Each morning my husband and I lie in bed and listen to the sound of our three month old puppy whine her guts out. First, she whines because she needs to go out, so we take her out. Then she whines because she’s hungry, so we feed her. After that, she simply whines because she wants our undivided attention, which can be difficult to give her first thing in the morning while preparing for the day. The first day or so, it was kind of cute. Our cute little puppy was whining like a little baby. After a few days, it wasn’t cute anymore. In fact, it began to work on every last nerve in my body. Sound proofing her room was not a realistic option. I feared putting earplugs in would keep us from waking up when she legitimately needed us… and giving her back to the breeder seemed rash, hasty, and completely unnecessary. Thankfully we have learned to differentiate between her “need” whine and her “want” whine.
We all have a whine inside of us. When we are infants, we let it out in the form of ear splitting cries. Our mothers feed us, change us, cuddle us, and do their best to make sure that our needs are met. When we become toddlers, we decide that the world is ours and that we should be privileged to everything in it. We detest the word “no,” but hear it often from those towering adults around us. Once we grow into an adult, we learn to hide the whine when we need to put on a mature face, but we also know when to pull out the whine to get what we want. Some of us are better at hiding the whine than others. Some puppies were given whatever they wanted whenever they whined, so they have entered into adulthood still whining at every opportunity. Other puppies were taught to whine only when they had a legitimate need, and they grew into well-mannered dogs that are a credit to their owners.
While some people may be offended to be compared to a dog, I have discovered that there are significant similarities between human babies and puppy babies and human adults and canine adults. If we do not learn to differential between our needs and our wants, we will be immature, whining adults. How many people do you know who are whining, “I need a new outfit!” “I deserve a new car!” “I shouldn’t have to watch this old TV when all my friends have a large, flat screen!” So many of us have lost touch with the difference between wants and needs. Often, the more we are given, the more we want – feeding a drive of consumption. Interestingly, my puppy wants more treats on the days that I give her more treats – never satisfied with what I’ve already given her. In America, and other prosperous nations, we are bombarded with advertisements which constantly remind us of what we don’t have. We have so much, and most of our needs are met, but we want more. We forget that the internet is not a need (though, my husband may disagree 🙂 ). We don’t always remember that air conditioning is a fairly recent phenomenon and that people lived without it for thousands of years. We often forget that there are people living without shoes to match each outfit.
Maybe you were often given what you wanted growing up… and now that you are an adult, are you are having a difficult time telling yourself, “No”? It is not too late to learn the difference between your wants and your needs. Read about people in third world countries. What do they request? Clean water, food, decent housing free of mosquitoes or other disease carrying insects, education, and a soft bed. Most of us have all of these and we don’t usually stop to think about how blessed we are in America. It is not wrong to buy things for yourself when you have the money and you’ve thought the purchase through, but buying constantly on impulse is a recipe for financial disaster.
This Thanksgiving, if you find yourself typically giving in to your inner puppy, combine some of your money with your girlfriend/boyfriend and purchase a Thanksgiving meal for someone else who really is in need. Ask your church for the name of a family to whom you can deliver the meal – whether the donation is anonymous or not is up to you. The joy of giving to others will far outweigh the joy of giving to yourself. It will also help put needs and wants into proper perspective. Happy Thanksgiving!