How Emotionally Healthy is America?

[The following quotations are taken from “Motivation and Personality” by Abram Maslow. He has labeled this “self-actualization” which is not to be confused, as the church has in part, with self-reliance.

Maslow discovered this is more likely to be characteristic of an older person—not the young adult. It is a childlike approach to life that we lose as we yield to peer pressure and conform to established social and cultural norms.

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:17


It is interesting that Jesus used the singular, child.  We are all very individual at this early and introductory stage of life. How many true “believers” were interviewed in Maslow’s research is unknown but there is much to glean here that approaches even the biblical understanding of becoming Christlike.

We lose ourselves in habits, worldviews, rituals, and lifestyles that are not, nor indeed can  be, completely who we are as individuals.  (That’s what individual means: “I am uniquely me.”) We then spend a lifetime trying to get back to a childhood we discarded in the name of “learning”] Healthy people tend to find their way back…. [How well do you line up? How about the country?]

  1. Comfortable in relationships. A more realistic perception of their social, cultural and natural environment.

“The first form in which this capacity was noticed was as an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest in personality, and in general to judge people correctly and efficiently.”

2.  Self accepting as well as accepting of others and what life deals out.

3. Spontaneous [simplistic, genuine] in expression as opposed to needing to use care in presenting their thoughts.

“Self-actualized people can all be described as relatively spontaneous in behavior and far more spontaneous than that in their inner life, thoughts, impulses, etc.Their behavior is marked by simplicity and naturalness.”

4. Focused on problem solving for others, not focused on self or own needs.

“They generally are not problems for themselves and are not generally much concerned about themselves; e.g. as contrasted with the ordinary introspectiveness that one finds in insecure people.”

5. In need of privacy.

“They positively like solitude and privacy to a definitely greater degree.”

6. Independent of cultural approval or the positive opinions of others.

“They have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people, or even of their affection. …honors, status, [or] popularity.”

7. Living with peak experiences.

“There were the same feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling great ecstasy, wonder and awe, the loss of placing in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable has happened, so that the subject is to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences.”

8. Deeply empathic understanding, considerate, capable of forgiveness not revenge.

“One’s feelings toward his brothers would be on the whole affectionate, even if these brothers were foolish, weak, or even if they were sometimes nasty. They would still be more easily forgiven than strangers.”

9. Capable of deep friendships.

“They are capable of more fusion, greater love, more perfect identification, more obliteration of the ego boundaries than other people would consider possible. … There are, however, certain special characteristics of these relationships. In the first place, it is my observation that the other members of these relationships are likely to be healthier…than the average, often much closer.”

10. Can be and are friendly with any one of suitable character regardless of class, education, political belief, race,or color. Friendships are based on character alone.

11. Care about “ends,” the destination and not just the journey. The destination makes the means important … In childlike fashion often: making a game out of a task. Enjoying the journey but not solely for the journey’s sake.

“means are quite definitely subordinated to these ends.“

12. Have an un-hostile sense of humor.

“…can [even] take the form of poking fun at themselves…”

13. Enjoy a childlike creativity. [Something most lose with cultural conformity.]

“If we assume, as we may from our study of children, that all people were once spontaneous, and perhaps in their deepest roots still are, but that these people have in addition to their deep spontaneity a superficial but powerful set of inhibitions, then this spontaneity must be checked so as not to appear very often.”

14. Are open to fighting but only for a worthwhile cause. [the Silver bullet scenario]

“My impression is that they are not against fighting but only against ineffective fighting.

15. Are nonPC but not in rebellion. Their interaction with others is not intended to be threatening.

“In their concentration, in their fascinated interest, in their intense concentration on some phenomenon or question, they may become absentminded or humorless and forget their ordinary social politeness. In such circumstances, apt to show themselves more clearly as essentially not interested in chatting,… party-going,or the like… They may use language or behavior that may be very distressing, shocking,insulting,or hurtful.”

16. Are, therefore, more apt to enjoy differences in persons than to fear them.

Maslow concludes this section [p. 179]:

“For example the age-old opposition between heart and head, reason and instinct, or cognition and conation was seen to disappear in healthy people where they become synergic rather than antagonists, and where conflict between them disappears because they say the same thing and point to the same conclusion. In a word in these people, desires are in excellent accord with reason. St.Augustine’s “Love God and do as you will” can easily be translated, ”Be healthy and then you may trust your impulses….

The dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness disappears altogether in healthy people because in principle every act is both selfish and unselfish. Our subjects are simultaneously very spiritual and … sensual even to the point where sexuality becomes a path to the spiritual… Duty cannot be contrasted with pleasure nor work with play when duty is pleasure, when work is play, and the person doing his duty and being virtuous is simultaneously seeking his pleasure and being happy. If the most socially identified people are themselves also the most individualistic people, of what use is it to retain the polarity? If the most mature are also the most childlike? And if the most ethical and moral people are also the lustiest and most animal?”

Healthy people enjoy being who they are, (and they know who they are) and their individuality does not threaten moral or ethical stability in the world around them.  If they are believers, their faith in God is a vital aspect of the personal code by which they define duty and—to use Maslow’s term—play.  As Paul said it

“…Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:23

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