The Need to be Needed

The little boy sat on the bench eagerly waiting his turn to bat in a crucial game. One inning after another played out. He never played. His coach had decided he didn’t have the skill to risk a sure out in such an important game. The boy went home confused and dejected. He didn’t understand. How could he?  

The need to be needed never leaves us from childhood to adulthood. We want to be a part of the team. We want to be chosen. To feel special. When we sit on the bench while everyone else plays, we feel something is wrong with us and try to compensate often in bad, unhealthy ways wanting significant others like the coach to notice and need us. All of us want to be and want to feel included rather than having that lonely feeling when we are excluded. 

So, maybe if I try harder, I will be noticed and needed. I will make myself indispensable. So, we try the path of perfectionism. But, trying to take on the role of hero doesn’t work either. The problem doesn’t go away. It gets worse. Heroes beat themselves up when they make a mistake. They feel not only that they’ve let others down, but they have a sinking feeling that they’ve let themselves down too. Perfection is never good enough because we can’t be perfect 24/7. 

Take a wife for example who’s husband bombards her with criticism. “You’ve put on weight. Why don’t you fix something good for dinner for a change?  This house is a wreck.  You need to spice up our sex life.”  So the poor wife tries harder. She tries to be perfect. But, it’s not she who needs changing. It’s him. But, her needed to be needed is so dominating, that she can’t see reality. All she see are her faults readily pointed out by her controlling, critical husband which is the same thing her dad did to her. She always feels inadequate and never good enough to please the significant people in her life. 

For teens and especially girls whose need to be needed is unmet, they will do anything sexually to feel needed. Boys know that and take advantage of them. It’s as if such a girl has a sign on her back, “You need me. You want sex. I’m available.”  But once she is used, she is discarded like today’s garbage, and the cruel cycle continues. 

Another unhealthy response to the need to be needed is to rescue people who haven’t asked for or want help. But, the rescuer thinks they do. What really is at work here is an effort to create another in the image of the rescuer. I will fix him/her the way he/she needs to be, and then I will have a happy marriage. Or,  I will fix that depressed person, and then he will be happy. I will fix her drinking problem, and then she will attain sobriety. 

But, the real reason for trying to fix and rescue people is not concern for the other person. It is because of the overwhelming need to be needed. A ‘fixer’ feels needed when attempting to fix another person they perceive needs fixing and therefore justified in trying to save the world. 

The truth is that that only a person can fix him/herself. No one else can. And, only God can truly fix someone who is broken. He doesn’t share that power with us mere mortals. We can be there to listen, comfort, and understand, but we can’t fix anyone. 

Moreover, it’s the ‘fixer’ who needs fixing. The ‘fixer’ invades the space of others and tries through various means to fix them. What they are really doing is manipulating that person to get another person to do what they want them to do. And, that comes from the unmet need to feel invaluably needed by someone. 

No wonder others shy away from the fixer. Ostrcized and lonely, the ‘fixer’ withdraws into a dark cave giving up having meaningful, healthy  relationships. “I’ll never be hurt again!”  

There has to come the realization that we are really powerless to change others and even ourselves. This revelation must be accompanied by the realization that only through Christ can we be full, complete, and whole. “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). 

God created us with the need to be needed. He is relational and created us to be relational. He wants a love relationship with us. And, wants us to be in loving, healthy relationships with others. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). 

Jesus affirms and accepts each of us. It’s like turning on the light when we not only know that but also internalize it this truth. He meets our need to be needed and then some!  Because of His great love demonstrated on the cross (Romans 5:8), we have our deep emotional need to be needed met. Once we understand, receive, and actualize the sacrificial act of Christ’s love for us, the panicky feeling of the need to be needed is gone. 

Yes, it’s nice to come off the bench and be needed, but if we have to sit on the bench excluded from participating in the game, we are OK. Our need to be needed has already been met, and it really doesn’t matter a whole lot if others need us or not. But, it sure is nice when they do!  “Batter up!  I’m putting you in the game!”  

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