These are the last two needs recognized by William Glasser, MD as “genetic,” which means we are “wired” to have these needs fulfilled in us. The other two needs already discussed here were Power (or self- esteem) and Love and Belonging. Fulfilling these needs gives us a sense of satisfaction. Not fulfilling these needs distresses us. Everybody is doing the best they can, but nonetheless, if we try to fulfill these needs in a wrong way, our distress remains. Our lives may end up with high levels of stress, leaving us angry and at odds with other people. The simplest way of fulfilling these needs is to ask ourselves if our current method of decision making works for us. Do we enjoy strong bonds with others, and are we at peace with ourselves? Yes, living healthy does admittedly involve some effort. But if I want to live healthy, I won’t mind the effort. The best way to do this is to have fun doing it. The best way to even live is to allow for ourselves to have fun in life. Will Rogers once said that the shortest distance between two people is a laugh. How much fun do I have in life? What makes this question important is that, again, this too is genetic. I write this knowing that people may wonder why fun is even mentioned, but if we are going to take an honest look at what it means to be mentally healthy, there is no way that we cannot examine the quality of fun in our lives. Even taking a break can be fun. Fun can bond a family even closer. Taking a family vacation or just doing something together as a family can easily be seen as psychologically healthy for one and all. All that needs to be remembered is that not everyone agrees on what exactly IS fun. Remember, you have free will; you have the power to choose. For this reason, freedom is the last genetic need.
Here is where the Roman Catholic Church can play such an important role in our lives. We primarily experience the Catholic Church by means of parish. Through the parish’s leadership we learn Catholic teachings. We learn that the church values our freedom, a best genetic need, and it does this by valuing our conscience. We are encouraged to develop our conscience by choosing to be committed to the Church and be formed by it. This takes time. If there are any current conflicts, we must choose both to follow our conscience and to stay in dialogue with Church teachings. In this way we learn more about why the Church states what it does. We may see where we were wrong.
The Church further values our freedom by reminding us that although we have the right to judge the outward action of another as wrong, we cannot judge another person’s heart. That sort of judgement belongs to God. This teaching of the Church gives us the freedom to love more. It is precisely in Christ’s teachings not to judge another, we acquire the ability to love more.
Peace, Fr. Walter