“Don’t be needy!” Enter any counseling center or watch any dating reality show, and at one point you’ll likely hear someone offering these sage words. It has become a readily offered panacea for those experiencing heartbreak or grief or longing. Certainly, there is some truth there. As we mature enough to care for ourselves, we need not expect another person to carry the burden of making us feel worthy, secure or happy. But what’s the difference between neediness and genuine need? When is it okay to ask others for help?
Just last night, a friend called me up. She felt excited about a certain guy she had started dating, but he hadn’t contacted her all day. She wanted to hear from him, and she wanted to reach out to him, but she’d been told by others, “Just be cool.” So she said nothing, because she didn’t want to come across as “needy.” I thought about that for a while. Yes, it’s great to rely on ourselves, and find all the love we need inside of ourselves, but we’re not robots. We can’t just turn off our desires for love and companionship. We genuinely do need each other.
I remember a time when I was lying in bed in a cold sweat, unable to stand up or walk down the hall to get myself water. Just when I had begun to panic, wondering if I could make it through the night alone, my younger sister came over with my favorite Vietnamese noodle soup. Deep into the night she stayed with me, waiting until my fever broke, putting cool cloths on my head, and rubbing my feet. In the morning, my fever broke, and I could easily take care of myself again. But just remembering her presence at that time of need still brings up feelings of love and gratitude.
Loving actions do that. They are relationship solidifiers - the glue. Because we need each other, we grow together. Because my babies needed me, I bonded deeply with them. Because I needed the help and knowledge of my best teachers, I appreciated and respected them. Because my father had hip surgery, my siblings and I all took time away from our jobs and computers to visit him connect with each other. All this giving and receiving and bonding is beautiful, and many would even say it’s what life is all about.
As conscious beings, there are so many opportunities for us to help each other when needs arise. There’s a profound story in the Bible (Matthew 25:35-45) where Jesus reminds his followers how to love others. He speaks of those who are hungry, thirsty, and sick, who don’t have enough clothes, or a place to call home, or are in prison. When we see these people and help them and care for them, he says, we are embodying the whole essence of the Bible: to love God and love each other.
While those raw physical needs still exist today, they remind us of needs that go even deeper. We all have experienced times of emotional fullness and emotional starvation. We go through times when we’re hungry for love and someone gives us the best hug. Or we’re thirsty for knowledge, and someone offers a wonderful bit of wisdom. Or we feel exposed and vulnerable, and someone gives us just the right words that bring comfort and protection.
Remembering times we’ve been helped during a time of need is great incentive to pay it forward. When has someone met your need with a good deed? Maybe they gave some advice that you’ve never forgotten. Maybe they helped you make a tough decision. Maybe they spent their whole day helping you move boxes to a new home. Maybe they forgave you. Maybe they really listened to you, and helped you feel understood. Maybe they allowed you to be yourself when you felt unworthy. Maybe they gave you a hug or a smile when you really needed it. How can you pass that gift on, and help someone else feel they way you felt?
If you’re interested in finding more ways to practice kindness, we welcome you to join us in our newest Journey Program, What Would Love Do? It’s a seven-week curriculum that you can do either alone or with a small group. The workbook offers ideas, inspiration and strategies for meeting needs with helpful deeds.
Sasha Silverman is a Content Developer at General Church Outreach. For more information, visit www.newchurchjourney.org.