How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! Psalm 133:1
We live in a world of extreme and perpetual conflict. Pay attention to the news on any given day and we see it at every level of society from nations at war to family squabbles. None of us likes conflicts yet we all participate in them, sometimes being the cause and at other times defending ourselves and what we believe in.
Isn’t it fascinating to consider why human beings can’t get along given that by nature we are all pursuing the same basic needs and desires? Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) brilliantly categorized and prioritized these universal human needs in what he termed as the “hierarchy of needs”, the most basic of which is “physiological”. That is, we need air to breath, food, water, sleep, etc. Once that is satisfied humans pursue “safety” which includes such things as shelter, employment, resources, health and other forms of security. After that humans need “love and a sense of belonging”; then “esteem” or a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. Then at the top of the hierarchy is what Maslow describes as “self-actualization”, the highest form of human need which includes things such as creativity, morality, and problem solving. Every human being, according to Maslow, lives at some level along the hierarchy and once the needs at that level are met – if indeed they are – will move up to the next.
So, if humans are all striving to meet the same needs why do we not understand each other better, thus throwing ourselves into conflict? I certainly have my own opinions and views philosophically, politically, and theologically, but sometimes when I consider the many conflicts in our world and society it occurs to me to ask, isn’t everyone really striving for the same things – basic physiological needs, peace and security, community and a sense of belonging, education and self-worth, and the opportunity to perform at our highest potential? Thus conflicts seem to occur not in the “what” but in the “how”.
Perhaps if we could all pause occasionally to agree that we are all striving to attain the same end results we could better negotiate the “how” to get there. Then we might experience “how good and pleasant it is when [all people] live together in unity!”