Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs

September 21st, 2010

If you’re a student of psychology (or a student in any field that applies the behavioral sciences), you’ve likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow suggested that humans have a collection of fundamental needs, and that these needs are “hierarchical”. That is to say, some needs must be met in order to go on to seek after the “higher” needs.

As per the diagram below, Maslow suggests that physical needs are the base, followed by the need for safety, and then for love/belonging, and then for esteem. At the pinnacle, Maslow has placed “self-actualization”–a vague term for a number of feel-goods ultimately summed up in “reaching one’s potential”.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs
Image from the Wikimedia Commons, licensed under a CC 3.0 license

Maslow’s theory has been critiqued for its insistence that the “lower” needs be met before the higher needs are sought. Experience teaches us that even a hungry child still seeks love and acceptance (to fulfill a “higher” need). Additionally, while Maslow’s hierarchy may have utility in explaining Western patterns of behavior, it breaks down when applied to Eastern cultures where community is regarded more highly than individuality.

I don’t really care to discuss Maslow’s hierarchy–I’d much rather propose my own.

Enter Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs Induced by the Fall of Mankind:

I propose that the fall of mankind followed a progression–and that the redemption of mankind requires a reversal of that progression.

When Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent, their first step towards sin was to turn their eyes from God to self.

“…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise…”
~Genesis 3:6a

Having turned their eyes from God, they chose to obey the tempter rather than God.

“…she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
~Genesis 3:6b

And once they ate, they experienced the consequences of sin.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…”
~Genesis 3:7

The fall induced three vital needs in the spirit and soul of every man.

He needs to be saved from self-centeredness, he needs to be saved from the mastery of sin, and he needs to saved from the consequences of sin.

I propose that, at least for most people, the awareness of each of these needs follows the reverse progression.

First, man becomes aware of the consequences of sin–and seeks to escape them. He experiences guilt or shame. He sees broken relationships, physical and emotional suffering. He fears death. And he needs a Savior to free him from these consequences.

He receives Jesus as Savior. “Free me from hell,” he cries.

Get-out-of-hell-free card safely in hand, he discovers his second great need. He becomes aware of his bondage to sin. He wants to do what is right, but he finds himself unable to do so. Even recognizing that he IS freed from sin through Jesus Christ, he still finds himself inclined towards sin. He needs a new master.

He receives Jesus as Lord. “I will submit my life to Your mastery,” he affirms.

Watching his steps carefully, anxious to be obedient to his new master, the man discovers his final need. He is discontent with this. Somehow, this falls short. Is this all there is? he wonders. He might even wonder if it’s worth it. What has he gained by submitting to Christ’s mastery? He needs a new treasure.

And at some point, by the grace of God, he receives Jesus as Treasure. “You are worth everything,” he proclaims.

There, as he is lost in the greatness of the Treasure, his needs disappear. Christ has met them, He has fulfilled them. For really, all of our needs are simply metaphors for our truest need–God Himself.

(This is a reflection on John Piper’s concept of receiving Christ as Treasure, as articulated in the second chapter of Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)

Book Review: “What Your Counselor Never Told You” by Dr. William Backus

December 11th, 2009

What if some of your emotional and psychological problems aren’t just a medical problem–what if sin is playing a role?

Dr. William Backus challenges the common assertion that all psychological illnesses are merely a physical or medical phenomenon in this fascinating treatise on the seven deadly sins. Note the word “merely” carefully. Backus does believe that true psychological illnesses do exist–problems that are medical or biochemical in nature and require medical treatment. But, he argues in this book that many psychological illnesses also have a component of sin co-existing with, and often intensifying the effects of, that psychological illness.

One might think that a book about sin would be a book filled with condemnation. What Your Counselor Never Told You is anything but. Backus does more than encourage his readers to examine themselves regarding sin–he also offers his readers practical steps for getting out of sin.

Backus’s stresses repentance and reliance on Christ as the most important step in becoming free from besetting sin. Then, he speaks of “three important rules for success”. First, he encourages his clients to “check [their] Spirit-given internal speech”. Basically, he is saying that we should choose to listen to the Spirit of God rather than the sin-driven self-talk. Second, he encourages his client to “choose incompatible behavior.” If greed is your problem, learn to practice charity. If pride is your problem, choose to praise others. If envy is your problem, choose to rejoice in others’ fortune. The third principle Backus speaks of is “zealous determination.” Here, he says that we really need to WILL to overcome sin. We need to decide that we are no longer WILLing to let sin have mastery over us.

As someone who has struggled with seasonal depression, which certainly has a physical and biochemical link, I struggled a little with the discussion of depression in this book. Backus’s studies have found depression to be highly correlated with the Deadly Sin of Sloth. I struggled with this chapter because I experienced such a rapid and life-altering response to beginning antidepressant medication that I felt sure that MY condition was ONLY the result of biochemistry and had nothing to do with sin in my life.

But as I read Backus’s discussion of depression and sloth, I became more and more convinced that this information, however difficult it might be, is vitally important for anyone who suffers from depression. Backus does not downplay the role of the psychological and clinical diagnosis depression–but he challenges the idea that all depression is “nothing but” biochemical. Backus describes sloth as “sadness and apathy in the face of spiritual good.”

At least from my reading, Backus seems to suggest that many individuals use the real, biochemical, clinical depression as an excuse for sinful thoughts and behaviors. Often depressed individuals assume that because of the feelings brought on by the depression, they have no choice in the matter–and they give in to apathy, slothfulness, and a sinful view of God and His blessings.

I think of Romans 1:21 and begin to see how Backus’s assertion has been true in my own life: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” There were certainly times when, in the depths of my depression, I turned my eyes from Christ. Even though I KNEW Him, even though I had EXPERIENCED His great love, I turned my eyes to my feelings and was not thankful–and it led me to increasingly futile and dark thoughts. At that point, my condition went from merely the biochemical seasonal affective disorder to the spiritual sin of despair. Marilla Cuthbert was right when she said, “To despair is to turn our backs on God.” The sin of sloth is when I look at my circumstances or feelings as greater than God and His mercies and despair.

While Backus’s book is undoubtedly not perfect, I think it is a worthwhile read for any Christian–particularly for those who suffer from or have friends or family who suffer from a psychological illness. This book can raise questions that can allow you to begin to truly take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. And, if you gain nothing else from this book, Backus’s three step “plan” for freedom from sin include some of the most simple and powerful concepts I have ever seen in relation to overcoming the power of sin. I highly recommend this book.

Rating: 5 stars
Category: Psychology/Christian
Summary:Dr. William Backus discusses psychology and the 7 deadly sins.
Recommendation: A thought-provoking, and spiritually adept discussion of psychology and sin. I highly recommend this title.

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