Relational Needs are Part of the Plan
People are needy. I hear that a lot. I say it a lot. Almost always when someone says that, they are not speaking in a complimentary manner about someone else. To be viewed by others as needy is usually something we try to avoid or at least manage our image around in some form or fashion.
Several years ago I was giving a presentation to a group of small group leaders on ways to care for folks in their small group. My presentation began in the book of Genesis where I explained in great detail how Adam and Eve’s sin created the need to hide and cover their shame in ways that have persisted to our day as well. After my presentation, during the break a fellow minister came up to me and showed me that the first problem found in scripture wasn’t in Genesis 3 but in fact was in chapter 2, verse 18 to be exact. He pointed out that Adam’s aloneness was something God called “not good” way before they sinned and began that set of problems. I was intrigued. Fast forward a few years and I was introduced to the writings of a teacher/pastor/author from Austin, Texas named David Ferguson. Ferguson points out that we all have been created as relational beings. Because of that design feature we all have relational needs. He goes on to say that our “neediness” is part of God’s design and is not the flaw we like to think it is. Literally, God agrees with us when our relational needs are not being met and we feel the pain of aloneness. God sees our aloneness and says to us as well, “It is not good for us to be alone.” God is not saying our problem is being alone. He is saying that when our relational needs are not being met effectively, then the pain we feel is directly related to the way he designed us and is not a sin problem.
That is fascinating when you stop to think about it. There is pain and hurt in your and my life that is not a sin problem. It is there because of the way God designed us. The ramifications of this are huge. Most of the time when we hurt, our solution is to fortify ourselves in some way so as to not “need” the love or respect we long for. You see, if I can convince myself that I do not need someone’s acceptance for example, then I won’t hurt when I don’t get it. Said another way, “I don’t like the way God designed me so I will fight against that design and redesign myself.” Think of the ramifications of that in your identity and self-esteem.
Ferguson searched the Scriptures and determined we have about ten relational needs. Many of these are found in the “one another” scriptures (love one another, honor one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc). He says these needs can be summarized in these words: acceptance, affection, appreciation, approval, attention, comfort, encouragement, respect, security, and support. He goes on to say that there will be two or three of these that are much more compelling to us than the other six or seven. For example, my wife Julie’s top three relational needs are security, support and acceptance. Mine however are different. Mine are respect, approval, and affection. She would say affection is important to her but not as compelling as security. I on the other hand would say support is important to me but not near as compelling as respect.
We’ve been married 31 years and didn’t learn these things about ourselves till about year 19 of our marriage. What a difference it has made. You see, learning our spouses top three relational needs (or our child’s, sibling, parent, or any other significant person) enables us to love them in ways that are most meaningful to them, thus causing them to feel less “alone” in this journey of life. Not only that, but learning what our own needs are enable us to realize why we are so stinking hypersensitive about our own needs not being met.
Here’s a tool you can use. Click on the link and download the questionnaire. Answer the questions and score it. Get your spouse, friend, whoever to do one as well. Have some conversation about how those needs being met in your life cause you to flourish. Talk about how those needs not being met effectively cause you to feel a deep sense of loss. Then ask this other person if you’re hypersensitive regarding one of these top 3 not being met. It’s a great learning, teaching, raising self-awareness tool. We teach this in every one of the marriage retreats we do. It’s easy to do and very helpful. I hope it totally rearranges your ideas about being needy.
Have a great day. I welcome your comments. God bless.