How much is enough? It depends. It depends on who you are, where you live, what the desire or need is. “Enough” can refer to a minimum necessary to meet a need or desire or to a maximum limit of tolerance. Similar terms include ample, adequate, sufficient, and satisfactory. Is this enough of that?
We all have needs. We all have wants. We all have limits. But, not all have the same needs, wants, and limits. Some people never seem to “have enough;” others feel that they themselves are “never enough.” Very few people ever have “enough time.” And sometimes “enough is enough.” Enough-ness is complicated.
The greatest problem with “enough” is that we rarely reflect on it. Often, we do not articulate clearly the differences between our needs and our wants and live with a generalized sense of not having what is needed to be happy, healthy and whole. As a result, we are always wanting more—more money, more food, more clothes, more options, more friends, more attention, more recognition, more freedom, etc. Somehow, our inclination is to live without limits, so we don’t name those limits. However, if we have no limits, then there never will be enough—no satiation, no satisfaction, no peace. If happiness comes from having the latest and the greatest or the most popular thing or experience, then there always will be something else that comes along that will “better” than what we have. Those things are always changing. It is an endless cycle.
The wisdom of St. Benedict is that he realized that peace is possible only in the tender space between too much and not enough. As a master spiritual teacher, he was firm but always flexible, consistent while allowing for exceptions, and merciful while holding others accountable for their actions. In his Rule, St. Benedict was good at naming what he regarded as being sufficient for food, drink, sleep, work, clothing, prayer, and other needs of community members and/or of the community as a whole. He was practical and reasonable but deeply spiritual. Peace always was to be the goal. Genuine needs ought to be met so that all can live in peace. Greed, possessiveness and overindulgence are disruptive of peace within the individual and within the community.
Inner peace begins with knowing one’s own essential limits and basic needs. It also requires gratitude. Genuine appreciation for the food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, and opportunities that we do have goes a long way to finding the peace and happiness we desire. Most of us do indeed have “enough” or more than enough so as to assist others who may not be as fortunate. Living more simply and with less “stuff” can offer the space necessary to experience greater freedom—inner freedom, freedom from the compulsive desire for more, freedom for the service of God and neighbor.
Social media and capitalist advertising are designed to stir us into mindless and limitless consumption or acquisition of products we neither need nor are beneficial. Limiting our exposure to these things can be a spiritual practice and discipline in and of itself if it leads us to a greater understanding of ourselves and the supreme value we are to the God who made us and in whose image we are made. We have only to say, “Thank you, but that’s enough. I am enough. Enough is enough.”
By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB
photo credit: quotefancy.com