The Intimidation of Need

September 19, 2014

Personal Growth

I had known Mark for months when he said to me, “People seem to avoid me. I’ve never been able to sustain a real relationship, and even in brief social situations people just seem to back away. I don’t understand why."

“You are a very needy man,” I said, “and that is not your fault. All your life you were never loved by anyone you counted on, and that has left you cavernously empty. Your needs are so great that they actually intimidate people. They haven’t the slightest idea how to address the variety and depths of your needs, so they just run away from you emotionally. They run to escape their own discomfort.”

“Imagine,” I continued, “that you’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, and I instruct you to fill it up with the piles of dirt around you. I hand you a shovel and tell you that The Grand Canyon National Park includes 1,218,375 acres and is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and 5000 feet deep. That’s roughly 1000 trillion shovels full of dirt. What would you do with this news?

“Almost certainly the enormity of the task would paralyze you. You wouldn’t even begin to shovel dirt, and that’s how most people feel around you. They don’t know how or where to start. You scare them away.”

“That’s depressing to hear,” Mark said.

“It could be, but I’m not afraid of your neediness. And as we speak I’m picking up a shovel and beginning the process of filling your emptiness. We’ll keep going—you and I—and you’ll discover that somehow your emptiness will fill up from sources you never imagined.”

We are uncomfortable with situations we cannot handle, so we tend to avoid them. We avoid people, for example, whose needs are beyond our ability to fill. But we need not fear. We need only begin to do whatever we can, however insignificant and imperfect that might appear to be.

With some people we may not fill the Grand Canyon, but we are still enriched by our efforts, and we never know what the effects will be in the long term. If we can banish our fears, miracles do occur, and consistently.

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