The news was grim. Eric watched in horror as he saw his neighborhood on the news cast. For most of the week he had been hanging out at his parent’s house. That was clearly the house three doors down from where his apartment was. The image captured his attention. His mind began to spin as he listened to what the newscaster was saying.
“Mrs. Johnson appears to have died in her sleep more than a week ago. Neighbors had started to notice that her normally immaculate yard was getting scruffy, but they had attributed it to the bad weather. When, Charles, the mailman noticed that her mail had built up to such a degree that he could not put any more in, he called the police to check things out.”
“I’ve walked past that home 100s of times.” Eric began to process what he was hearing. “Would anybody notice if I was missing for a week? I don’t get that much mail normally; would it take 2 weeks to discover my rotting corpse?” He could feel his heart pounding as he considered what it all might mean. His anxiety nearly exploded out of his chest, so he put on his coat and went for a walk. In the park he watched kids play. Smiled as squirrels avoided dogs and people. “I need to make some new choices, or they will forget about me.” Eric walked faster through the chilled air. “What if I died today? What was my purpose? Why was I born?” Now Eric was doing laps around the park almost like he was pacing as he meditated on these questions. Suddenly he came to a stop. “What can I contribute to the world so that it is better when I leave than it is today?” When he returned home, he pulled out his journal and began to capture all of these thoughts.
The diner was hopping tonight. Nearly every booth was filled and even the counter had nearly every seat filled. In the corner the juke box was playing a random song. Julie raced table to table and back to the kitchen. It seemed everyone had a special order, and this was testing her memory. Since she took the job last year, she had prided herself on being able to simply remember everyone’s order without taking notes. Customers would be amazed that she would deliver the correct plate to the correct person every time. But when everyone had special requests this pushed her ability to a higher level. While she could not imagine doing this the rest of her life she really did love it when it was this busy. She loved to watch people and often by the time the customers left she knew where they worked and how things were going at school or on the basketball court. Often, she would see people from their first date to their wedding day. Twice she was invited to the wedding. She knew that if she did this long enough that she would also see them bring in their children and maybe even help celebrate retirements. Julie loved everything about the interactions. Typically, at the end of the night she was so pumped up by the conversations, the laughter and the stories that she could not sleep for several hours. Relationships made her come alive.
Sarah was unnaturally quiet all week at work. Faithfully, she came early and left late but her heart was not into it. Since she was the boss nobody said much to her unless she spoke first. Typically, she loved this feeling of significance. But this week it made her feel lonely. Her guilt was growing as she considered what she had done. Closing the door and pulling down the shades she tried to focus in on the weekly reports that were due by the end of the day. Her email box was empty. She checked the system since that was so unusual. “Nope, its working.” The whole thing felt weird. “Did someone find out about the affair and are working on drumming me out? If I am not the general manager of this place than who am I? I’m just Sarah.” Sarah started chewing on her pen. “They would never fire me for something like that. This is the modern era. Certainly, we are past all of that. But what if I don’t get promoted? What if I do lose this job for some reason?” Sarah again checked the numbers. The hotel was running well. Customer satisfaction was up based on the online survey. Compared to last year the hotel was running closer to capacity. Costs were down. “I’ve got nothing to worry about.” Regardless the thought had been planted in her head. “Who am I if I don’t have a title?”
The wind blew a stack of papers across the field. Behind it was a young man in a dark suit chasing after the papers that seemed to taunt him. Samuel was not one for cursing but words that he never used were on tip of his tongue. He had just set his notebook down for a moment so that he can arrange some things in his hands. It really had only been a few seconds. Then the calm breeze decided it was time to frustrate all his plans. These papers were floating down the street. He felt anger well up inside of him. From the corner of his eye he noticed a couple at a café laughing and assumed that they were laughing at him. That was why he always tried to keep things in order so that nobody had a reason to laugh at him. Samuel memorized their faces while he grabbed one paper while stepping on another. Someday he would be in a position to make those people pay for laughing at him. He was certain of that.
Joseph spent a pleasant day with his wife. While he did not always understand why some art was so valuable and something that in his way of thinking looked very similar was deemed to be garbage by the experts. They sipped coffee and laughed much and remembered trips to other museums and other historic sites. Over lunch they held hands and remembered many of the times they had sat in these very seats and simply spent time together. They had been married for over thirty years and Joseph was planning on many more. Even though he knew she hated o have him make a fuss about her, he loved to hold doors for her. When they sat down to eat he pulled out her chair and allowed her to order first. He deeply loved her and focused this time on her and wanted more than anything for her to be happy.
