Notebook > Lifestyle
Krieg Barrie

Completely impossible

Lifestyle | When complete satisfaction is expected, disappointment is inevitable

Issue: "The Battle for Africa," Feb. 8, 2014

On these Lifestyle pages we report on not only trends but also oozes, subtle long-term changes that affect how we all think and live. One American ooze is the insistence on complete satisfaction: Since that does not meld well with life in a fallen world, it forces us into exaggerations and sometimes lies. 

Example: Recently, as I completed paperwork to buy a Ford Fiesta, the salesman handed me a sheet of paper with questions about sales performance and only two answers possible: “completely satisfied” and “unsatisfied.” Nothing in between. He said that unless I answered “completely satisfied” to every question he wouldn’t sell me the vehicle. 

My jaw dropped, and I asked the sales manager to help me pick it up. The manager affirmed the salesman’s plea, explaining that, if individuals and dealers didn’t get a perfect score, they’d be out thousands of dollars and lose their chance to win company awards. He agreed that performance ratings thus derived would be inaccurate, but Americans demanded complete satisfaction.

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Is that true? If so, it’s certainly a hard standard to live by. Recall, as Valentine’s Day approaches, that traditional marriage vows are for life, whether richer or poorer, in sickness or in health—even when only partially satisfied. Some new marriage vows suggest the option to leave unless completely satisfied at all times.

I’m not yearning for good old days of brutal honesty. My first car-buying experience came in 1976: Poor and about to get married, I visited a Ford dealership and asked to see the least expensive new car on the lot. The salesman announced on the loudspeaker: “Who has a cheap car for this customer?” I slinked out and ended up buying a Chevette with no back seat or radio. It did have windshield wipers.

A middle course of aiming for satisfaction (but not demanding the “complete” kind) would be best. Husbands and wives should serve each other, and it’s good for Avis to try harder. When buying Ford trucks in Texas during the 1990s, I filled out a questionnaire without pressure to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. 

Doesn’t it seem that when a pitcher thinks about how he looks as he’s throwing the ball, and demands applause after each curve ball, he’s on the way to the minors? Could one of the reasons for problems from divorce to politics to decreased church attendance be that we demand complete satisfaction? 

A.A. Milne’s poem “King John’s Christmas” is good in this regard. Jack wants crackers, chocolates, and a pocketknife that really cuts, but he’s satisfied when a big, red rubber ball hurtles through the window. If we expect to be completely satisfied by every material thing we receive and every person we meet, disappointment is inevitable. And if we could be completely satisfied with anything this world has to offer, wouldn’t we lose our eagerness to step heavenward?

Name game

Jamie Grill/Getty Images

The most popular baby names in 2013 were—well, that depends on who’s counting. The website tabulated 20 million page views and declared Imogen the year’s most popular girl name and Asher the most popular boy’s, while’s compiling declared Sophia and Jackson (with variations) to be No. 1.

Since many of its readers are pregnant and haven’t yet chosen names, says its list predicts future trends. Its most popular 2013 names: Charlotte and Liam. The website, which invites users to vote (“social baby naming”), predicts that “den” names (Aiden, Jayden) will be “out” and biblical names like Caleb and Shiloh “in,” along with mythology-influenced names like Thor. (Confession: I once had a dog named Thor.)

The definitive answer on which baby names were most given in 2013 is to wait for a Social Security Administration announcement later this year. The websites and both rely on those numbers. In 2012, Jacob and Sophia were tops. —Susan Olasky

Abortion regrets

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Newscom

Some women who headed to Jan. 22’s massive March for Life on the National Mall in Washington carried “I Regret My Abortion” signs. It’s not certain when the first such sign appeared, but it may have been one carried by Anglicans for Life director Georgette Forney in 2002—and she carried it to a pro-abortion rally in Washington, D.C., organized by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Planned Parenthood. 

Forney recalls, “Every woman at the rally but one treated me with disdain. I came away realizing that they didn’t care about women or their health. It was all about power, and the money they can make from the abortion industry. And make no mistake, it is an industry, earning nearly $1 billion each year.” She now encourages church members to discern where they may be called to help: “It could be as simple as a prayer for a teenage girl you see passing by on the street, or dropping off a pack of diapers at a pregnancy resource center.”

Forney had an abortion when she was 16, so she is sometimes contacted by abortion-minded women curious about a pro-life person who had aborted. One example: An unemployed young woman impregnated by an unstable man called and told her, “I have to have an abortion.” Forney said, “No, you don’t,” and helped the young woman get a job and material help such as a crib. The young woman kept her baby, and her healthy little girl turned 4 this past March. That mother was not, on Jan. 22, carrying a sign, “I regret my child.” —Jim Edsall

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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