Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Need vs. Want

It is a distinction that causes me a lot of trouble, and I think part of the problem lies in the definitions I have come to hold for these ideas over time. These aren't definitions I just sat down one day and thought up, nor am I even claiming that they are morally or technically right, they are simply the ones that best describe the way I tend to behave. The things in my life that I consider "needs" are those things which can be neither done without nor done myself; everything else falls into the category of "want". Those definitions may not seem all that strange to you, until you consider just how narrow that definition of "need" is. If I can do it myself, or if I can survive without it...it's not a need. Because of this, I have little difficulty asking for help with "needs," while I almost never ask for help with my "wants." To contrast, if I were to hazard a guess at a more traditional definition, then the difference between a need and a want might be more a matter of importance, like the difference between a "car that drives" and a bright red Ferrari, or the difference between "food" and a medium-well New York strip steak with garlic mashed potatoes and a Diet Pepsi.

I bring this up because of the struggle I have had over certain recent events. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that while I had no trouble at all asking a friend to feed my cats every day while I was in Colorado, I went through a huge internal debate before I could finally bring myself to ask some friends for help with a landscaping task, something I technically "could do myself."

I didn't grow up in a community. My needs were met by my parents, or not at all. There simply was never anyone else (human, not God) to turn to, and over time, perhaps I stopped looking. Lately it seems that everywhere I go people are talking about community and their claims, combined with recent events, lead me to wonder whether there are some ideas I hold (consciously or not) that are not entirely Christian. The ideas these people are proclaiming I would in the past have dismissed as laughable idealism, and yet I now find myself in the midst of a community, an actual community that is so much closer to that ideal than anything I have encountered before that that ideal no longer seems so idealistic. That's not to say I am finding it at all easy to believe, or accept, or adjust to. I find no difficulty in giving to this community, because I love them, but I find incredible difficulty in allowing the community to give back. Allowing that would require me to humble myself past insisting on doing everything myself, and I find that, perhaps, that is the whole point.

On a side note, here is a good article written by the wife of a long-time friend of mine: One Love.

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