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I don’t want to be needy!

"Attention!"  Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by wajakemek | rashdanothman. Sourced from FlickrA friend recently said to me “I don’t want to be needy!” We’d been chatting, and she had shared some challenges. I assured her she wasn’t being needy.

A few hours later, I was chatting with another friend, and I expressed some of my challenges to him. “Sorry!” I said, “I don’t mean to be needy!” He laughed, and said I wasn’t, and our conversation continued.

Later, I got to thinking and reflecting on neediness: mine, and others’. What does it mean to be needy? In basic definition, it refers to someone who is lacking the necessities of life; someone in the throes of poverty. In a more casual sense, what we had used in our vernacular that day, needy meant someone requiring or demanding attention at all costs. (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps to define categories of need, and details how without the most basic needs being met, one cannot even consider the next level of needs. For example, physiological needs come before safety, which come before intimacy, etc.)

In both conversations that day, we were not dealing with issues of poverty nor of ‘neediness.’ We weren’t being needy; rather we were expressing an identified desire. We wanted a friend to listen to our challenges, and to truly hear them, and offer support. Not solutions, not platitudes, but a friendly, honest, listening ear. (Which, in both cases, was given.)

My reflections then took me further. Why did we both assume that articulating a legitimate need would suggest an innate neediness? It’s not just from those two conversations, either. Many of us tend to associate someone who identifies a need as being needy (with a negative connotation). That neediness is a drain, it’s tiring, it’s excessive.

As a result, I think as a whole we tend to be less inclined to share our legitimate needs. We don’t want to bother others, or be seen as emotionally needy. By doing this, we keep our stresses and hurts and confusions to ourselves, trying to brave through them as though nothing is wrong. Despite the fact that we logically know that we should reach out, we hesitate. This can result in poor judgement, bad decisions, depression, etc. It’s not just keeping us caught in the problem, it actually makes things worse for us. This in turn make one’s peers perceive someone as being needy, high-maintenance, tiring to be around, sometimes affixing unhealthy (and unhelpful) labels of the ‘drama queen’ or ‘attention seeker’.

So the times that we do open up with an emotional need, it can be healthy. It acknowledges that we have been self-reflective enough to identify that need; it affirms that we trust the other person sufficiently to share that need without fear of mockery or judgement. It suggests that we are seeking advice or help with a situation, stepping toward resolution or reconciliation. It indicates that we want to deal with the issue before it overwhelms us, addressing the root causes before it becomes a huge thing that could make us become overbearing, unhealthy, emotionally needy; presenting to our peers as the drama queen, attention-seeker,

These are positive steps. They are steps of living in community, which is what we’re called to do. We’re challenged to open up about our selves as much as we would want others to open up to us. We’re challenged to have healthy and sustaining relationships where we can seek support when we need it, and offer support when someone else needs it. We’re challenged to work together towards maintaining these healthy relationships.

We’re challenged to realize that sometimes when we express a need, we’re not being needy – we’re being active participants in a healthy community.

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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6 Responses to I don’t want to be needy!

  1. The problem, I think, is that our society frowns upon negativity and often confuses neediness with negativity. People who are excessively needy often stretch our mental resources, and we are not often prepared to deal with them and their needy natures.

  2. Good thought for all of us

  3. Good thoughts all. It’s not a shame to be in need, but that’s often how it feels. It’s a need (so therefore there has been a crucial lack of some sort) and not just an irrational want. It often takes a person in need a great deal of courage to ask, so there must be a feeling of urgency and even desperation. So then when that request is denied, ignored or shoved aside, it’s a devastating double whammy for that person, who may very well never open up again.

  4. I’m a single female 62 year-old priest in Powell River, BC, and here’s my longtime need that I’m daring to put forward with considerable trepidation: I need the possibility of exploring some other partner in life besides my dear dog Pepper. Is this a shameful, sinful need?? If not, can The Community be a place where there might be a sort of ‘registry’ of single clergy wanting to meet other single clergy?

    • Wow! You know, this is the first time we’ve had such a request. The need for human companionship is neither shameful or sinful. And while I think we need to accept the fact that connecting online is often the first step to deep, long-term, offline relationships (see current research), I’m afraid that at this time, this site is simply not equipped to manage a database of singles, whether clergy or lay, and all the safeties that would go with it.

      A few thoughts, though: first, a quick search reveals a number of user-maintained single clergy groups on Facebook–one appears to have been started up by the ECLA. And second, while this site is currently outside the scope of what you’re suggesting, @adelatorchia, members are free to send private messages to one another. There are plenty of personalities here, and I know some users have made personal connections in The Community. It’s not difficult: just click on a username under a comment like this one, and you’ll be greeted with a number of options like ‘Add Friend,’ and ‘Private Message’.

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