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  • Writer's pictureKelly Wright

I Don't Know What I Need

Wants and needs – two words we use quite often, even interchangeably. But wants and needs are very different.

I need water, oxygen, food, shelter, clothing, and shoes….lots of shoes (okay, lots of shoes are a want).

I need Jesus.

I need my people.

We are hardwired with needs. They are essential for our well-being and without them we won’t thrive and without some we won’t survive.

Some needs, like physical needs, are very apparent, because we need them to survive.

Others, like spiritual needs, may also be evident in our lives. We sense the void in our lives that only God can fill, we need a relationship with Jesus as well as practices that connect us to Him and others.

There is another significant category of needs that often go under the radar. These needs are so strong in our lives that when they go unmet or we perceive they are going unmet, we feel fear, hurt, and anger. When this happens we react by blaming, acting out or demanding our way, medicating, burying our feelings, and/or get stuck in conflict and hopelessness.

These powerful needs are our emotional needs.

These needs were presented in a marriage class at our church very early in our marriage. Learning about emotional needs was like receiving the ability to speak a new language. Understanding the ten emotional needs gave us both insight into why each of us get triggered and why our conflicts often went unresolved.

Emotional needs are conditions that must be met for us to experience satisfaction, peace, and well-being. Similar to physical and spiritual needs, emotional needs are those deposits that keep us balanced and fulfilled.

Here are the ten emotional needs. We need all ten, but see what three stand out to you.

Acceptance – An unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. To be received unconditionally: to look beyond my faults and irritations and respond positively to me (Romans 15:7).

Affection –A physical act that communicates care and closeness (Romans 16:16).

Appreciation – Verbalizing your personal gratefulness for what I do. Not taking me for granted. Looking for the best rather than being ready to point out the flaws (1 Corinthians 11:2).

Approval – Recognizing the special things about me and thanking me for being who I am as well as speaking well of me to others (Ephesians 4:29).

Attention – To enter into my world by showing interest in and support for my concerns (1 Corinthians 12:25).

Comfort – Sharing in my pain by consoling me with tenderness in word, feeling and touch (Romans 12:15).

Encouragement – Urging me forward positively and helping me persevere towards my goal (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Respect – Valuing my ideas, giving regard to my opinions and showing me I’m worthy to you (Romans 12:10).

Security – Protecting me from harm, pursuing harmony, and giving me confidence when I am vulnerable (Romans 12:16a).

Support – Coming alongside to gently help me carry a load (Galatians. 6:2). (Ten emotional needs adapted from David Ferguson, Intimate Encounters)

We were created by God with needs because God wants to meet all of them. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God not only wants to meet our physical and spiritual needs, but our emotional needs as well.

God invites us to come to Him first with our needs. It’s so easy to expect others to meet our needs, but expecting others to meet our needs is what leads to codependency.

Our part of meeting needs, especially our emotional ones, is to partner with God as He meets our needs. For instance, we can join God in meeting our need for acceptance by showing kindness and compassion to self with positive self-talk and grace.

We can also get our emotional needs met in relationships. When we get a hug from a friend – that’s affection; when we get an email thanking us for a job well done – that’s appreciation; when we take a walk with a friend and have a safe space to share what’s going on in our life – that’s attention, support, and encouragement.

Take some time to get to know your emotional needs. Not only will it help you know what you need, but will become a way to love and know others as well.


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