Man: I think my core need as an introvert is to get some alone time with a book and a nice cup of coffee.
Woman: I need every day to do some kind of physical activity and get some exercise in.
Man: The greatest need in my life is sleep.
Woman: I would say one of my core needs um… in addition to coffee, is just medication. I mean, having an auto-immune disease I would literally be dead if this technology didn’t exist.
Man: One of my greatest core needs in my marriage is to be liked.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well, how about you? Do any of those comments resonate with you? Or are you looking for something different?
Well, today we’re returning to one of our best of Focus on the Family broadcasts from this past year. It features Dr. Kathy Koch and she wants to help you better understand your core needs and how you can get those met in healthy ways. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, the conversation we had with Kathy earlier this year was so insightful, and it encouraged so many of our listeners. And, you know, we tend to be needy people. We’re looking for stuff like happiness, success, popularity, recognition, and most importantly, who doesn’t want to be loved. That’s probably at the core. But the fascinating thing, as we’ll hear today, is that God designed us to be needy. He made us this way so we can get fulfillment from him and other people. So, if you missed this program the first time around I think you’ll really be challenged by what Kathy had to share.
John: Uh hmm, and Dr. Kathy Koch is a very popular author and speaker and an educational psychologist. She’s the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, and she’s written a number of books. The one we’re going to hear more about today is called Five to Thrive How to Determine if Your Core Needs Are Being Met and What to Do When They’re Not. Look for your copy at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And now here’s Jim, how you began the conversation with Dr. Kathy Koch for this best of 2020 episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: You know, one of the things it’s just – as I was listening to John, I’m sure someone, or many, are saying, “Meeting our core needs? That doesn’t even sound Christian,” because it’s about selflessness. So, talk, first off, just about that tug of war. Is – is it selfish for us to identify these core needs and say that they need to be met?
Kathy Koch: It’s not once you understand what the core needs are.
Jim: OK, good. I just want to put people at ease that may have had that initial reaction.
Kathy: That’s a great comment. Like, a doughnut is not a core need.
Jim: (Laughter) Hey, are you kidding me?
Kathy: No, a doughnut is a want.
Jim: OK, right now we’re in disagreement. (LAUGHTER)
John: Hang on. It’s a throwdown at Focus on the Family!
Jim: OK, by the way, for all the doctors listening, I know doughnuts are not good for you, OK? So, don’t email me about that.
John: So, a doughnut is a want.
Jim: But an old fashioned is pretty good! (laughter)
Kathy: Yeah, you know, and happiness is a want, right? So, I think if people confuse needs with wants, then it may feel inappropriate, and it may feel self-centered and selfish and – and not biblical. But these core needs are absolutely created in us by God.
Jim: OK, and we’re going to get to these for the listeners…
Jim: We’re going to unfold these. But right at the beginning here, let’s ask that question. Why is the idea of meeting these core needs so important?
Kathy: Emptiness – right? – it’s got to be filled. And, you know, without – use the word core again – without a solid foundation, without a completeness, then we’re always lacking and looking for more…
Kathy: …Almost in an aggressive kind of, I’m dissatisfied, I can’t ever be content kind of way. And of course, for believers, there must be a place where we land, and we believe, and contentment rises there.
Jim: Yeah, no, I like that. And I think so often, like with marriage experts that I’m talking to, when you look at a person who’s had an affair. I’ve often asked, “OK, what is going on there?” Because it seems superficial, the act of it. So, what’s really the pull to jettison everything that you have with your spouse and then reach for something that’s like the forbidden fruit? And then what’s the outcome of that? There’s other stuff at play. It’s just not the gratification of a physical act, correct?
Kathy: Absolutely. I – I would advocate for the reality that there’s an unmet need that that person needed met and saw what I would call a counterfeit way to get it met that he or she thought would be satisfying.
Kathy: And then when it’s ultimately not satisfying after a period of time, then you go for another, what’s the next best – if you will – drug?
Jim: And that’s a – you know, that is an example that is eye-popping. But you can apply this almost in every area of your life, whatever you’re filling that core need with that isn’t healthy, isn’t godly, right?
Jim: All right.
Jim: Let me – let me first for the listener again, can you just name the five so they can get an idea in their head what you’re talking about?
