What Do I Really Need?   Leave a comment


By suggesting an alternative to wants-versus-needs thinking, which seems to pit rationality against emotions, I am not suggesting that no difference exists between needs.  Surely some needs are more important than others.  I want to challenge the notion that there is some simple objective way of determining my needs, and that, being objective, it’s evaluation requires no input from emotions.  (As a side note, we seem to have this odd notion that our emotions were badly damaged in the Fall, but that our intellect came through nearly unscathed, so that we can trust the latter more than the former).   There are things I clearly need, some for my body (food, water, shelter) and some for my soul (love, interaction, forgiveness).  Those things I need for my soul should never be forfeited for the sake of another, because I am foremost responsible for my own soul, and I never do well by another when I forfeit myself.  God is responsible for their needs.

I don’t mean that we never forgo some food for the soul as a benefit to another… just like skipping a meal, such choices are good for us if they are in the context of a steady, nutritional diet.  The key I think is my own health, for which I am responsible.  One can be spiritually glutinous or spiritually anorexic… in the first, the intake regularly exceeds the output and in the second the output regularly exceeds the intake.  Both are bad for the soul.  The first is characteristic of those we would call “selfish,” but is also characteristic of those who are starving (or feel as though they are starving).  The selfish individual has the emotional resources to do more for others, but chooses not to, while the starving has no such resources.  None of us knows another’s heart well enough to make this determination about them.

I Know What I Need!

My effort to bring false and true needs into the discussion fits here.  I believe the problem with those who are “selfish,” is not usually that they imbibe too much or more than their share, but that they fill up on Twinkies and Pringles, and since this does not meet their true need and they remain hungry, they continue to stuff more in to fill that gnawing hunger.  No one turns to alcohol to satisfy a need for alcohol.  They do it to reduce the pain from true needs that are languishing.  It is easy to make folks feel better by satisfying their false needs (it makes the giver feel better as well, so we are inclined to do it without thinking), and sometimes it is the best approach for many reasons, but I think it is good for us to realize we are not providing a remedy for their genuine needs.  Their unsatiated need will remain, stimulating their desire for another bag of popcorn.


Another Piece?

I could give a hundred examples in my own life of misunderstanding my needs and trying to satisfy my hunger with plastic pizzas and wooden fruit–the hungrier you are the harder you chew.  It has a profoundly disrupting spiritual effect in one’s life.  I have had a desparate need for acceptance all my life.  I felt unworthy as I was and thought I could not be loved unless I “got my act together.”  I could not trust any acceptance that came from someone who tried to overlook my faults, because such acceptance was undeserved.  My felt need was for holiness… greater and purer and more constant than I had so that I could be worthy, but no matter how much higher I climbed, my thirst for acceptance remained, driving me deeper into the desert.  My growth in “holiness” (as I undertsood it), instead of fulfilling me, was actually dragging me away from realizing and satisfying my real need, which was to discover and embrace God’s grace.  I’m glad my search was a cul-de-sac or I would still be climbing that mountain.


Posted September 22, 2011 by janathangrace in thoughts

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