I’ve noticed something. It happens with me sometimes, and I’ve definitely seen it in a lot of my friends/associates. There is a bad habit that we have developed and I have my own theory behind why:
We say, “I don’t have [something],” instead of being honest with ourselves and saying, “I don’t have [something] because I can’t get what I want.”
There is a difference.
After a recent conversation with an associate of mine, I was asked what type of phone I had and I immediately thought of this issue. My reply was, “The one that calls people” (I used to say that I had a pre-paid phone, but everyone has an opinion on that subject, so I’ve changed my answer). I don’t need a device that takes pictures; I already own a digital camera (excess, I just “need” a camera). I don’t need a device that accesses the Internet; I already own a laptop with wireless capabilities (excess, I own a Mac). I don’t need a device that makes ringtones; I keep my phone on vibrate. I don’t need a device that also happens to play music; I already own an mp3 player (excess, I own an iTouch).
It would be nice to have a phone that did all of those things, but it is not necessary.
I thought I would start off with my own experience in “not having” something. I was angered when I was forced to get a pre-paid phone because I could no longer afford a contract with a cell phone provider. I mean, who has pre-paid anything?
That’s so poor.
Now, it’s been close to two years since I have the phone and it’s done its job. I have nothing to complain about really.
But back to my friends. I notice that we (my generation) have a habit of saying, “I don’t have something” or that “I can’t get something” when what we truly mean to say is that “I don’t have the ability to get the something that I want.” I think we stop short of speaking the truth because it does two things:
(1) It reveals just how selfish we are as a person. Selfish! Other words that mean the same thing are self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, egotistical, and egocentric.
(2) It reveals how ungrateful we are as a person. Ungrateful! Other meanings include unappreciative, showing no gratitude, or unthankful.
These are two very dangerous things, especially if you have a belief in a Higher Power. It’s also very dangerous because it shows our true character, or rather that we lack character. And while it mirrors the selfish and materialistic society that we live in, it shows that we are unwilling to live a simple life as we are all called to do.
What I really want to ask my friends when they say things like this is, “When did it become more important to have a brand/model/make than to have that bare necessity taken care of” (Or is it really more important to have no phone versus that hot new phone? What happens if you are in a car accident and they reach for something to possibly notify your relatives?* You have nothing. You are unnamed and cannot be claimed)?
After all, these are things that we deem important, whether it be a phone, a computer, a car, clothing, etc.
But this has all led me to think about my childhood (and this is where the belief in a Higher Power ties in) and when I would shop someplace with my Mom. We were poor. We couldn’t afford much. Most times, it was just the bare necessities, but my Mom made things work. One year, I was going to the 6th grade and I wanted a NEW uniform. My Mom would purchase our uniforms slightly larger and then hem them to make them fit and since I’d always been short/small for my age and we’d always been strapped for cash, this worked for us. Well, I didn’t have a growth spurt of any kind from 4th to 6th grade, and I knew that this year my uniform jumper (which I’d had since the 4th grade) was just going to be turned into a skirt.
But being ungrateful, I knowingly asked my Mom if I could get a new skirt. Every other girl, I reasoned, would have a new skirt for school. My Mom explained to me that I already knew the rule and that since my uniform still fit, I would not be getting a new skirt. Besides, my brothers NEEDED new uniform pants (they always grew like weeds) and those were expensive as well. So, I sulked. I mean, I sulked! And being the parent that she is (she doesn’t like seeing her children upset), she caved and got me a new skirt.
I was excited. I had already made plans for the ribbons that I would wear in my hair on that first day, whether I’d wear the white socks with the ruffles or just the plain white socks, and how I would make sure my shoes were absolutely gorgeous (no scuffs whatsoever). I did this all before we left that store.
However, upon leaving the store, I quickly realized that I had no new school shoes. My Mom told me that she would get me a new pair when she got her next paycheck (that was after school started) and that I would have to wait and simply wear my shoes from the year before. Now, the shoes were in great condition (seriously, my Mom made us take our uniforms off immediately when we got home…so that made things last), but they were too small. I NEEDED new shoes. It didn’t take long to realize that I would have to make a “big girl” decision. I told her (5 minutes after leaving the store and while waiting on the public bus) that I would be okay with wearing my “mended” halter uniform because I needed the shoes and requested that we return the skirt.
She gladly obliged my request and as a treat, we stopped at Baskin Robbins for ice cream (granted we had to walk the rest of the way home…but who cares, we had ice cream!).
I said all of that to say this, if you are a believer in any Higher Power, then in that relationship, you probably look to your deity as a parent. Do you understand how a selfish, ungrateful, and materialistic child hurts them? That’s not what they teach you. We are not taught to only want the best or the most expensive at the cost of anything. No, we are taught to meet our basic needs and to live a life that is humble. We are taught that if we do these things, then all of our needs will be met and we would be able to enjoy the treats (extra goodies that are often surprises) that they have in store for us.
But we don’t do these things. We live a life of excess. In church and in the streets, we flash our cell phones, our vehicles, and other personal possessions and we say that this is a testament of the goodness of our God. Then we go home and we’re wondering why we can’t pay all of our bills on time. We send our kids off to school for their first day in new “kicks” (do people say that still?), and then we’re having candlelit family dinners because the lights suddenly got cut off. Or we have the newest (insert lavish vehicle here), but we’re in church wanting to be put on the prayer list because of potential repossession of the house we live in.
We are selfish. We think of our outer image more than we think of our inner spirit. We are ungrateful. We want everything better than our neighbor and we’ll do anything to get it.
So reader, pause.
Then think, “When was the last time you let your selfish character show without realizing it?” Then, you should think about the way that you can change this. Now is not the time to live a lavish lifestyle. Now is the time to live the life that you are called to live. The one that is written for you. The one that shows humility. This is especially important if you believe in a Higher Power. If not, then just do it because you’ll feel better knowing your bills are paid and you don’t have to want for anything.
Besides, you can’t take it (any material thing of this world) with you anyway.
I wrote this note because many of my friends are often my sources of support when I feel I need help with a situation. However, there have been many times that I’ve talked to them and some remark was made about how they couldn’t “live” a certain way or have a certain thing. These things are phones with contracts, cars, vacations that they should postpone but choose not to because they “deserve” it, or other things. What they don’t understand is that “words are some of the strongest tools we possess” (thank you L. G. Hawkins III for that quote). When they say these things to me, those tools then become devices that hurt. And they cut deep. My life may not be good enough to you but it’s the one that I have and if your asking for my advice, you don’t get how you’ve just insulted my hard work AND how far I have come.
Thanks but no thanks.
In the future, I ask that you keep all comments such as these to yourself.
*Make sure you I.C.E. the people in your Contacts/Phone book that are important to you or that you would have officials notify in an Emergency. I.C.E. means In Case of Emergency and they will know what to do.