Kathy: Yeah, I’d love to. Um, and I’ll define them with the question that goes along with the core needs…
Jim: And then we’ll dig into them.
Kathy: Great. Security – who can I trust? Identity – who am I? Belonging – who wants me? Purpose – why am I alive? Competence – what do I do well?
Jim: Yeah, and those are the five. So, let’s unpack it. Explain why you believe God created us with these holes, that we have these needs in the first place. Why do those holes exist? And what do they look like?
Kathy: You know, we were created to be in relationship with God through faith in Christ, right?
Kathy: He created us to worship him, to know him, to make him known, to want more of him. Um, he is the solution that we’re looking for. He created us to have the need so we would find him.
And until we find him and really commit and become Christ followers in a very real way, we’re going to be lacking. And I have great hope that those who don’t yet know Christ will find him as they’re driven to more of a completeness and they find out that, you know, things won’t satisfy security, but people will, and people disappoint, but God doesn’t. Now, they may feel God does because they don’t know him well enough yet to understand all of that. And that’s why you do what you do so well here at Focus is to keep driving people to the reality that it is of God that you…
Jim: That’s where the answer is.
Jim: That’s true for everybody too, by the way. Christians are not unique that way. When you look at the pain in the world, the brokenness, name the identity group, whatever it might be. My observation is the thing they’re lacking most is a connection to God.
Jim: And so many things fall into place when you know who you are…
Jim: …In Christ.
Jim: You know, I remember, uh – and I’d love your reaction to this – speaking to a really popular guest that we had here, Rosaria Butterfield, who’s a former lesbian, uh, women’s studies, queer studies at Syracuse University. Something she said as a Ph.D. in American literature – it changed the way I see humanity. It was that powerful…
John: Hm. I remember this.
Jim: …When she said – in that kind of American literature context – she said, “When the pastor and his wife invited me over for dinner” – and they spent 2 1/2 years ministering to her in fellowship and hospitality, having her over for dinner and talking through the Scriptures – and I think it was 2 1/2 years – she then committed to Christ. But she said, “What I realized is I was living by my verb, lesbian, not my noun, made in his image.”
Jim: Isn’t that beautiful? And that’s kind …
Jim: …Of what you’re saying here that we’re often buying the lie, the verb of who we see ourselves. And we don’t realize who we are, our identity, as the noun made in his image, right?
Kathy: Absolutely. And when we know that and the knowing of our knowing, it affects our security, our identity, our belonging, our purpose and our competence.
Kathy: And today for our children, teens and adults of all ages, there are so many voices and so many mixed messages that it becomes, I think, much more difficult to land on truth, but we have to.
Jim: And, you know, for the person listening – and we have a number of nonbelievers who listen to Focus – they’re tuning in, I’m sure, for good marriage and parenting advice – this is the place to start, is a relationship with Christ. We can’t do much to help you if you don’t consider who he is and what he claims. So, let me invite you to think about that, if you don’t know the Lord as we carry through this conversation.
Kathy, uh, you and I have talked a lot, and you’ve been here several times and you share a story about growing up and some of the problems because you’re tall and you self-described as clumsy as a little girl who actually was a big girl. Speak to that pain of that and what – how that helped shape some of your attitudes and – and your own hurts.
Kathy: I really appreciate that. And it was my own pain. I actually really like that phrase. And it might feel very insignificant to other people listening with really significant issues, so we don’t want to downplay that. But we all do have our brokenness and our pain and our, um, whatever.
So, I was 6 years old. I was too tall. I stood out in a crowd. I didn’t fit in the desk. I tripped over things that weren’t there. And I praise God that I had a mom available to me who I knew intuitively I could trust with my heart, as I said to her after school one day, “Mommy, I don’t want to be tall anymore.” And Jim, I’m so grateful that she didn’t say, “Well, get over it. You’re going to be tall.”
Jim: Right, this is a good word of knowledge for all of us. How did she respond?
Kathy: You know, hugs, I’m sure…
Kathy: …Affirmation. She felt my pain. And that’s security that your pain is safe – right? – with someone and they’re not going to dismiss and judge and say that you’re foolish.
