I’ve recently read several books and articles that argue that nearly everyone’s deepest motivations can be placed into one of just a few broad categories, such as power or belonging. I also recently read The Gift of Being Yourself, in which the author, Christian psychologist David G. Benner explains the ugly side of that same concept: everyone’s besetting sins can be traced back to a deep need they feel is unfulfilled, and that these deep needs can be organized into one of nine categories. Of course, there’s infinite variety in the manifestations of our motivations, needs, and sins, but at the root, we’re all more similar than we like to think.
The title of my post is something that Loki, in an unusually honest moment, said to Thor in Thor: The Dark World. His point was that taking revenge on those who had killed the brothers’ mother, Frigga, wouldn’t bring him any closure or contentment. In fact, as is abundantly clear in the series of films, nothing can really content Loki, because he wants EVERYTHING: a throne, Odin’s respect, the world, the universe…and even that wouldn’t be enough.
Satisfaction isn’t in my nature, either. I’m realizing that a lot of my surface-level sins and struggles–anger, for instance–arise from a deep desire to have it all. Here are some examples:
I envy other people their talents. Because I don’t want to just be good at writing and teaching. I want to be good at everything.
I sometimes eat more than I should. Because I want to try one of everything! And maybe more than one.
I crowd my schedule and wear myself out by saying “yes” not only to too many work obligations and volunteer commitments, but also to too many fun activities. Because FOMO.
The tricky thing about this lack of satisfaction is that most Western societies today act like it’s a good thing. Contentment gets associated with mediocrity, laziness, and an unnatural lack of desire. Lack of contentment, on the other hand, is repackaged as ambition (which is supposed to be good unless you’re talking about Slytherin House or Macbeth), willingness to change and improve, and an insatiable thirst for learning, excellence, awesome experiences . . . you name it.
This is one of the many reasons why the Christian message is so counter-cultural. Today we use the term “sheep” to refer to lazy conformists who can’t think for themselves, but David in Psalm 23 and Jesus in the gospels use sheep as a symbol for people who admit their dependence on God and who are humble enough to receive, as a gift, something as simple as their daily food. Content, satisfied people don’t worry about missing out, because they trust that what their shepherd has given them is exactly what they need.
I get where Loki is coming from because I have the same desires. I mean, I don’t want to rule the Nine Realms, but I want to be the ruler of my own life. But I’ve learned, over and over again, that I’m a really bad ruler. I’m a sheep. And I think I’d be a lot happier if I just admitted that.