while, on the contrary, the placing of importance upon such things as pomposity, egotism, unearned place, position, or power is not good but harmful, both to the individual and the world at large. It is important for us to realize that we should not consider our own importance except from its relation to the responsibilities devolving upon us which are being successfully discharged and to the affection, friendship, and esteem which we have worthily earned from others. In this connection, it is desirable to point out that only a relatively few individuals have an exaggerated idea of their own importance and that this article will concern itself mainly with the large number of individuals who have been led to believe that they were practically of no importance whatever in the general scheme of life.
To those of us who really desire to make this world a better place to live in, it should be extremely important that we concede a certain small measure of importance to every human being regardless of how poor and lowly his station in life might be, and how little public or private recognition he might have received in the past. The hard working honest laborer who delivers a good day’s work, the poorly paid school teacher who conscientiously tries to educate our children, the vast army of industrious citizens that live and die without getting their name in the papers, without securing public recognition of any nature, and in many cases without having even their own loved ones feel that they have accomplished much in life, merely because they have not proved to be what is called successful, are the foundation and the backbone of our nation. Wealth, power, glory, recognition and reward are actually given to a very limited number of individuals and so far as wealth, power, glory and reward are concerned, this is naturally and mathematically as it should be, for such things are comparative and are really noticeable to a large extent because only a very few achieve them.
Recognition, however, is something that can be given with satisfactory results to everybody concerned. In fact it might almost be said that recognition of good work well done, or the absence of such recognition, measures the difference between a certain amount of happiness and an equal amount of despair. The great trouble is that all of us are too sparing or miserly with our recognition of the importance of other individuals and their work. Especially is this true in the very place where such things should be most fully recognized and appreciated.
The average housewife cannot seem to get any great thrill out of being told that her husband has learned to accomplish a larger result in his capacity for work, but begins to be interested only if there is an indication of increased pay or promotion. The fact that the husband has both the capacity and the desire to increase or better his output should be one of the most cheerful and encouraging items of news that could come to her ears. If she would only think this through to a conclusion she would realize that her encouragement and her appreciation would impel the husband to consistently better his performance, and that this would inevitably lead to beneficial results along the lines of income as well as security, position, and standing.
There is a standing and a class in workmanship that is applicable to even the most minor position, and the housewife should be a support and a help to her husband in bettering his qualifications, knowing that this would eventually also better his position and his income. From her own point of view, therefore, she should take a great interest in her husband’s work and in his performance of that work. On the other hand we will assume that a housewife is an especially good cook, a really efficient housekeeper, or a capable, competent mother. We do not mention all of these qualities as pertaining to the same individual, for that would be almost too good to be true, and if a man should be so fortunate as to have discovered and appropriated a girl who combined all of these qualities, or who eventually attained them, then he should consider himself extremely lucky. It is important to realize that the successful handling of any one of the above attributes is something that requires not only intelligence and application, but also a reasonable amount of imagination and ingenuity as well as a lot of very hard and sometimes extremely distasteful work.
The average man will, shortly after marriage, be extremely complimentary about the product that the good cook has brought forth, and overlook her mistakes and shortcomings, but five years later will sit down to a wonderfully prepared meal and simply consume it without any favorable comment whatsoever, as if it were his inherent natural right. He not only fails to realize that he is being favored by Providence, but he is even critical if any of the prepared articles do not measure up to the highest point of perfection previously reached by his better, and in this case much better, half.
This same thing holds equally true with keeping the house in a comparative degree of order, especially when there are children to be considered, and it also holds true in a greater degree to the rearing and training of children. Most of this training has been left to the exclusive care of the mothers of the nation and their successful efforts along this line cannot be praised too highly or recognized too much. The mere fact that children are brought up to school age with such a relatively few needing to be classified as brats or general nuisances should be an outstanding tribute to the mothers of our nation. There are dozens of other little items that have to do with home life and family that should never escape recognition and appreciation and this is especially true in regard to the children in the family.
A grown man or woman may be helped considerably, but children actually thrive on recognition and appreciation, especially when connected up with a reasonable amount of responsibility, according to their maturity and ability. Always remember that responsibility automatically gives a feeling of importance to a child that the most outstanding demonstrations of love and affection sometimes fail to achieve. Responsibility also means an undiluted and higher form of attention, and children crave attention so very much that even the best of them will at times do naughty or provocative things merely to gain the attention of those they love. We do not mean to infer that this applies exclusively to children, for many of us grownups pattern after them in this regard.
In the world of business the humblest employee should be made to understand that he is a relatively important cog in the machinery of business. This can often be done more readily by showing him what to avoid and how it is possible for him to waste money, to cause damage or delays, or to cause the loss of money, rather than to attempt to show him how he, as a minor individual, can actually make money for his employer. A modern business is more or less like a piece of machinery and it is very important that every portion and particle of this machinery function efficiently and regularly. The number of individuals who fail to respond to having responsibility placed upon them is so small as to be relatively negligible. Here again we find that the placing of responsibility automatically increases the feeling of importance of an individual in the general scheme of the business world.