And the way that my mom, um, responded was that she told her husband, my dad, “We have a daughter with a perceived problem that can’t be changed. She’s going to be tall. What can we do to help her?”
Kathy: They were solution-focused parents.
Kathy: And this is what everyone needs. And I want to say before I go further in the story that it’s never too late. You know, if someone’s listening wishing they would have had a mom available. It’s never too late to find someone who will hear your heart cry.
Jim: That can feel awkward, though, if I could be that honest…
Jim: (Laughing) I mean, if you’re standing in line, getting a coffee, saying, “Can I share my heart with you right now?”
Kathy: (Laughter), Well, I wouldn’t choose that…
Jim: (Laughter) But how do you go about, you know, finding that kind of friendship where you can be vulnerable, be who you are, and trust that it’s OK?
Kathy: Yeah, part of that’s security. One of those skills I teach in the book is discernment of how do I know who is responsible and dependable and a truth talker, wisdom walker on my side?
Jim: I like that.
Kathy: You know, how – how do we know that? And that comes through experience. How do we decide who to give a second chance to versus how do we decide that that person’s really off the list for a while because I’m done being hurt by that, you know? But to finish the story, Jim and John, my mom and dad enrolled me in tap dance class and ballet class.
Jim: (Laughter) That’s amazing!
Kathy: And I went from being, you know, really too tall to being the center of the back row, (laughter) a position that I decided was high honor because only the tallest girl was allowed to be there.
Kathy: And I became coordinated. And I had belonging there. They didn’t tease me for my height. My identity was, I’m a dancer. My security – I can trust my mom and I can trust myself because I’m no longer clumsy, and I feel safe inside of my own skin. I had a purpose to become a dancer. Competence – I’m a dancer. That one decision for me to cry out and my mom and dad to be solution-focused changed everything for me at the age of 6. And now as a public speaker, I honestly believe, if I would have lived long uncomfortable with my body image, would I want to stand before thousands of people a month?
Jim: Yeah, wow.
Kathy: And I wonder if there’re people listening now who recognize that there’s an unmet need because of that pain that they weren’t able to share. And they’ve walked wounded now into adulthood trying to still meet that need. And probably can’t be met in the way that they desire because they can’t go back to being 7…
Kathy: … or 10 or 14 and not making the basketball team. So, what we can do today is help them understand, that’s a legitimate hole. That’s legitimate pain.
Kathy: It’s yours, and we’re not going to tease you for it. And we’ve got some solutions. We’ve got some answers.
Jim: Right, no, it’s so true. I hope this is connecting with folks. Let’s move into more of the content. When you teach people about core needs, those five that you identified – security, identity, belonging, purpose, competence – you have a motto. You say, “Live long, and be strong,” which we’re kind of talking about. But what are you meaning by that statement so it’s clear?
Kathy: Yeah, thanks for bringing that out. You know, again, when we’re children and teens and young adults, we can really feel broken. And we can wonder, you know, why am I tall? Or why – like, another example would be that I was a chatty Cathy as a child. And because I was raised well, I didn’t get into a lot of trouble talking. But all three of us here are chatty, right? (LAUGHTER) You wouldn’t be radio hosts if you weren’t. And I bet you agree with me that we can gossip well and tease well and name call well…
Jim: (Laughter) No!
Kathy: …Yes, if we don’t have righteousness as our goal and, you know, the security of glorifying God and the purpose of that, of course, we would be dangerous.
So, as a chatty Cathy as a kid – and now, you know, I get paid to talk. It’s not about the money. It’s about this opportunity that God’s given me a platform (Laughter) of influence and impact.
Jim: (Laughter) I was accused of having diarrhea of the mouth when I was a kid. (LAUGHTER)
Kathy: Yeah, come on, you know? So negative, and yet…
Jim: Yes, it hurt me. It did. It wounded me. But I get the point now.
Kathy: You do. And so that was God’s design for you because Ephesians 2:10 declares that he will give you good gifts in advance that you would walk in them. And if we would have had parents that would have said, “Be quiet, be quiet, shut up, would you go find something to do,” we would not be on the radio together today.
Jim: (Laughter) That’s so funny! It’s true!
