Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Is the need for control or the need for love a deeper intrinsic need within the human heart? I heard a PBS story recently about an African-American man that lived in the Deep South around the time of or shortly before the Civil Rights Movement. I will do my best to recount the story accurately. As a nine year old, he played on a playground with his younger brother and a seven year old white girl. Defying cultural standards, the three played together unsupervised without any racial hindrance to their enjoyment. At one point during their play, the girl gave each boy an unsolicited kiss on the cheek. Play continued until dark when the kids ran home. Night had indeed fallen. Based on the seven year old girl’s account to her parents that evening, the police immediately arrested both brothers for rape. For an extended period of time (days/months), the boys sat in prison without any connection to their parents. The police beat them continuously. The child psychologist, their one likely hope for an advocate, delivered an emotional whipping to accompany the physical bruises and bleeding scars. He chastised them, writing permanent messages onto their souls about how wrong and grotesque they were to rape an innocent white girl. Weeks later the boys were released from jail.
Fifty something years later, this black man shared his story with PBS. You would assume that he would have spent his life passively recovering as a recluse from an unjust society. Instead, he responded with recklessness violence, committing crimes over and over that brought him back to the very place of his worst nightmare.
One person commenting on this story suggested that the man’s insatiable need for control dominated his life. Control for him meant a cot, sink, and metal bars. When life got scary or hard, he knew he could count on the four walls of a jail cell to massage the fear away. Though perplexing, this explanation has some sense to it. But from the paradigm that I use to assess people around me, most often I see behavioral patterns revolve around the need to feel loved and accepted. Any radio station will sing to you all day about the need for love. So this story proposes a question: Is the need for control or the need for love a deeper intrinsic need within the human heart?