Our need to give love

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, love/belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization come as soon as the basics of food, shelter and safety are met.
 
For adult human beings, belonging comes from sharing a common purpose; self-esteem comes when I know that what I do is valued; even self actualization, which seems to be about me, only works if the self that I become is recognised and respected by a social world.
 
This gives us some primary data through which we can interpret what we meet in our world, which celebrates a spectrum of values, some in line with these needs, and some at odds with them. We will find that we are going with the grain of human nature if we open pathways for self-bestowing, self-giving creativity. We have a lens through which to understand the superficial appeal of stories about life that offer shortcuts: the self-realisation through consumerism lampooned by the Rolling Stones in Satisfaction on the one hand; the promise of ‘systems so perfect that no-one needs to be good’ on the other.
 
Process thought gives the best theological framework for understanding this. It sees our human journey as a response to the divine call to creativity. That this is ‘hard-wired’ into us is no surprise for process theologians, who do not locate God in an transcendent otherness, but in the processes of this world. In process thought, it is the Holy Spirit whose allure to true creaturely fulfilment is at work in the basic needs that Maslow describes.
 
All of this changes the task of ‘mission’. Liberal Christians feel embarrassed by this word — they think it means answering a question that hasn’t been asked, providing a finished picture of the world on the assumption that I know more than the one I am talking to. They easily shrink from the task, forgetting the reality of call and response which is at the heart of human experience of the spirit.
If the longing to creaturely fulfillment is already there in every human being I meet, even if it is covered over, I do not need to insert something that was not there before, but open a channel for my friend to experience what slumbers within him. I will not convey the sense that I know better, because all I know is that the spirit is beckoning this creature into the unique journey of its unfolding. 

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One Response to “Our need to give love”

  1. Tom Hart Shea Says:

    Dear Tom,
    you say, ‘If the longing to creaturely fulfillment is already there in every human being I meet, even if it is covered over, I do not need to insert something that was not there before, but open a channel for my friend to experience what slumbers within him. I will not convey the sense that I know better, because all I know is that the spirit is beckoning this creature into the unique journey of its unfolding.’
    I find this very helpful.
    For some time I have been struggling with the questions, ‘What is an appropriate way to bring The Act of Consecration of Man’ to people’s attention – to those who don’t even know of its existence?’, and secondarily, ‘How can I show the Movement for Religious Renewal to them?’
    The words we have in common usage so often act as road-blocks. My son says ‘Christian’ has become a toxic brand-word. I can see what he means. As soon as I speak the word it conjures up for some people extremely negative associations and images.
    On the other hand, it does not feel right to simply leave the possibility of meeting The Christian Community all in the hands of the angels.
    Following a discussion around my son’s comment, a friend said she wanted the Christian Community to be known as a group of people who did things that have ‘Integrity, Heart and Imagination’. If we mange to do this then perhaps we can, as you say, ‘…open a channel for my friend to experience what slumbers within him.’