Kathy: You know? We had people who supported who we were. And so, one of my passions, guys, is that we would help children understand that childhood comes before adulthood. And that we as adults who minister hope and healing to children, whether we do that as teachers, pastors, friends, aunts, parents, grandparents, that we would see in them a gift and help them find the boundaries and the blessings that would allow it to become the way that they glorify God!
Jim: Yeah, in fact, Kathy, the point of this for me, for Focus on the Family, is the family is where these things should be remedied.
Jim: Where these holes that you possess should be lovingly overcome. That’s a healthy family.
John: Well, today, we’re presenting one of our best of 2020 broadcasts here on Focus on the Family, featuring Dr. Kathy Koch and her book Five to Thrive. And we’ve got details about the book and our entire collection of best of broadcasts at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A in the word FAMILY. Let’s go ahead and continue now this best of presentation featuring Dr. Kathy Koch.
Jim: Kathy, application – just kind of a practical application in this regard. You have a story about your niece, Betsy, that illustrates how – how this core needs model can help us diagnose and even solve problems we may be facing. What happened with Betsy?
Kathy: Yeah, my oldest niece, um – so my brother, Dave, and Deb, they’re just great parents. And, um, Betsy’s their oldest. They have three kids. And Betsy was going through a challenging time. She was suddenly disobedient, suddenly disrespectful, um, becoming independent, like, almost overnight and wanting to reject mom and dad’s input. My brother took a new job, was traveling a bit…
Jim: And she was how old?
Kathy: She was, um, maybe 14 when this began.
Jim: OK, kind of normal.
Kathy: Right, exactly. It’s – come on, exactly. And yet again, my parent – their – her parents, my brother, praise God, were solution-focused, right? And they weren’t going to let it ride. This is not Betsy. They knew that this is not Betsy, and this is not who we want her to become. So, they wanted to add, again, more boundaries and say to her, “This is wrong. And we’re going to put in some constraint.” And Dave and Deb relocated to a Philadelphia suburb. And Betsy had a new school, new classmates, new activities. Um, developed a relationship with a young man who ended up being good for her.
And in that shift, what we saw was security, identity, belonging, purpose and competence all changed because Dave and Deb were able to relocate and get her away from a peer group that ended up being the problem, the…
Jim: Kind of a reset.
Kathy: Exactly, exactly. The issue for Betsy was, um, aligning herself with a girl who ended up not being a good role model for her and not being able to extricate herself from that, right? It’s one of the hardest things kids do, is try to dismiss a friend that they’ve got. How do I get rid of her without hurting her? And it was awkward…
Jim: Yeah, no, it’s so true.
Kathy: So, you know, I think, again, to identify, OK, this is not normal, what my husband or wife or aging parent or child or myself, this isn’t normal. This isn’t me. What’s driving this? For Betsy, it was a need to belong. She was looking for a relationship that she thought was going to make her popular, which would become her identity and her security. Does that make sense?
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Kathy: And so fortunately, Deb and Dave saw that, distanced her from that girl, did not allow her to see her anymore outside of school hours. And then, praise God, really, the relocation made it all a whole lot easier.
Jim: Yeah, that’s – those are painful decisions.
Kathy: They are.
Jim: Tough to do.
Kathy: They are. And if we can begin to see our own struggles through this grid of these five, I think it changes everything. I know in my life it does.
Jim: Let’s dig in to each one now. We’ve kind of covered at a high level. And you’ve given us a couple of examples. Let’s spend the rest of today and then we’ll come back tomorrow and continue to do that. But let’s go back to security. Give us that definition again. And then I’m going to dig into it on security.
Kathy: OK, security is defined by the question, who can I trust? We cannot place our security in things because they will fade away – income, popularity, the job at this place, my grades, my beauty. It’s dangerous. It’s very common today to try to find our security in those things. But it’s not going to work. Security is always found in people.
Jim: So, security’s No. 1. Um, obviously from a Christian perspective, we find that in Christ. There’s Scriptures that are very…
John: Yeah, Jesus is the right answer here for your question, right?
Kathy: Yes, the Sunday school answer!
Jim: That’s the Sunday school answer. But it’s hard to get that in your heart. I mean, I meet a lot of Christians who fret.