The week passed quickly, and the little class was again finding their places around the living room. Joseph smiled and as normal he asked them all about their week. He was in fact very curious about how they might be applying or not applying the lessons that he had shared already. Joseph was also looking for clues for how he could best serve them and help them rise to be all that they were designed to be.
While he knew that he must ultimately get to a point where he would share some fresh material, he felt that he was constructing life plans and habits and must ensure that the foundations were solid. For the past couple of weeks, he knew things were shifting. Struggle is how you build muscle. That did not concern him. He hoped that they would face challenges. Among his greatest desires with each class is that they would discover a living breathing Jesus inside of them and they would allow Him to come out and show Himself to them. Rarely did that happen during the class but the seeds and the watering often allowed that to happen in his students sometimes years down the line. Joseph knew better than to try to force it. Simply allow the Holy Spirit to speak and move inside of them.
After much laughter and some tears, Joseph looked lovingly at each one of them. “Together we have developed dreams and some basic plans on how to get there. Each of you has worked on some reasons to motivate you to achieve those dreams. All of that is very powerful and in theory keep you on track.”
Joseph paused and took a deep breath. After sipping his tea, he continued, “Why is it then that we can so easily get distracted?”
Clearing his throat Samuel chimed in, “The apostle Paul basically says that it is sin in us that is stronger than we are that makes us do wicked things. Normally I have thought of wickedness as flagrant crimes against God and man. Things like murder, rape and theft. But as I think about it that is unlikely what Paul is talking about. While Paul was an accessory to murder it seems unlikely that he is dealing with that sort of sin when he is writing his letters. It is likely that he is wrestling with thought sins and even simple obedience to God sorts of issues.”
“Talk to me about simple obedience?” Joseph asked
“I imagine Paul might have gotten tired of getting shipwrecked, beat up, rejected and despised. It seems likely that there were days that he imagined that he had taken a different course and was comfortably living in Jerusalem in the Sanhedrin. Those sorts of comfort thoughts can keep us from obeying God when He calls us to be uncomfortable.”
Joseph was ready to go on but Samuel continued.
“I have often found comfort in my daily routines and then failed to obey God’s simple directives of stopping long enough to visit with a hurting friend of relative. Other times I missed God’s command to rest so did not operate at peak performance. Those routines are not bad in themselves but when the comfort of them keep me from obeying God I am living in wickedness.”
Impressed, Joseph looked over the students. “Wickedness seems a bit strong, but all disobedience is sin so maybe it is appropriate. How about others? What distracts you?”
They all looked at each other and then were very deliberate with not looking at each other. Julie and Eric both put food in their mouths so that they had an excuse not to answer.
“I want to matter.” Sarah looked at everyone to make sure that she was not being rude.
“I want to matter to the community, to my family and to my corporate bosses. I hate being dismissed or forgotten. I desire to be recognized when I show up at conferences or at meetings of other hotel managers. Nothing would make me happier than to walk into a room with theme music playing.”
They all laughed at the image.
“I want to be loved. No that’s not quite it. I want to be cherished.” Julie spoke softly and then went on. “I want to matter to those around me. My deepest desire is to love and be loved. I want to be accepted. But deep down I struggle because I believe that if people really knew me that they simply could not love me nor like me.” Now Julie was a bit weepy. “I know that I put on a mask regularly. I don’t want people to see that I am angry or sad. Nobody really wants to be around a negative Nellie.” Sarah comforted Julie with a gentle pat on the arm.
Eric took a deep drink of water to clear his throat from the carrot sticks that he was eating. “I want the world to be better when I leave it than I found it. I remember being a Boy Scout and the scout master would make us clean up trash when we left the campsite. He made us pick it up even if it was not ours. I want my life to matter to future generations. Sometimes though it all seems so pointless and impossible, so I settle for doing nothing. Why do I do that? I either want to change the world or stay in bed. That seems crazy to me.”
Everyone was watching Eric as he stood up to walk around as he spoke.
“I think of things that I should be doing. This dream sheet, my journal are filled with ideas. But I wonder ‘Who am I? I can’t do any of that.’ For years I would have these visions of greatness and occasionally, I would try something. Typically, it would not come anywhere close to what I was imagining, and I would feel like a failure. I would then go back to be a clown or more often hiding behind my own incompetence.”
“George Washington lost more battles in his lifetime than he won. Winston Churchill said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ The only real failure happens when you give up. I noticed that all of you walked in here tonight.” Joseph paused to let them all take in that thought.
The whole group smiled a smile that seemed to say, “So what?”
“You likely don’t remember much about learning to walk. But have any of you had the privilege of watching a baby learn to walk?”
