Have you ever written a list where each item begins with the words “I need”? If you’ve never written one on a piece of paper, you will certainly have one written in your brain.
This is the second arena in which you can face or feel threatened and, if you do feel threatened, become vulnerable to a strong or possibly stressful response.
You may well have heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a pyramid-type illustration with basic needs that shows, air, water, food, warmth at the bottom and higher needs such as friendship and contentment at the top. It’s a very valuable way of understanding how we humans seek to satisfy our needs.
May I make a number of suggestions which will help you in your need management and therefore your stress management?
First, the longer your list the greater your risk. One way to shorten your list is to change the first part of each item to “I cannot live without”.
Why does this help? Simply because if you have 50 items on your list you have 50 potential areas of threat. The less items, the less potential threats.
Second, there is a difference between needs and desires or preferences. If you look at something and tell yourself that, although you would prefer to have it, you could live or get by without it, you loosen its hold over you and lessen its power to provoke you to frustration.
Third, there’s a huge difference between needs and greed’s. If you tell yourself you need three cars or a private jet, the chances are you are detailing your greed, but also you are opening the door to feeling threatened over things that don’t matter. So many people are living lifestyles governed by the illusion that they need things which they actually don’t. Not only does living beyond your means generate its own stress but it creates an unnecessarily long list of potential triggers of stress.
Fourth, the more you are aware of your essential needs versus your preferences, the more flexible you can be and adaptable in the face of life’s difficulties. It helps determine what really matters in life for you.
This way of thinking does not come naturally; it requires insight, wisdom and work.
Saint Paul wrote a letter to the Christian’s in the Greek city of Philippi in which he expresses his thanks for them as people and his thanks to them for giving gifts to him. As he signs off, he tells them about contentment. I’ll spell it out for you, and you can add it to the top of your list.
He tells them that being content is a secret. He tells them he has learned the secret. So, it’s not obvious and it’s not automatic.
He tells them the secret he has learned applies in any and every situation. He lists these situations in two pairs. “Well fed or hungry” or “in plenty or in want”.
So Paul is claiming to have learned this secret of being content and it exists in all circumstances. He doesn’t just leave them wondering about this mystical secret, he tells them the secret.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.
There you have it. It is through him and by being given his strength that Paul can manage his “I need list” to achieve contentment whatever his circumstances.
It’s a whole book to explain what “through him” and “gives me strength” but I’ll close with a suggestion. If you put “Jesus of Nazareth” as the first item on your “I need list” then you will hunger and thirst for him, you’ll want to breathe in his Spirit, you’ll want to walk with him, converse with him, become friends with him, feast on him, listen to his music and follow him.
It is no easy path, but we need it desperately.
Work well today,
© Geoff Shattock July 2019
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
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