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Friday, June 11, 2010

We Need to be More Than Merely a Collection of Needs

As Americans we spend a lot of time and energy satisfying various appetites. Many people enjoy a good meal, a good glass of wine or breathing in a fine cigar on occasion.

Taking those appetites or needs a step further, it’s safe to say that many married, consenting adults enjoy the emotional and physical benefits derived from sex with their significant other.

Those appetites are natural and we were created with them. And when pursued in moderation, satisfying these baseline appetites (food, drink, sex) can be an enjoyable aspect of life. However, problems arise when we give those appetites too much prominence in our lives and they take over our entire existence.

If you doubt it happens, consider someone who is an alcoholic – at one time in their life they only needed to drink water to survive but now they need alcohol. A chain smoker used to need only fresh air filling their lungs, but now they need the air to be spiked with nicotine and tar to be satisfied.

Obesity is an epidemic in this country, and it continues to drive a lot of our healthcare expenses and societal focus. If you don’t think obesity controls somebody’s life, then you’ve never been overweight.

The same holds true for sexual addiction in its various forms. Regardless if it’s sexual infidelity, pornography, or your particular lifestyle choices – if you define yourself and find your primary identity through your sexual appetites (whatever they may be) – that’s a problem.

That’s because too much focus and energy on those lower level needs keeps you from realizing your true and full potential in life.

In psychology, Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs, which theorizes that our most basic physical appetites (e.g. eating, drinking, breathing, sex….etc.) must be met before we can pursue higher-level needs such as safety; affection/love; esteem and ultimately self-actualization where we reach our ultimate potential. [From the book Psychology – The Search for Understanding.]

This is important because those lower appetites are only a PART of the entire human experience, and when we put too much of a priority on those basic elements, we’re missing out on so much more.

Centuries ago, Jesus made this same observation when he said in Matthew 6:25, “Is not life greater in quality than food and drink; and the body far above and more excellent than clothing?”

This sentiment is echoed later in the New Testament when Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 6:13, “Food is intended for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will finally end both and bring them to nothing. The body is not intended for sexual immorality but is intended for the Lord.”

Both passages say the same thing, don’t ignore those base needs, but don’t let them define your existence.

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