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Four Universal Human Needs


by Glenn Stanton

There are universal needs that are true of all humans everywhere. God has instilled these in each of us to differing degrees and in various ways. As we explore the topics covered in The Family Project, it is essential that we acknowledge these “human universals” because they help us understand the deepest yearnings of the human heart. The following four things are absolute needs that humans truly cannot live without:

  • Question-asking. No child needs to be taught to ask questions, as any parent knows. We have to be taught to keep our questions to a reasonable minimum or else parents go nuts. We are naturally questioning people. We wonder. We ponder. We ask. We seek. We always will.
  • Religious pursuit and practice. People in all cultures naturally ask questions with religious meaning. We believe that there must be something over and in command of the world we live in. We are not inclined to accept ourselves as the ultimate part of reality. The default position is not atheism – it is to ask questions about God and wonder about His nature.
  • Personal relationships. People are fundamentally relational creatures. No one can become or live as a happy person without relationships. Anthropologist Donald Brown calls this basic reality of all humans “triangular awareness” – the awareness of the self and at least two others one is in relationship with. Community is more than us and another person. We all must have others; a community. As we examine in Appendix A of The Family Project book, people will fail to thrive physically and mentally without meaningful community and intimacy.
  • Sense of significance and meaningful work. We must all feel as if we have some significance and are bringing significance to others. This can come from our religious beliefs and understanding, our relationships and our work. No person or society can become and remain healthy without learning, finding and maintaining meaningful work. We must have it to thrive, not just economically, but in every other way.

What is notable is that one can be impeccably cared for nutritionally and physically, but none of us in anytime or culture can live in any measure of health and happiness without each of these four things in our lives. Examples in real human experience are as ample as they are sad. To deny these human universals is to deny people of their God-given humanity.

Learn more about God’s irreplaceable design in The Family Project® – a 12-session DVD curriculum that explores why God’s plan for families matters today. Take your small group on a life-changing journey to strengthen and encourage families! Get The Family Project® curriculum today.

Glenn Stanton is the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and the co-author/co-creator of The Family Project, as well as the co-author (w/Leon Wirth) of The Family Project book.

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