Why the Neediest Are Also the Greediest

A reader asked:

Why is it that the people who are the most UNAPPRECIATIVE are also the ones who want EVERYTHING?

Great question!

The answer is: The neediest are the greediest.

Actually, “greed” is not always bad. Greed can mean a zest for life, an ambition to create or produce. Defined that way, greed makes the world go around. Modern-day Puritans love to condemn greed, but without this kind of ambition we’d be living in a cultural and material swamp — or worse.

The more conventional definition of greed is “gimmee, gimmee, gimmee.” This is what I call blind wanting. Greedy people by this definition want the benefits of someone else’s hard work, thought or achievement. They’re not willing to exercise the self-responsibility to give themselves what they want. They’re unwilling to go without, even for temporary periods while they save the money or find whatever they’re seeking. Think of a spoiled teenager who doesn’t value the concept of money. “Gimmee what I want” is the overriding mentality, without reference to, “How can I legitimately get what I want?” Of course, not all teenagers are like this, and some adults ARE.

Anyone who’s greedy in this irresponsible sense will also, by definition, be needy. Why? Because self-responsibility is a necessary part of life. It’s a necessary component of self-esteem, self-respect and even survival. If you lack self-responsibility, then you will lack independence. This will make you needy.

Whenever you give or provide for someone who’s greedy in this unappreciative sense, you’re conveying a message to them. That message is, “I know you cannot provide for yourself what you want. But you’re entitled to what you want, and I’m going to give it to you.” THAT’S why you don’t get any appreciation from them. They feel they’re entitled to it and you reinforce this false belief by giving it to them.

You’re also insinuating, “You can’t do this. I’ll do it for you.” Every time you help a demanding, entitled person, you’re reinforcing the very thing you bemoan later on.

The provider of nicities or help, in this context, usually thinks, “I’ll just do it this once. But hopefully he’ll get the message and start doing this for himself.” What’s intended as a “hand up” ends up being interpreted as a “hand out.” People who are irresponsibly greedy don’t get it. They feel just as entitled to what you’re giving them as you would feel entitled to, for example, getting real gasoline (and not sugar water) at the gas pump, or getting a computer that works when you shell out $500 for one, or a car that functions perfectly when you buy a brand new one.

A lot of people who become frustrated with the greedy entitlement of others simply cannot understand the entitlement mentality. They’re not as insecure as the person they’re helping, and they possess too much pride to be that way themselves. “I would never respect myself if I kept demanding that others provide for me.” OK, then why are you showing such little respect for the person whose greed you’re reinforcing? That’s the inconsistency. If you really care about this person you’re helping, you shouldn’t be fostering their insecurity and arrogance. If you don’t care about this person whose every demand you’re meeting, then you should be done with them.

The dilemma is that the needy/greedy person is usually a family member. Most often it’s a grown child, able-bodied and capable of self-responsibility, but not yet able (or even willing) to provide everything needed for him- or herself. The dilemma to the giver is, “I love this person, so how can I say NO?” And the needy/greedy person is great at fostering and encouraging guilt and other irrational, untrue beliefs.

The irony here is that the “victim” of the needy/greedy person has all the power. The needy and greedy people eating away at your morale (and your bank account) are doing so 100 percent with your consent. They would not manipulate you with guilt or other mind games if they were confident and strong enough to take care of their own needs — or even go without. They possess no pride or shame, because they enjoy no self-respect. By any definition, this is weakness. You can stop fostering this weakness at any time.

I don’t see how it’s possible to love someone who’s truly needy and greedy. I can understand having attachment for such a person — if it’s your grown child, or someone else with whom you have genuinely valuable history. But if they’re playing these mind games, and acting as if it’s your job to give them what they should provide for themselves — this isn’t love. Their demands for you to sacrifice or cut into your own hard-earned money, time or energy are not loving demands. If you think you love such a person, you really only love who they once were, or who they might be — or who you think they ought to be. This doesn’t mean you love who they actually are.

Nearly everyone feels like they’re supposed to believe that “helping” is always good, and you’re always obliged to help another no matter what. If somebody FEELS they need something, then you’re obliged. You might pat yourself on the back and say, “That makes me a good person” to think this way, and to honor this idea in practice. But you have to remember that the world is full of people ready to exploit it. When you send a message to someone that they’re entitled to your help, when they’re not, you’re contributing to the erosion of their own self-confidence and self-respect. Don’t do that! Not to them, and not to yourself.