American psychologist and professor Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) once stated, “You will either step forward into growth, or you will step back into safety.” Dr. Maslow is perhaps best known for his, “Hierarchy of Needs,” which show how mankind progresses from basic physical needs to the hierarchy of spiritual fulfillment. I found this very helpful when teaching seminary classes on Christian growth.
Dr. Maslow’s research helped those who followed his psychological model to discover that there are several things that could motivate a person to give new things a try. One of them is that you don’t want to live with regrets. You have no interest in always thinking back and getting mad at yourself for not taking an opportunity that was presented to you. How many times have you heard a person say with remorse, “I wish I would have done this or done that?”
Another thing that should motivate a person to explore new territory is that they will never know what they might find until they try. I think all of us can look back and say at least once or twice, “I’m sure glad I took the offer,” or “It sure was a good thing that I went ahead and did it.” Otherwise, they would have never discovered the thrill of excitement that came with taking that leap of faith.
Then again, it is a good way to build self-confidence. Have you ever seen someone smile with satisfaction and say, “I didn’t know I could do that!” Also, it will make you a more interesting personality. There is not a whole lot of fulfillment in talking with a person who’s never been anywhere and never done anything outstanding. But the ones who keep your attention are those who have gone where you’ve never been and done what you’ve never had an opportunity to do. All you’ve done is dream about it. They’ve done it and are excited to tell you about it.
The truth is, no one ever accomplished anything by letting their fears conquer them. Have you ever seen a person standing on a bridge with a bungee tied to their feet and afraid to jump? The crowd is screaming for them to go ahead. Just do it! It’s the same with other things in life. Some people are so afraid of things that haven’t happened yet that they treat them as though they are real. So they get frozen in place and are scared to go any further.
Stepping out in faith is one of the best ways to test your level of courage. Maybe you want someone to push you, but that will always stick in your mind and you cannot attribute it to you’re own self-will to try. The word courage is defined as, “The ability to do something that frightens you.” Just ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Most often, you can’t explain it because it’s unknown. So why be afraid of the unknown when you have an opportunity to separate fact from fiction?
The reason some people are still intellectually and emotionally where they were years ago is that they are waiting to mature. But you must force yourself to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It doesn’t come naturally without effort. That’s why Maslow believed strongly in “self-actualization;” not waiting around for someone else to motivate you. Imagine how long you would survive if you were stranded on an island and just sat around waiting for someone to rescue you. Not long!
The Bible is very clear about this concept of self-actualization. Solomon once said that if you teach someone who already knows a lot, they’ll gladly learn even more.1 And in another place, he said that a mind that tries to understand will learn a lot, and the person who is willing to listen will grow in knowledge.2 Did you know, that even Jesus felt the need to learn?3
That’s why the Apostle Paul told one of his young students to always do his best and God would be pleased with him. Then, when he completed his task, it would be something he could point to without being ashamed.4 That’s why God inspired His own thoughts to be written down for mankind to read. And if you read what He has to say you’ll quickly discover what’s right and what’s wrong. And there’s a reason. It’s always best to be right with God.5
So as Dr. Maslow and the Bible teaches us, we will either be willing to take a step forward and thereby inspire growth, or we will continue to step back into our safety zone and end up going nowhere. Even if you need someone to take you by the hand and guide you step by step until you learn to walk by yourself, that’s better than doing nothing. But there’s one thing you can be sure of when you step out in faith for God, He will be right there to take you by the hand and walk with you all the way.6 – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Proverbs 9:9
2 Ibid. 18:15
3 Luke 2:40, 52
4 2 Timothy 2:15
5 Ibid. 3:16
6 Isaiah 41:10-13