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Unraveling Needs and Wants, Desert Island Style

On April 15, EatingDisorderHope.com is giving away 10 copies of my book Gotta Have It! Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Now. (To enter the drawing, click here.)  For a preview of what to expect, here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1….

Picture yourself stranded on a desert island, in the middle of nowhere, with very few resources. What three things do you need in order to survive? If I were to answer this question myself, I’d say water, food, and shelter are my primary needs. Actually, these are pretty much what Jesus mentioned in the Matthew 6 passage. He put it as what to eat, what to drink, and what to wear? (Clothing is a form of shelter, so I’m going to accept the similarity.)

Those are pretty basic. In fact, outside of this prosperous nation of ours, a good deal of the human population spends a large portion of its time and energy searching after these basic needs. Go too long without water and you die of thirst. Go too long without food and you die of hunger. Go too long without shelter and you die of exposure. Needs can be determined by how essential they are to sustaining life.

Ah, there’s the dilemma, isn’t it? When we consider what is essential to life, we aren’t always talking about physical life, are we? We have an emotional, relational, and spiritual life to go with this physical one. So go back and relabel your needs list as “My Physical Needs.”

Now, I want you to come up with at least three different needs under each of the other categories:

  • Emotional needs
  • Relational needs
  • Spiritual needs

Under emotional needs you might have such things as optimism, hope, joy. Relational needs might include things like acceptance, affirmation, forgiveness. And for spiritual needs, perhaps you listed things like faith, trust, praise.

I share these with you not to say that these are definitive answers, but to give you an idea of the types of things you could choose. Again, I find that many people have never done this type of inventory, let alone put intentional thought into dealing with these types of questions.

Going back to our desert island exercise, we’ve already established what our physical needs are, but as Jesus said in Luke 4:4, referencing Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone.” So, let’s say you’ve got your physical needs taken care of. You’ve got food to eat, water to drink, and shelter from the elements.

What other three things would you personally want (or desire) to survive on that island?

After thinking about it myself, here’s what I’d want: a Bible, a purpose, and a chance to escape. Even though we’ve categorized these as wants (or desires), they’re still pretty important. I doubt any of you would seriously put lattes and ice cream on this list. When reduced to choice of these kinds, those behaviors are pretty easy to label.

Short of being stranded on a desert island or experiencing a Job-type catastrophe, it can be difficult to stop long enough to make sense of our busy lives. That’s what this book is designed to help you do.

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