Self-Actualization: Our Culture’s Most Pernicious Lie


“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines
the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23

Anyone who has taken Psychology 101 has most likely studied Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”  At the top of his list is the need for self-actualization–the need to achieve one’s potential, to seek self-fulfillment, and to experience the maximum one is capable of experiencing on this earth.

business strategy concept infographic diagram illustration of hierarchy of needs pyramid

business strategy concept infographic diagram illustration of hierarchy of needs pyramid

What is so pernicious about Maslow’s hierarchy is the fact that it sounds so good and so true. After all, who among us does not want to achieve his fullest potential? Who among us does not want to be fulfilled? Who among us does not want to experience the maximum of which we are capable?

So, wherein lies the pernicious lie?

If we look closely, we will see that the word “self” is the focus of Maslow’s theory. Life is all about the self. All about what I can achieve.

All about me!

This way of thinking is diametrically opposed to what Jesus taught: “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39 TLB).

Those who adhere to Maslow’s theory–and this includes our culture at-large–believe that the self is the center of the universe. For many, there is nothing outside the self, and if there is, it is subject to the self.

Consider “the Force is within you.”  Have you ever stopped to ask “What Force?”

We who follow Yeshua understand exactly what that Force is. It is the force of Satan himself, disgusing himself as an angel of light, something Scripture says he does (2 Corinthians 11:14) and does quite well, I might add.

The Word of God gives us this admonition in Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

How can we know if what we are believing is deception?  There is only one way, and that is to immerse oneself in the Word of God until it transforms our thinking and aligns it with God’s thinking. 

Guarding the heart means protecting it from deception. Deception is another word for the Lie. Satan is doing a good job of convincing our world that the answer to life’s deepest questions lies in the self. But the truth is that the answer to life’s deepest questions can only be found outside the self and only in Jesus Christ.

If you are seeking a better understanding of what is going on in our culture philosophically, socially, and ethically, check out THE TRUTH PROJECT published by Focus on the Family. I highly recommend it.

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Dr. Diorio is a Certified Life Coach, a Certified Biblical Counselor, and a Certified Behavioral Consultant. She is also an award-winning, widely published author of fiction for children and adults. You may reach her at  or via one of her social media venues below: