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21 The drumbeat of being needed

The good drumbeat

The past several posts have described a pattern: surround yourself with beauty, become aware of the beauty, and share the beauty with others. This is a people-oriented progression when it refers to the beauty in people. The practice brings us closer together.

The other drumbeat

There has been a separate crescendo on the need to be needed, showing it as a life-giving altruism that also brings us together. What can be more generous than meeting the needs of others?

Underneath the generosity lurks a selfish desire, a variant of greed. For example, a father chooses his son’s spouse and career. The father’s excuse? “He needs me to steer him away from disasters.” We call the father a control freak and easily detect the fraudulent appearance of being needed.

Some abuses are more subtle than that example. Politicians and success coaches alike dangle rewards in front of their audiences. They list the usual appeals to greed such as money, leisure time, power—going on and on. For completeness, these selling enthusiasts throw in “and you will have more money to give away to good social causes.” Bang! They hit the greed button again. They appeal to the need to be needed by offering to make somebody more powerful. Think of the devastating effect when that wealthy somebody threatens to pull the plug. What a sense of control!

Let’s take this to the extreme by looking at common jealousy. If I am upset that you have more wealth than I do, consider that my suffering has nothing to do with wealth. Perhaps my disappointment is that you don’t need me. My greed is not satisfied because I have no power over you.

It is as necessary to be needed as it is to have food. However, there is an upper limit to satisfying either need. Excess psychological nutrition (overdosing the “needed” bit, becoming overly important) is also toxic.

In the next discussion, let’s continue refining the meaning and nature of altruism.

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Being For Others Blog copyright © 2020 Kent Busse
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