They all nodded.
“How many times was that baby given the chance to learn to walk?”
“Maybe six times? Twenty? The right answer is they kept trying until they figured it out. Nobody tells that baby that since they failed a dozen times that they should simply quit trying. My friends we continue to encourage kids to learn to walk, tie their shoes and more and we do not let them simply quit. Yet as adults we quit so easily. Keep trying.”
Joseph let that thought settle.
“Now back to the original question. Why do we do what we do or what we don’t do? There are actually many reasons. Some comes from the way that God wired us. Other reasons come from lessons learned or more accurately how we have interpreted those events from our past. It is important as we go on to consistently examine your heart to discover why you do what you do. For those things that have a positive impact our analysis should help us learn how to do it more. For those things that we need to change the understanding will help us figure things out and maybe make those changes long lasting.”
Again, Joseph let the words just hang out there.
“Julie many of your everyday choices come back to your strong need to be loved. You desire connection above all of your other needs. Yes, you have other needs but number one is your desire for love and connection. You fear losing that so as you say, you put on a mask.”
Julie wept quietly.
“Samuel you like predictability. You love things to be certain. Yes, you too have other needs, but you are most comfortable when there is a formula or a pattern. Understand that your primary need is certainty but Julie yours is love and connection. Is there certainty in love?”
“No,” Julie whispered.
“True. We all need to understand that we all have different primary needs and we will do whatever it takes to meet those needs. The needs in themselves are never the issue. It is always in how we meet those needs that causes us trouble. But it is these needs that makes us all so unique. I wonder if knowing this about these two and what you have learned about each other this evening makes you think less or more of each other?”
The room remained silent as all of the students considered the ramifications of that statement.
“Let me answer my question. We do what we do in an effort to meet these needs. These are not wants or desires. These are very real needs and we must meet them. Everything in us desires to meet those needs. We can meet those needs in ways that honor God or dishonor Him. That is our choice. Again you must continually meet all of these needs to continue to function and progress. But some will be more important to you than others. Let me list out for you the needs. Now these come from many different leaders and often have different headings but I like to use speaker Tony Robbin’s list as I think it is the most usable.
Contribution: This is the need to leave the world better than you found it. Often your thoughts will revolve around legacy and building into other people, places or movements that will outlast you.
Significance: This is the need to matter right now. Choices here are directed toward the moment and that people will consider that you matter.
Growth: Is the need to be constantly getting better, healthier and stronger.
Love and Connection: This is the need to have others near you that love you; warts and all.
Certainty: Is the need to have some predictability in your life
Un Certainty: Is the need to have some unpredictability in your life so that you don’t get bored.
Everyday and every moment you are consciously or unconsciously trying to meet these needs. This order that I gave is the order that I have discovered that I try to meet these needs. Each of you have an order that you desire to have your needs met. Additionally, even if you have the same order as someone how you define getting those needs met varies. You may have heard of Gary Chapman’s Love Languages. How you like to receive love will come in different ways. The same could be said for all these needs. This week I would like you to consider how you are meeting these needs in good and bad ways.”
Tonight’s lesson created much more conversation and discussion and after thirty minutes and many yawns the students all left.
The house was looked dark as Sarah approached her house. That seemed unusual. Typically, her husband would be home, watching TV or even going to bed. No matter what he always left the lights on because he didn’t want her to stumble. She looked up and down the street to see if the power was still on. It seemed to be functioning everywhere else. As she approached the back door, she noticed flickering lights of candles creating a path from the door into the living room. Sarah was bewildered. Turning the handle and pulling the door quietly she walked in. On the counter where she always laid her keys, she saw a little bowl of chocolates. Taking one she moved slowly down the trail of candles. As she entered the dining room, she saw Mike in a full suit. She had not seen him in a suit since their wedding three years prior. Noticing his hands, she saw that they were clean. His nails were trimmed, and he looked nervous. Her memory went back to when they were dating. That was exactly the look he had on their first date. Though he had not been wearing a suit then and his hands were dirty. But that look of nervousness was the same. Sarah stepped into the room. “What’s all this?”
Mike looked down at his feet and then looked at her. “I realize that too often I neglect our marriage. I want to be the sort of man that you will come home to for another 47 years at least. I love you but I have not really acted much like it lately. I want to treat you like I did when we were dating. Actually, I want to treat you even better than that. I have not been the sort of man that you need. Will you forgive me?”
