Overcoming the Deficit

My 4-year-old son, Lucas often asks me: “Why does 弟弟 (younger brother) have this [toy] but I don’t?” This recurring question caught my attention recently because I could relate it to many similar experiences at work. In my job as a professional trainer helping people discover and apply their strengths, I have often experienced this particular mindset that seems to exist among many who have attended my StrengthsFinder workshops. This mentality expresses itself most naturally by focusing on what we do not have rather than what we have. I like to define this as a ‘deficit thinking mentality’.

The ‘deficit thinking mentality’ causes many to be in discontent. I find it fascinating, whenever I run workshops, to observe the different behaviours of my participants and the types of questions that they pose. Those with a ‘deficit’ mindset will more likely than not complain about their lack of strengths and some may even reject their own strengths as they compare themselves with the strengths of others.

Rather than focusing on what strengths they already have and how they can apply them, many choose instead to focus their thoughts on what they do not have, therefore empowering the fear of lack.

Interestingly, I haven’t observed any particular type of person who is prone to complain of the lack. The ‘deficit thinking mentality’ appears to span across both genders, age groups, and even tiers of leadership positions.

In my preparation for 2017, I found myself wondering about the extent to which the ‘deficit thinking mentality’ has stopped us from living the abundant life that Jesus has given. It is probably reasonable to suggest that there are many Christians who empower this mindset and struggle with the fear of lack as a result. I, for one, am guilty of allowing this fear to manifest in different areas of my life.

I believe that the ‘deficit thinking mentality’ is robbing many (myself included) from experiencing God’s abundant grace and providence in our lives. The Bible talks a lot about this idea of lack, and many passages reveal that it is common for people to struggle with this mindset. One of the earliest passages that clearly highlights this human condition can be found in Exodus 16.

Exodus 16:15-20
When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.'” The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat.  Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.

The passage clearly shows that many Israelites had a fear of lack and gathered more food than they needed. Where did this fear come from? This question is not easy to answer. What seems clearer to me is:  since the early days of biblical history, we humans have struggled with a fear of lack and the ‘deficit thinking mentality’. If we desire to delete the deficit thinking in both our hearts and minds, and trust in God wholeheartedly, then a good question to ponder on would be: “How have I manifested this fear of lack in my own life?”

As we enter into 2017, wondering about the plans that God may have in store for us for the rest of this year, may I suggest that we start first by giving thanks for all that God has given us – both big and small. I believe that the simple yet powerful solution to counter this fear of lack is in the practice of giving thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It might be helpful to set aside time to list down all the different things we want to give thanks for. As we do this, we are also intentionally creating capacity in our hearts to draw us back to the heart of our generous Father in Heaven who gives to His children beyond measure. The practice of giving thanks also prepares our hearts for the right posture to put our faith in God as our Provider. Naturally, this process helps us to combat the ‘deficit thinking mentality’ and the natural outcome is often a heart that will also create space to appreciate others.

As we count our blessings, we develop a faith that looks forward with a hope and a future.

How much are you looking forward to 2017? The answer to this question will likely correlate with how much you have been thankful for in 2016. If you haven’t done so already, start preparing for the rest of 2017 by writing down a whole list of things you can give thanks to God for today!

Wishing everyone a blessed year ahead!

Formerly a Youth Pastor and now, Founder of Strengths School, Victor is passionate about discipling the next generation. He enjoys writing to equip others and writes regularly on his blog (victor-seet.com). His vision of “seeing every generation live out their full potential” empowers him to be a marketplace minister.



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