Stephen A. Peterson
One of the most valuable lessons any person can learn in life is learning how to deal with one’s never ending desire to have any and everything NOW. Just as challenging is training one’s children in the art and wisdom of putting a cap on their wants.
Throughout the centuries, the wisest of men and women struggle with “when I obtain this one thing, I’ll be happy and not want anything more.” In virtually every case studied empirically, no one is immuned from wanting more. As soon as one want is taken care of or fulfilled, another all of a sudden finds its way into our “I gotta have it” list. A rather typical comment heard from teens during weekly counseling sessions is: “I’ll be happy when I get a brand new car with everything in it. I swear I’ll never want another thing.” That want, once it has been satisfied, is replaced with “I’ll be happy when I get a DVD player for my car.” If parents and teens are not careful, a person will continue to replace their material want list with an every growing and shifting one that will continue to grow out of control to impact every phase of life. This same principle will usually apply to interpersonal relationships as well.
For example, a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse seems always happy and free spirited. The one time she or he is sad or irritable, the person gives him or her a hard time rather than say, “Don’t be concerned or worried about it, you’re generally a pretty happy person much of the time.” Or “You are a great person to be around! Everybody has their up days and down day. I guess you’re just having one of those down days and we will get through it.” Although most of the focus is on teenage behavior and expectations, so many adults display similar difficulties as well. When a son or daughter receives straight A’s on their academic reports, far too many parents are disappointed even hurt when their child brings home any grade less than an A. don’t let a child make a mistake in judgment with respect to anything. So many adults place their child and even spouses, for that matter, in their doghouse of perpetual unforgiveness. A tragedy indeed!
When a person puts a cap on their wants, a person is reminding themselves that he or she can be contented or happy right now before getting what it is a person thinks her or she wants or needs. It also reminds a person of the never ending wants and need and redirecting one’s focus on what a person has at the moment and less on what is a want. When this can be accomplished even at a minimal level, a person will generally become grateful for what they do have. This is what Ed Young; pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas refers to as the “attitude of gratitude”. An attitude of gratitude will lead to happiness, peace and contentment. Placing caps on one’s wants is a self-imposed, non legalistic agreement, flexible agreement a person has with her-/him-self. This will break not only the cycle of insatiable wants but will have an impact on the other deadly sins people must face—anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride and sloth.
At times while in group sessions or while in other public engagements, it never fails to occur that a person or more will misunderstand the message of putting a cap on one’s wants. They will inevitably point out or ask, “Don’t you believe it is alright for people to be able to have what they?” Or “Don’t you believe people ought to have the ability to better their lives?” And “Don’t people have the right to want things in life?” The response to such questions is that there is nothing wrong with desiring more in life, the free enterprise system or to have the nicer things and a good quality of life. Striving for excellence in life, at school and at work or encouraging family, friends and associates to strive for excellence should be one’s task if they are in a position to offer such qualities. It is this writer’s belief that one should and be encouraged to do their very best or better if they can. Again, there is an enormous distinction between doing one’s best and persistently demanding that life, people, places and things be different or better before one allows themselves to be or feel satisfied with their lives or with the people they interact with or influence.
What is discussed here is the persistent, freed-oriented habit of wanting even demanding more and more—things, perfection of ourselves and others then convincing oneself that he or she will be much happier more and more. Without question each person of reason can only determine the appropriateness of their wants in concert with God. In a world that desires to move away from Godly principles and the principles of insatiated consumerism and secularism, the war of mind, morality and mass consumption will persist and its affects telling. To those caught up in mass consumerism one more thing or demand will absolutely make them happy. It takes a great deal of discipline and faith to say to oneself, “More isn’t always the answer to life,” “That bigger car isn’t going to make me happy,” and “I have enough in life and I don’t need any more things,” “I’m happy with myself and what I have.”
Should a person take a look at and experiment with the strategy of contentment and thanksgiving to God for what they have they will be content beyond their imagination. A person can have a happy, wonderful life by being contented with what they have right now. There will be less stress, less anger, jealousy, and envy of what others have and what a person thinks they don’t have. Life will also seem so much better if a person spends less time thinking about what they want. The added bonus is that a person will NOT “sweat the small stuff” and live their life to the fullest
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