Sunday’s Wisdom #404: The Virtue of Wanting More

“You humans think greed is just for money and power, but everyone wants something they don’t have.”
– Greed, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Episode 46, “Looming Shadows”

When Greed says this, he is speaking to the titular character, the Fullmetal Alchemist himself, Edward Elric. Ed has learned to distrust the urge to want too much, as it has cost him and his brother quite heavily, but Greed argues that people want it all. Exactly what they want may differ, as some want money, some want women, some want status, some want to protect those closest to them, some want to save the world, and some want a peaceful life and a dozen fat children with the person they love. But everyone wants something. Everyone has desires. This is part of what makes people… people.

I had an experience recently which taught me something about sin. The classic sins of pride, envy, lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, and wrath are all based on basic human urges, things we all know and experience. Hunger, admiration, the need for self-esteem, the desire for justice, the drive to breed and reproduce, the need for rest, and the hope for profit, among other things. To simply have these urges is not necessarily a bad thing. What goes wrong is when we let those desires control us, overwhelm us, turn us too selfish, and especially when we hurt others just so we can satisfy ourselves for a moment. But, on the other hand, things also go wrong when we strive too hard against these basic human desires.

It is possible to be too greedy or too generous, too prideful or too self-deprecating, too wrathful or too forgiving. In short, to be too desiring or too complacent.

To be too ascetic in our pursuit of virtue is no better than any other sin.

Balance! Balance is the key here, as it is so often!

To find joy in what we have is good, but it is not a bad thing to want more. And it is not a bad thing to want more, but we must also learn to take joy in what we already have.

To be grateful and generous with what we have does not mean we cannot dream of more, and work to make those dreams a reality. And to be wealthy and accomplished, always working in pursuit of profit, does not mean a man cannot be charitable and help others with his time and resources.

All the wonders mankind has built have been by people who dreamed and desired of more, wanted and worked for more, for things they did not have before.

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