I hate being disappointed. Don’t you? I feel vulnerable. Sometimes I feel silly that I even wanted something in the first place. Sometimes it creates the potential to be “at odds” with someone important – my wife, my kids, my friends, or my co-workers. So with all this disappointment, I try not to want.
But I do. I want people to like me. I want people to notice and pay attention to me, to listen to me, to respect me… I want a lot. So what do I do?
This really is one of the greatest dilemmas in my life. Desire and longings permeate every relationship. Sometimes those longings are big. There is a big hole in my soul that I want to be filled. Whether it is in the ‘like me/love me’ bucket or the ‘notice me/respect me’ bucket, it exists. I want and really want a lot from people, from life and even from God. I want people, and the closer they are to me the more I want. I want them to care for me and think good things about me. And I have come to believe that embracing my God-given desire is the very potential for meaningful relationship.
But that wanting sets me up for being disappointed. And I hate being disappointed. I think I hate being disappointed more than I like having my desires met. So historically, I have chosen, often unconsciously, to want as little as possible. That just feels safer.
One of the first places I noticed this was around Christmas and birthdays. Family and friends would ask me what I wanted. They wanted to give meaningfully to me. They wanted to give me what I wanted. But for decades my response has been some version of the same thing – “Nothing. I am fine. I have everything I want. Give me whatever…”
So – what would it be like to buy me a present? There is nothing that would be meaningful, nothing that would communicate love, nothing that would be “just what I wanted” – because there wasn’t a “just what I wanted”.
Wanting is the currency of relationship. It creates the possibility for meaning. It gives value. You can’t love me “more” unless I want the “more”. And that does set me up to be disappointed. I am afraid, if I really want, that you won’t really want… to give to me. You won’t love me that much!
Ironically, that way of thinking has hindered meaningful relationship with God as well. In the past, I reasoned that He really didn’t want to give to me “that much”, so I would “need/want” as little as possible. It showed up in my willingness to admit my own sin too. I couldn’t afford to face the depth of my self-centeredness because I wasn’t really sure His love for me was big enough to cover my sin.
Good Friday and Easter remind me that I have a God big enough to meet my longings. I cannot do anything to make Him love me more. And there is nothing I can do that He won’t want to forgive. I stress “want” – because He wants relationship with me.
Is it hard for you to want more with others? How about more with God?
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.