Lately, I find myself being consistently annoyed by the mis-use of two very popular words: “want” and “need”. I am not annoyed because the words are being used too often, because wants and needs are crucial. I am annoyed because they are used either improperly or interchangeably.

The needs of a human being are very few, indeed. It is important to have peanut butter and toilet paper, or reasonable facsimiles thereof. One at both ends of the food need. It’s funny how peanut butter depreciates from one end to the other, isn’t it? There are a few other needs, of course, like air, water and shelter from the elements. Society, as a part of it’s price for regimentation, provides mechanisms for these basics.

The human animal has other needs that are more difficult to deal with. We need love to provide the warmth in that place that becomes very cold when love is missing or is withdrawn. We need to feel happy, a part of which should be satisfied by love, but will need more to be complete. And we need to be free, because the human animal, like all animals, fears being caged.

For lions and tigers and giraffes, the cages are supplied by us. Not surprisingly, we also provide the cages we lock ourselves up in. If we are willing to pay the price of freedom, we can be free to a great extent. Most people choose instead to lock themselves up. Very often, the lock is the difference between perceived and actual need and want.

It can be difficult to decide what, of all the things available in our society, we want and need. It is even more difficult to decide whether those things are wants or needs. I have a rule of thumb that I use here. If it is not food, air, water, shelter, love, happiness or freedom, then it is a want.

Needs have the priority. If there are ten people in a system, it is imperative that the needs of each is satisfied before the wants of any are even considered. If you are one of those ten people, your first job is to satisfy your own needs, and to do so without jeopardizing the needs of the others. When your needs are satisfied, and if the situation calls for it, you should help to satisfy the needs of the others. If two or three of the ten begin to consider wants before all of the needs are taken care of, then they do not deserve consideration as group members. Even if you are one of the two or three.

Only after the needs are satisfied is it appropriate to address the wants. Actually, if you do a good job of satisfying your needs, you will find that you have very few wants left. In fact, when a person exhibits a large number of wants, it is very often because their needs are not being satisfied. 


Kermit []