Monday, May 28, 2018

Expectation, Hope, Needs, Wants

Needs vs. Wants

Jesus said: "Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matthew 6:8)

In colloquial speech, we often say "need" when we really mean "want." What do you really need? An adult human needs water at least every 3 days. Most of us have enough fat storage to not need food for up to a month. We might need some clothing if we live in a cold or very sunny place, but far less than what we would need to be comfortable.

Need is not not what is required for comfort. Need is what is required for survival.

Paul understood how little we actually need. He said:
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (1 Timothy 6)
He elaborated:
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4)
No matter what we think we need, we need very little. No matter how much we appreciate what we have in the moment, it is not guaranteed for tomorrow.

These are difficult truths to comprehend and absorb. To the degree we do not do both, we will needlessly suffer time after time as this world takes away everything we treasure, until our desires are wholly focused on what little endures eternally.

Expectation vs. Hope

The dictionary does not discriminate between the meanings of expect and hope. I will use them to describe different but related ideas. With both hope and expectation, you desire something. Both hope and desire can influence your actions. With both, you will act to improve the odds of your desire being fulfilled. In fact, you might do the same exact things in both cases.

To me, the difference lies in how you react if and when your desire is not fulfilled. When I hope for something and my desire is not fulfilled, then I go along my merry way, rejoicing that I tried my best. When I expect something and my desire is not fulfilled, I may be angry, despondent, regretful, etc.

Joy in the Journey

It turns out that most negative feelings occur when, after setting a goal, we observe or experience situations that detract from that goal. Some of these negative feelings are beneficial, because they can teach us about ourselves, others, and the world. Some of these negative feelings are not beneficial. For example, if I have set a positive goal and worked expediently towards it, but failed because of the choice of another person, should I really be upset about that?

One way to avoid these negative feelings is to avoid setting goals. Those without goals will never live as fulfilled a life as those with goals. They will merely float through life with a good deal of eventual regret for having wasted their resources.

A better way to avoid these negative feelings is to add context to your goals. While it is good to have ambitions, these must always be tempered with the understanding that, ultimately, very little is fully within your control. Therefore, everything you aim to do ought to be understood to be subject to almost infinite detours and potential roadblocks, and none of these things ought to bother you in the least when they present themselves. On the contrary, being detoured or blocked in your ambitions ought to be interpreted as just as successful an outcome as obtaining what you actually desired.

The point of your goal is not the acquisition of your goal, but your consistent exercise of godly character along the way.