What are the consequences of unmet needs?
Dr. Karl Elkins
What happens when the need of the moment is not met? But, a few insights about these needs. The fact that you picked [...] top three needs intuitively suggests that you have needs. The second thing about this is that these needs are Biblical. Most of these come from direct commands in Scripture: Accept one another, respect one another, comfort one another, encourage one another.
Thirdly, how many of these needs require another person to be present in order for the need to be met? All of them. How do you meet your own need for attention? Oh, there’s a mirror. Hey, lookin’ good. That doesn’t work, does it? How do you meet your own need for affection? Honestly? Give myself a hug? Hold my hand all day? No. How do you meet your need for comfort? I’m just going to have a pizza by myself. Do you think that works? It really doesn’t.
So, would it be fair to say that all of these needs require another person to take the initiative and meet that need in you? So, these needs are intuitive. They are Biblical. They are relational.
Next, don’t we want the other person in the relationship to choose to meet that need in us, without us having to ask or take?
- “You never buy me flowers anymore.”
- “All right, all right, I’ll buy you some dadgum flowers. What color do you want?” “Never mind.”
That is how that conversation goes.
- “We never talk anymore.”
- “Alright, say something. What do you want to talk about?”
- “Never mind.
- ”We never have sex anymore.”
- “Alright, here, hurry up.”
If you have to take it, it doesn’t mean this much when you get it. Am I right? Very intuitive, very Biblical, very relational. We want the other person to choose to meet that need in us.
Next, and most important of all, it is not enough to meet any need, you have to meet “the” need. You have to meet the need of the moment. Ephesians 4:29, ”Let no unwholesome words proceed from your mouth, but only such a word that is good for edification,” according to the need of the moment.
There are a few other insights I that I think are helpful. Sometimes we therapists want to start with how men and women are different. That is important. You have to talk about that, you really do. Don’t forget to do that. I think sometimes we need to start with how we are the same. You see, if a man doesn’t realize he needs comfort – that’s just a female thing – and he’s trying to give his wife comfort, he’s saying, ”I’m not really supposed to understand that because that’s a woman thing.” So he tries to say it through the gender decoding box, right? “Gee, that saddens me for you, honey.” It’s stilted, isn’t it? But if a man can realize that he has a need for comfort, it sure is going to help him understand what other people are going through.
In fact, one of the best stories I’ve actually heard about comfort is the story of a guy who was… I lost my train of thought. I did not just lose my train of thought, but when you thought I did, what were you thinking? “Oh no, I knew I shouldn’t have committed to spend half a day at this video series.” That is not comfort. But some of you were thinking, “Oh, Lord, give him the words, give them to him quick.” Right? You felt my pain. That is what comfort is. You feel what someone else feels and you want to help them relieve that. I am not going to trick you anymore, but it is a great way to understand what comfort is.
Needs can be shaped by our spiritual gifts. From the Romans 12 list, you have one of those seven and I can probably predict what one of your top three needs are. If you have a mercy gift in the Romans 12 list, then you probably have high need for affection. If you have a gift for organization, administration, ruling, leading, whichever Bible version you use, you are going to have a high need for support. If you have the gift of exhortation, you are going to need encouragement. So they are somewhat predictable by our gifts.
Next insight. This is really helpful if you have already picked the top three needs for yourself, top three for your friend, your partner, your kid, and you can compare them, you will probably notice that you and your partner have a different #1 need. Why is that significant? I am going to assume Teri’s #1 need is the same #1 need I have. I typically have a high need for respect. I do not want unrequested help: Turn here, park there. Right? If she is ever driving, she might say to me, “How do you think I should go?” Right? “How should I go?” Any way you want to go is fine by me. Right? “Well, don’t you love me?” That is how I’m loving you, I am not telling you how to drive. Then she will say, “Well, you must think I need respect. What I really want you to do is type in those GPS coordinates and figure out the best way to get there.” You see, her #1 need is often support. With the best of intentions, I may wrongly meet the need in her that I have. She has high need for support, so she just assumes that I want help when we are driving: Turn here, park there. Right? We do this drive thing together, you know? Driving is a team sport. You put your hands on the wheel and I help you with everything else.
Needs can be influenced by what you did growing up. Teri got a lot of support from her father. He did a really good job of loving her and she knows that her dad loves her because of how much he served them. In fact, our first week of marriage, I looked out of the second story of our house. He had driven 16 miles and he is planting flowers in her flower garden. That is just the kind of guy he was, he wanted to help. So, she goes into a marriage thinking that if men love you, then they support you. That was shaped a lot by her childhood. Can it go the other way, that what your #1 need now is because there is something you didn’t get? Have you ever met people that talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. You think, Oh, my gosh, is there a period coming anywhere soon? The kind of person that could talk 30 minutes to a wrong number. Right? Sometimes that person didn’t get a lot of attention growing up and now they are trying to make up for it with you as their captive audience. So, it can go both ways: You did get it, you didn’t get it.
One of the most powerful exercises we do with clients is, we get them to do what we call Xs and 0s. You would take those 12 needs and if Dad did a good job, you are going to put a “C” around that need. Pass/fail. He met the need, he gets a “C”. If Mom did it, she gets a backward “C”. Which means if they both met the need, it is in effect a circle. If neither met the need, put an “X”. This would be for the first 14 years of life and it is pass/fail.
I want to warn you before you do this, then I’m going to ask you to pause the video and do this. But 85% of the time, when I get a couple to do this activity, they get a little teary-eyed. It may hit them for the first time that, wow, I really missed out on some things in childhood.
I just finished a three-day workshop at a large church here in Houston, Texas. A woman and her husband were both bawling at the end of this because it hit her for the first time that her dad was never there, she missed out on so much. Do you think having 12 Xs on your sheet would impact your life at all? Do you think having 12 circles would impact your life at all? In fact, can I just give a commercial for parenting? Your goal for parenting is to have your kids give you 12 circles by the time you are 14, because life really is about removing aloneness. The way you remove aloneness is to meet the need of the moment.