Jim: And I’m always perplexed by that, where it says, “You know, don’t trust in your circumstances, but trust in the Lord.” And we struggle with that as human beings. It’s not a natural thing to say when the wind’s blowing and the ship’s sinking to go, “Hey, I’m cool, I’m fine because God’s in control.” That’s very not human to be like that (laughter).
Kathy: Because we think the security’s in ourselves.
Jim: Correct, that we can save ourselves…
Kathy: That we can save ourselves and that we can figure this out.
And John, let me elaborate on what you said. You know, I love the Christ is the right answer. What I believe is that it’s the triune God. And I think one of the things that we’ve done badly in some of our churches and some of our family dynamics, if you will, is not recognize all of God. I can trust God because he chose to create me when he didn’t have to, but he wanted to because he had so much love to share. And he chose to share it with me. And I was created in his image. I can trust Jesus because he went to the cross on my behalf. How much more would he be willing to do?
Jim: Yeah, that’s it.
Kathy: And then I can trust the Holy Spirit because the Scripture declares that he is a comforter, a constant companion, a convictor, a friend and the one that will teach us to unpack the Scripture. So, it’s the whole of God that I can trust in.
Jim: That’s good. I like that. Let’s quickly go to the second of the five…
Jim: …Which is identity. Um, define that for us, and explain why you believe so many people are experiencing an identity crisis today. I think, of all the five, culturally, this is the one we’re so inept about.
Kathy: Right. And I’ll – I’ll say, I agree. The identity crisis…
Kathy: …Is huge. And I’m going to back up and say I think it’s because security is messed up.
Jim: Right. OK.
Jim: That’s fair.
Kathy: So, a lot of people say that, oh, it’s the identity crisis. And it is. But it’s a crisis of identity because we are lacking in security.
Jim: Yeah. No, that’s right.
Kathy: Security should be in the triune God, in people who are trustworthy and in ourselves at the right level.
Jim: So even that, it’s symptomatic of the security issue, but it manifests in a lack of understanding identity.
Kathy: Absolutely – beautifully stated. So, identity is, who am I? Not, who was I? And not, who do I want to be? Although there’s a – there’s a point for thinking to the future. It’s, who am I? And it needs to be current. It needs to be honest. It needs to be complete. We should not lie to ourselves. And we should not allow others to lie about themselves. If we hear that happen, we need to correct that. So yeah. It’s huge. It’s, who am I? And it’s rooted in character.
Kathy: …And then skills and abilities and other kinds of things.
Jim: Kathy, in that regard, you know, being a parent of a teen boy – and, you know, again, just generally speaking about this – on the one hand, you know, “I hope you’re doing well.” “You’re so great.” “You’re awesome.” “I love you.” And it sometimes seems to just hit the wall and fall…
Jim: Like, they don’t believe it. And you want them to because you mean it. But it’s almost like, how do you get from simply stating it, phrasing it to where they can accept it, they can hear it, they can believe it?
Kathy: Part of it is our specific language. “You’re awesome because…”
Jim: Giving it more context.
Kathy: You know, “I appreciate how creative you’ve become.” Um, “I never could have created that kind of art. I really admire your talent.” You know, ” I appreciate how patient you were as you taught your brother that new game. You honored him.”
Jim: So, specificity is really important.
Kathy: ‘Cause it’s believable, right? You know, if I say to you, “You guys are great at this,” you can say, “Well, thanks so much.” But if I say, “You’re great because,” it’s harder for you to deny what I’m saying to you. So, it takes more effort for the mom and dad…
Kathy: …And the spouse.
Jim: That’s exactly what I was thinking.
Kathy: Absolutely. We have to observe longer and listen with greater intent and back it up with what I – that because statement. I love the phrase, “I know because.” “You’re artistic. I know because…” “You’re capable of this. I know because this is what you did last week. I’ve seen you study. Go for it.”
Jim: No, that’s really good.
John: That’s good.
Jim: You’ve identified – and this is a good place to land. You’ve identified several Bible verses that help us see our identity from God’s perspective. And so often, um, I think I’m beginning – even at my age – to begin to understand and resonate. It’s hard to believe some of these things, that God would see us this way. Um, and what I mean by that – it’s hard for us to accept that God loves us so deeply because we don’t love ourselves that much, right?
