Hope & the Primacy of Reasons

Building good habits can be hard. If you don’t have something to get you to push through the hard, you never will. Not because you can’t. Because you won't...

 Min read
June 29, 2024


Building good habits can be hard. If you don’t have something to get you to push through the hard, you never will. Not because you can’t. Because you won’t. As a child of God, you have nearly infinite potential. But if you don’t find the reasons for unlocking that potential, you never will. Hope is about finding the reasons that move us beyond our present difficulties, beyond “achieving our goals.” Hope is about becoming who we were meant to be, AND it’s about making the world (or at least our little corner of it) the way it was meant to be. Hope is about fulfilling our destiny. That destiny has six components, sometimes called...

The Six Human Needs

If you’re familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy, this isn’t that. The six human needs explain why we do what we do. Everything. They are built into us by God. And they come in pairs that each of us experience as a sort of tension.

1. Certainty/Comfort: This is our need to avoid pain and have at least some pleasure. It’s our survival instinct. It’s what would make you stop reading this if the ground started shaking underneath you, and your brain said, “Earthquake!” However, if all we had in life was certainty, we’d be bored because God gave us a second human need for…

2. Uncertainty/Variety: We all need stimulation. We all need novelty. We all need mystery and adventure. Not just in stories we read, in our own lives. If you’ve been following God for anything length of time, you’ve experienced Him calling you out of your comfort zone to do something you “never” would have done otherwise. And after freaking out a bit, you liked it.

3. Significance: We all need to feel unique, special different. We all need to feel wanted or needed. We need to feel like our lives matter. That’s not something wrong with us. That’s straight from God who made us to share in His glory. However, some people feel so unique, special, and different that they end up taking their own lives because they no longer feel…

4. Love/Connection: We all need to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of “being one with.” You can call it the “nuptial meaning,” but it’s not just that. It’s intimacy. It’s family and friends. It’s sharing life’s ups and downs. Some people settle for connection because love’s too scary, but we all need it.

5. Growth: Humans, like all living things, are meant to grow. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. We’re all meant to learn, to expand, to become more. Children grow, and the Master has said, “If you don’t become like little children…” But it’s not enough just to grow, we’re also made for…

6. Contribution (to the greater good): Corny as it sounds, the secret to living is giving. “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:2) Life is not about what we have or accomplish. It’s about what we contribute. That’s not just the “Golden Rule,” it’s built into our nature by God Himself.

Your Driving Force

But people are so different. If everyone has the same six needs, why are our choices so diametrically opposed. That’s a great question, and the first part of the answer is this: Not everyone values their six needs in the same way. Some of us are certainty freaks. We’ve never jumped out of an airplane, and we don’t want to. Others of us, uncertainty freaks, have and would do it again… happily. Some of us want to be different from everybody else, even if it means sabotaging relationships. (Ah sweet significance.) Others of us want to fit in, even at the cost of our integrity. (Ugh, co-dependent connection.) Your top one or two needs are your driving force. If you look at your life through the lens of the six human needs, you will start to notice patterns. What did you say “yes” or “no” to? Why did you do what you said you would? Or not? Once you figure out what drives you’ll, you’ll begin to understand…

Your Vehicles

Vehicles are what move us from where we are to where we want to be: from fear to certainty, from boredom to uncertainty, from nobody to significance, from lonely to loved, from stagnant to growing, from meaninglessness to contribution. Why would someone want to make a billion dollars? Significance probably, right? Why would someone else want to give a billion dollars to charity? Sounds like contribution to me. The beauty of vehicles is that they can take us any place we want to go, and some vehicles can help us meet multiple needs at the same time. Let me give you an example: I used to know a priest who gave spiritual direction on a regular basis. This gave him a sense of certainty about his vocation. AND it gave him a sense of variety because he never knew what people would bring to him. AND it gave him a sense of significance because he felt like he was making a unique impact on the lives of others. AND it made him feel love because he was “one with” his directees through compassion and empathy. AND it filled his need for growth because he would learn different distinctions as the Spirit moved him. AND it gave him a sense of contribution as he helped people take the next step on their journey. He met all six of his needs with one vehicle. Lastly, let’s talk about…

The 3 Ultimate Vehicles

God desires to give us hope, hope about ourselves and the world around us. What forms does this hope take?

1. The first is our identity, our God-given name. “A name expresses a person’s essence and identity, and the meaning of this person’s life”—CCC 203. Our name gives us certainty about who we are. At the same time, a name reveals our near-limitless potential (aka uncertainty) as creatures made in the image and likeness of God. A name is a promise, God’s promise that He will never leave you and daily lead you. Of course our parents gave us a name. And most of us chose a name at confirmation. But if you haven’t already, perhaps now is a good time to ask God, “What is Your name for me?”

2. Vision: “Without a vision, people perish” (Prov 29:18). God has promised us a “new heavens and a new earth,” and that begins right now. If you handed God your life and everything in it, what would He do with it? Dream big. Not that you have to achieve it all. But you could start to pray for it (contribution) and take little steps (grow) towards making your dream and His a reality.

3. Your personal mission: God put us all here for a purpose. And that purpose is in some way unique to us and our circumstances. I can’t fulfill your mission. You can’t fulfill mine. We are alteri incommunicabilis, that is irreplaceable. You have your role in the Body of Christ that no one else has or can have. You are unique (aka significance). And you are one with the whole Christ (aka love/connection). You can do something to have a positive impact in others’ lives, and only you can do it.


When it comes to habits, reasons come first, answers come second. We can spend a lot of time on HOW to build good habits, but if you don’t have a big enough WHY none of these strategies will ever matter. What’s your why? What’s your hope? Have you let God make it big enough to move you through the tough times?

Things to try

1. Take some time with the six human needs and look at your story. Which one or two needs have you valued most in the past? Which one or two do you value most today? How is this helping you? How might it be holding you back?

2. Take a look at your vehicles, the things you already do on a regular basis. How do they meet your six human needs? Are there any of them you’d like to get rid of? Since they are meeting some of your needs, how could you replace them with a vehicle that meets those needs at a higher level, or perhaps meets some needs that your current “bad habit” can’t?

3. Is there new habit you’d like to start but haven’t yet? How does it fail to meet your six human needs, particularly your driving force (your top 1-2 needs)? How could you tweak it so that it does meet your needs at a higher level?

4. Who are you in God’s eyes? If you don’t know, ask Him.

5. Imagine what could happen if you handed your whole life over to God. Write down some things that would be different for yourself. And for others. Begin to pray for these intentions and see where God moves you.

6. Consider your place in the Body of Christ. What can you do for those God has placed in your life that no one else can? Maybe it doesn’t seem like much to you. Maybe it means everything to them.

James Lee