Needy. That Dreaded Word
Several months ago, I wrote this post for my friend Julie Elder’s blog, The Lies in Our Bones. She asked me to write it after several talks about our mutual fear of being seen as needy. Since then, the topic has come up again and again as I work through some leftover stuff. As I reread this post I immediately wanted to post it here with some added thoughts. So here it is:
After my husband left, I feared the labels I would earn almost as intensely as I feared court orders.
I dreaded the first time I would have to check Divorced on a form. (I’m still trying to figure out why my marital status matters when getting my teeth cleaned.)
I resented that low-income applied to me and my kids.
I absolutely did not want to become an emotionally needy friend.
You read that correctly—at the lowest point of my life being seen as needy felt like the worst possible fate.
Even worse than too sensitive.
There was just something about that word. Needy.
I’d never heard it applied to me or anyone else in a positive way.
“One thing I love about you is that you’re so needy and fun to be around.”
It was more like, “I know you’re in a needy place right now, but I don’t have time to talk.”
“Stephanie seems like a nice lady, but she strikes me a rather … needy.”
I tried very hard to ration my public displays of emotion, and cried in front of carefully-selected friends on a rotating basis so none of them would feel burdened by my load of grief.
When people at church said, “You seem to be doing so well,” relief flooded my soul. If they raved that I radiated with joy and reflected God’s grace that was even better. Radiating joy and grace meant I wasn’t becoming needy.
Then something horrifying happened. I moved, came out of survival mode, joined a new church, and started (cue slasher film scream) feeling. I remember the day it hit me that I was in danger of being described as, “in a very needy place right now.” Some new friends and I were talking after Bible study and I no longer had it in me to radiate joy. I wanted to tug on one of those kind women’s sleeves and whimper, “I don’t think I’m doing so well anymore.” But I kept smiling and talking because I didn’t want to be that girl. The one who got weepy when it wasn’t even prayer request time. The one who took people up on “Call me if you ever need to talk.” I would wrap my arms around a hurting woman like me in an instant, but I wasn’t ready to be her. Not when I was still trying to find my place in a new church. I was totally blowing my reputation as a reflection of God’s grace!
God did a beautiful thing a couple of weeks later. He sent a friend who gave me permission to be needy but refused to let me label myself as if expressing sadness was a sign of weakness.
I will never stop being grateful for friends like her, because here’s the thing: I was needy. Extremely. My husband had left me and our two sons. I’d lost my marriage, my home, my credit, and my sense of value. When we moved I’d left my church home behind, ministries, 14 ½ years’ worth of relationships, every friend that I felt safe to fall apart with, and my oldest son who decided to stay back where his job was. I was needy for love. Needy for hugs. Needy for friends. Needy to belong. Needy to share my story. Needy to be known for something other than my story.
Pain puts us in a very needy place.
When a friend is hurting because of a loss, I expect that she will be a little bit needy for a while. I hope that she will know she can come to me for the things I ached for when my life had been reduced to what I could fit into my parents’ garage, one bedroom, and a dinky storage unit that I would eventually have to clear out. If I say, “Call me anytime,” I mean it and hope she will take me up on it.
One of most refreshing things I’ve heard in the past year is, “We’re all a little needy.”
I also like, “We’re all messed up.”
I wish I’d known this sooner.
Obviously, I don’t want to stay needy. I don’t want to become clingy. I don’t want to run to people so quickly and often that I wear them out and miss out of the comfort of Jesus’ presence. I don’t want to be so focused on sad circumstances that I can’t see other people, live in the present, or enjoy life. But why suffer in silence when we don’t have to?
“But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” Psalm 40:17
No matter which version of the Bible I read, I can’t find a verse where God tells David to suck it up and be a better reflection of His grace and joy.
He created us to need Him and to need one another.
So, at least for today, I’m letting go of my fear of being seen as needy. Because we all are whether we admit it or not.
“If I’d joined choir earlier, I wouldn’t have contributed anything expect teary prayer request and my special talent for being the neediest soprano.”
I can now admit that I’ve attempted all of the above because some of my deepest wounds were inflicted when I was at my most vulnerable (why is that so often the case?). Acknowledging that is becoming its own form of wound care.
I have also experienced profound satisfaction in hearing, “I have never seen you as needy! Who told you that? Did they even know you?” (Aw, the convenience of making a whole new group of friends who didn’t know me when…)
My prayer now is that my response to someone else’s pain will not be part of her response to, “Why did you come to counseling today?”
Few things would make me sadder or sorrier.
I stand firm in my conviction that there is a time and place to express honest emotional need, and that we must be tender with those who do, even if they have a reputation for “It’s always something with her,” because that comes from somewhere, and only God truly knows if she ran to Him first.
I have decided that needy is a word we should be extremely careful with.
Because we all have needs.
Some are just brave enough to admit it.I have decided that needy is a word we should be extremely careful with. Click To Tweet
What comes to mind when you hear the word needy? When have you been afraid to let your need show? When has God shown you that He saw your need, and met it?
If you haven’t visited Julie’s blog yet, I highly recommend it.
NOTE: Just to be clear, I wasn’t feeling sad or needy while writing this.