It is unfortunate that the stressing of importance of an individual job and his manner of handling that job is usually reserved for those occasions when an important promotion takes place. It would naturally be silly to go into such detail of the technicalities of any job to such an extent that the individual taking over the job would feel afraid to undertake the duties involved therein.
The wise and efficient method is to actually take an interest in the individual, stress the importance of the work, but make the individual understand that he is the more important of the two because the work is his responsibility. It should be possible to say with perfect truth that you have confidence in his ability to handle the job. This would not only create a spirit of cooperative and efficient effort but would serve to give him a certain amount of confidence in himself that he might otherwise lack.
The net result of making any employee feel his own importance is in almost all cases an increased effort and a far, far better result, which in turn leads to profits for his employer, and should lead, naturally and inevitably, to better work and a larger income for himself.
The world is slowly coming to a realization that comparatively few men desire to be placed under the classification of servant, and that even the humblest employee would do far better work and secure far better results if he were made to feel a part and parcel of the institution itself and a coworker with the very highest ranking individual in the company or business. Profit-sharing alone will not bring about this particular feeling completely. There must, in addition, be a recognition of the individual and of his place in the scheme of things, and this can only be given as from one individual to another.
Many employers often wonder why good workmen so often do not aspire to bettering their work, and the answer can be found by the discovery that good work, when it becomes habitual, is not praised or recognized but just naturally expected. We should understand enough about human nature to realize that if we criticize bad work whenever it comes to our attention that we should also praise good work when it comes to our attention no matter how often or how regularly this might occur. We thus give an incentive to the good workman to do better work, an incentive that is often far more strongly appealing to the individual than the opportunity to make a little more money.
Almost every thinking individual realizes that these things are facts about human nature and yet so few individuals take advantage of these facts. Possibly one of the greatest obstacles has been a false or pretended interest in the quality of workmanship and not a sincere interest in the man himself or of his progress. Another of the facts of human nature is the ability to distinguish between sincerity and hypocrisy, and in many instances uncultured and sometimes uneducated workmen have derided the efforts of their superiors to put something over on them, as they would term it, whereas a real interest in the men, in their progress, and a real showdown on the results that could be achieved by their full and complete cooperation, would have brought about an entirely different state of affairs and have resulted in benefits for everybody concerned.
When we turn to the social phases of life we find innumerable complications surrounding importance. It is not desirable or necessary to dwell upon the large group of individuals who continually strive to make others feel that these particular individuals are important. This procedure eventually defeats its own ends, and the average man and woman are usually fed up with some individual or individuals in their own particular group that are continually striving to stress their own individual importance. Here especially there is a reason for trying to approach something like sincerity in our personal relationships. Instead of hypocritical catering to individuals that we do not admire or like, and in some cases even despise, there should be a sincere and straightforward endeavor to gather together people who have somewhat similar tastes, character, ideals and ambitions. In other words, if people could refrain from inviting, or accepting invitations from, individuals in whom they have not the slightest interest and for whom they have no real friendship or affection., the world would suddenly turn out to be a better place to live in.
Sincerity should be the keynote of social intercourse, but unfortunately it has become almost as far removed from sincerity and frankness as the realm of politics. The social problem is too diversified to even attempt to discuss, even if we used the entire article for this purpose, but unquestionably each individual should decide for himself or herself that unless they can act sincerely and naturally with a given group, regardless of its size, that they do not belong in that group, and it would be for their own happiness and peace of mind if they refrained from entering in to its activities.
When we approach the field of politics and of public office we find a system built up which allows in advance for propaganda, mud slinging, vilification, slander, and even falsehood, and which then drops the subject and pretends that no one is expected to take such things at their face value, and, in the case of candidates for office, the opposing candidate usually tenders a message of congratulation. In this particular field the individual concerned is not supposed to tell how wonderful he, himself, is, but he is at perfect liberty to hire or persuade other individuals to do this for him, with the understanding that they will be rewarded later if the candidate is successful. This subject also is of too large a scope to crowd into a single article, but also, in this particular case, the most important element is sincerity and the ability to rely and depend upon an individual’s word.
Practically speaking, a man’s importance should depend upon his past record of achievement in things worth while, his present performance and his future probabilities along the same lines. The man who desires to advertise himself by words should be relegated to the scrap heap, but the man who is willing to let his record speak for him should be given further responsibility.
Each individual should place most importance upon a high and strong character and the next thing in importance should be the building up of this character and this strength. Holding fast to this determination will build for anyone, whether he be rich or poor, a record that is worthwhile and of which he can be proud, and that record will, in the final analysis, speak for him with far greater force and with a greater degree of efficiency than any words that he or his friends might utter.
H. B. MONJAR – January, 1936