Jim: Right? So, what are those verses? Or give us a couple.
Kathy: You know, there’s almost 100 “I am” and “I have” statements in the New Testament.
Kathy: “I am forgiven.” “I am chosen.” “I am loved.” “I’m created the image of God.” “I’m a, you know, holy nation, a royal priesthood.” “I’m holy and without blame before him.” “I’m accepted in Christ.” “I am forgiven.” “I am sealed.” “I am gifted” – Ephesians 2:10.
We’ve got to help people understand that who God says we are is way more important than who we think we are or what the culture says we are. This is why we have to be in the word of God.
Kathy: And one of the things I tell parents is, you know, teach the word of God to your children. Declare the word of God over them. Pray it over them. You know what, guys? Wouldn’t it be amazing if the last thing we said to our children at night was something God would say if he were there with an audible voice?
Kathy: And what if we woke them up and said something to them that God would declare to them…
Kathy: …If he was speaking? Because it’s God’s word that is life to us.
Kathy: And you know what, Jim? It’s a choice to believe. I – you know, I’m – I’m an imperfect person, and there are days I struggle. And there are days when I don’t like certain things or whatever. And that’s OK to own that and to walk through that and question, “OK, Kathy, where’s the lie? Why have I gotten sucked into this competitive mentality?” – and yada, yada, whatever – and then to come back to the word. And I don’t say that lightly. It’s a choice.
Jim: Yeah. And again, that’s identity rooted in security of how God sees us. I mean, that’s so good. These two tie together so beautifully.
Kathy: They do. Picture the double-sided arrow, if you will, between the two. And it does become a problem-solving tool when we begin to question, “Why are our kids behaving this way? Why am I behaving this way?” (Laughter) You know, “Why have I become competitive?” That’s a security issue.
Kathy: “Is popularity all of a sudden important to me?” No. It’s – you got to go there.
Jim: Well, I’m glad we’re at the end ’cause, uh… (LAUGHTER) You’re kind of poking where it’s a little tender here.
Uh, Kathy, this has been so fascinating and so good. And we’ve just started. We’ve got more to cover – three more of these core needs that people have. Let’s come back next time and do that, right? Can you do it?
Kathy: I’d be honored to. Thank you.
John: And that’s how we concluded this first part of a best of 2020 conversation with Dr. Kathy Koch exploring her book, Five to Thrive How to Determine if Your Core Needs Are Being Met and What to Do When They’re Not. And we do hope you make plans to join us for part two next time.
Jim: I really enjoyed the conversation with Kathy. She’s so wise and encouraging. And I’m sure many of the listeners have been challenged by what she shared today. And I’m reminded of a comment we got from one man who said something profound after this program aired earlier this year. He said, “I drive or walk through cemeteries and think of all those people who have struggled with things like us today. So many dreams, goals, unfinished business and talents not utilized perhaps out of fear, inadequacy. Perhaps we don’t often live the life that God has called us to live”. Wow, think about that John. Um, the fact is God’s got a plan for each of our lives and he created us with unique needs that only he can fill. So, lean into him today. That’s the bottom-line message we want you to hear.
John: And if you feel as though you’re still chasing after some of those needs like Kathy talked about and you really don’t feel secure or you know what God created you to be, we encourage you to contact us here at Focus on the Family. We have a team of caring Christian counselors who would love to talk with you and pray with you about whatever issues you may be facing. Our number is 800-232-6459, 800 the letter A and the word FAMILY or visit focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And then follow up by getting Kathy’s book Five to Thrive. This is something you really need as a tool to do better. We can put a copy into your hands when you send a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family. And when you support Focus today your gift will be doubled thanks to a matching gift provided by some generous friends to the ministry. And remember, we’re counting on your financial partnership with us to build stronger, healthier families in 2021. Working together we can give more families hope in this coming year.
John: Yeah, this is a listener supported ministry so donate today and request your copy of Kathy’s book Five to Thrive. Again, our number 800-A-FAMILY. Online we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here thanks so much for joining us today for this best of edition of our broadcast. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation with Dr. Kathy Koch and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.