Monday, December 17, 2012

Wanting things and hurting others

The more we want things, the more likely we are to hurt people to get them. That’s pretty scary for a generation of people that have basically been programmed to want things from the time they were born. Not only do we have a whole advertising industry that spends billions of dollars in figuring out exactly how to make us want things, but our very culture seems designed to promote the view that there are things we want and we should do everything we can to get them.

Even our churches seem to share this view. We are told that we have desires and that God wants to give us those desires. It’s suggested that we shouldn’t limit our dreams, but should make them as big as we can – because God wants to answer our wildest prayers. I’ve heard it preached that if you’re praying for a mate, don’t just pray for a mate, but write down a whole heap of attributes you want that mate to have and watch God give you every single one of them.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting things. It’s a normal and natural part of being a human. But I do think we take this business of wanting things way too seriously. The world and the church promotes very heavily this idea that everybody wants something and everybody can get it. You are almost looked down upon if you say there’s nothing that you really want. Or even worse, you’re told that not wanting things is a sign that you don’t really trust God.

You hardly ever hear the bad points about wanting things – and believe me, there are bad points. I go back to my first sentence. The more we want things, the more likely we are to hurt people to get them. People who wouldn’t think about hurting people in any normal course of events will think nothing about hurting people if it helps them get something they really want.

One of the funniest examples of this is a wedding. Women who would never usually dream of pushing or hurting other women will push and shove just to get that bouquet – because they really, really want to get married. Love itself is a good example of how people hurt others to get what they want. Friends will betray friends. Spouses will betray spouses. And even just the regular dating ritual of trying people out, without taking a minute to think about their feelings, is a form of hurting people in order to get the relationship you want.

People who really want to be successful in their career will hurt people on their way to the top. People who want to be rich will hurt others to achieve the bank balance they want. Teenagers who want to be popular will hurt the friends who have been there for them.

Now this isn’t always the case. People can want something very badly and yet refuse to hurt people in order to get it. In fact, a good test of how much moral integrity a person really has is to place them in a situation where they can get what they want, but only if they do something wrong or hurt another person. The time when many of us are most tempting to do the wrong thing is when we want something. Whether we’re the kind of person who hurts others or not, it’s worthwhile being very, very careful when it comes to the things we really want. Wanting something badly can be a great test of our true moral character.

There’s something else I’d like to add. As mentioned, the church often tells people they have desires and that God wants to give them those desires. However, God doesn’t want you to hurt others. If you’re praying for God to give you something, then don’t hurt someone in order to try and get it. Firstly, I don’t believe God will answer your prayer in a way that involves you hurting others. Secondly, I also don’t believe that God wants to bless the very thing that is making you hurt others.

So wanting things is quite okay – although perhaps not as much as the world will have us believe. But hurting others to get it is not.

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