Now it was Sarah’s turn to look at her feet. A tear ran down her cheek. Her lips moved but no sound came out. Mike moved forward and showed her to her seat. In a flamboyant manner he removed the silver lid that had kept the dishes warm to reveal a first-class dinner. It was obvious that he had invested time in learning how to cook such a gourmet meal. With a touch of elegance, he poured her a glass of wine, watching her face the entire time. Classical music was playing in the background. Scanning the room she noticed the living room was clean. A smile and then tears began to flow steadily.
Mike motioned for her to eat. Then he asked her about her day. He wanted to know every detail. Who did she talk to? How did they make her feel? In a different environment it may have felt like an inquisition but today it felt like a man who was curious and wanted to know more about his bride. Sarah felt her heart swell.
Sarah shared stories about hotel guests and things left in rooms that were bizarre. They laughed. Several times things would come up that would remind them of some past adventure and misadventures that they had shared. When the meal was done, Mike grabbed a remote and changing the CD he beckoned her to stand. Taking her hand gently he led her to dance. After a few moments he said, “You never answered my question. Will you forgive me?”
Sarah stepped back and leading him to the couch she sat with him in silence. “Of course, I will forgive you. But I have something to tell you.”
The twenty-four-hour gym was mostly quiet when Eric arrived. He preferred it that way. He typically had felt that others in the gym were judging him because of his weight. Many times, he had pushed through that feeling of judgement but tonight he would not need to do so. He knew his biggest need was contribution but how did he meet his other needs? Eric raised the elevation on the treadmill and kept walking at a steady pace. While he was not sweating yet he felt his warm skin and continued to consider the other needs. He realized that somehow food and particularly junk food was filling his love and connection need. When he ate pie, he felt love. Why was that? His mind went to hard days at school when other kids were teasing him because of his weight. His mom always made him feel better by making him pies, cookies or cake. She too was overweight. Again, Eric pushed the elevation up. That junk food also met his certainty need. He always knew how he would feel when he binged. That is why he continued to medicate his own hurts and loneliness in food. Eric again raised the elevation. Now the treadmill was at a six, but Eric kept his pace. He was focused. Now with sweat glistening on his forehead, Eric thought about loneliness. His eyes started to glisten, and he fought back the emotion. He was determined not to cry in the middle of a workout. He never really felt accepted by his father. He was not close with his sister. His mother only knew to show him love through baking. Eric was totally alone. But was that truth? Whether it was or not did not really matter. That was how he felt. Everything he did, he did in the hope of healing this painful feeling of being alone. He realized that his clowning had been a way to keep folks at arm’s length. He had to let someone in. Eric lowered the elevation and stopped the treadmill. A short workout with the weights and he retired to the sauna for a good final sweat before going home.
“Really?” Julie tried hard not to squeal. She had been working in the diner for about three years and figured that she would always be a server, so the whole idea of being offered a management position shocked her. “Why me?”
John smoothed his Magnum PI mustache. “You understand that people don’t really come here for the food. They are here for an experience. You offer that by being fully alive and energetic. When I look at how you are interacting with the customers, I can imagine my mother serving the tables in the exact same way. You know that she started this restaurant, right?”
Julie remembered that John had mentioned that in the interview so long ago. “I offer you management of this restaurant while I go out and start another one, but this one based on the 80s. If you take the job you will actually be a part owner in both. You know that this will be full of unpredictability and uncertainty. You have been here when things are hopping and when things are dead. You realize that your paycheck will not be predicable so you will have to plan accordingly.”
Julie thought about her needs and realized that uncertainty was part of her make up. “I’ll take it.”
Three days later, Samuel was coming out of the gym when he noticed Sue, ex-girlfriend, getting out of her car. He watched her heading to the bookstore that was a couple of doors down from the gym in the strip mall. At first, he tried to hide a bit behind some parked cars. She had called him rigid and too predictable. Samuel really liked this girl and had thought she was the one. But after dating for about six months she had suddenly cut him off. One of her friends had told him that Sue really liked him but was bored silly. Reflecting on their six months, Samuel realized that they had gone on pretty much the exact same date every Friday night. His little love notes were pretty much the same words each time. No wonder she had dumped him. He liked and apparently needed certainty, but maybe a little uncertainty would suit him well. Remembering that she had recently dumped her latest boyfriend, Samuel started walking toward the book store.
Project 1: Speaker and author Tony Robbins defines 6 different human needs.(Contribution, Significance, Growth, Love and Connection, Certainty and Uncertainty) What is your personal priority order of meeting these needs.
Project 2: List out how you prefer to meet those needs either positively or negatively.
Project 3: Consider your living and dead guy council. How did they meet these 6 needs?
Project 4: Consider those closest to you. How can you help them meet their needs in a healthy productive way?