Tag Archive: need

On Being Needy

People have a natural aversion from being in need.  We like to have all the power, solve our own problems, leave everyone else out of it.  This works great as long as we are by ourselves, but it breaks down as soon as you mention the word team.

Feeling needed is empowering .  As Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”    Our chest puffs out when someone asks for our help and puts our solution into effect.  We want to share the news that our idea worked.  We wish it would happen more often!

In many cases a leader will be capable of doing all of the work necessary for a project.  The leader doesn’t really need the help of any of their followers.  The question is, what is lost if the leader does all of the work?  The answer comes in two parts, one for the followers and one for the leader.  In the case of the followers they are losing an opportunity to be involved.  An opportunity to use their own skills to further the vision and contribute.  This leads to a lack of buy-in and they feel detached from the project.  You will not find anyone who daydreams about a solution when they are not intimately involved with the problem.  A follower cannot be intimately involved with the problem if the leader has already solved it.  Soon, the leader will find themselves alone, the team disbanded.

The second loss is for the leader.  If the leader places themselves in need they lose the position of power.  Pride must go out the window, a hard thing to do.  It takes a certain humility to be in need.  It takes an even greater one to purposely put yourself there.  You may be capable of doing everything yourself, but what are your followers losing so that you can puff up your ego?

I think people learn better from stories than from lectures (this should be a post!).  So take a minute to read through John 4:1-42 below for a great story of Jesus humbling himself and talking to a Samaritan woman.  What is Jesus giving up (by even being on Earth, by talking to a social outcast) so that she can gain?


John 4

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”


I challenge you to place yourself in need more often, give people the satisfaction of being able to help.  Listen to people’s ideas more often, seek their opinion, and attend to their answers.  You’ll be amazed at the results.

How do you empower others?  Share in the comments below!


We Need Each Other

Over spring break I attended a week long Intervarsity program called CityLights in St. Louis.  CityLights is an Urban ministry which serves the poor and neglected people of St. Louis.  Every day, we were asked to read a chapter from a book called Theirs is the Kingdom by  Robert D. Lupton.  Although it is written about the urban poor, I think that this passage contains many lessons about leadership.

“I came to the city to serve those in need.  I have resources and abilities to clothe the ill-clad, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.  These are good works that our Lord requires of us.  And there is blessedness in this kind of giving.  But there is also power that allows me to retain control.  My position as a helper protects me from the humiliation of appearing to need help.  Even more sobering, I condemn those I help to the permanent role of recipient.

When my goal is to change people, I subtly communicate:  Something is wrong with you; I am okay.  You are ignorant; I am enlightened.  You are wrong; I am right.  If our relationship is defined as healer to patient, I must remain strong and you must remain sick for our interaction to continue.  People don’t go to doctors when they are well.

‘It takes everyone of us to make His body Complete, for we each have a different work to do.  So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others’ (Romans 12:4-5).

I need the poor?  For what?  The question exposes my blindness.  I see them as weak ones to be rescued, not as bearers of the treasures of the kingdom.  The dominance of my giving overshadows and stifles the rich endowments the Creator has invested in those I consider destitute.  I overlook what our Lord saw clearly when he proclaimed the poor to be especially blessed, because theirs is the kingdom of God.  I selectively ignore the truth that monied, empowered, and learned ones enter his kingdom with enormous difficulty.”

I love this passage because it is so rich with information.  Here are some of the things that I get from it:

Leaders need to be able to change their role in their relationships.  As time passes and as a relationship develops, people will relate differently.  If a relationship is started as teacher to student, one day the student will graduate.  Keeping the same attitude towards that student could hamper further growth, and the relationship my die.  Do not be afraid to upgrade someone’s status!  If someone no longer needs help, become their friend instead of their provider.

This is a difficult one – leaders should strive to work themselves out of their job.  It’s about legacy; leaders should be dispensable and give way to the next generation.  If a leader sets up systems that only they can run, the system falls apart once they leave.  The mission of the organization should not be about the leader, but about the mission.  Leaders need to think about who will come after them and train the next generation.

All people are valuable, everyone is a bearer of God’s image.  Everyone brings something worthwhile to the table even if it is hard to see.  Do we treat people as bearers of God’s image, even the annoying, or disadvantaged ones?  To the Christian it means welcoming the alien, poor, and vulnerable among and around us.

Another profound lesson is that we all need other people to be the person God has called us to be.  Our conversations and interactions will change if we need those who we interact with.  We normally treat people of power with a sense of need because they have positional or material power.  What if we treated everyone, even those who do not have obvious gifts for us, as if we needed them?  As leaders, we need others’ perspectives, challenges, and correction because our vision is so limited.  We need others’ support because the challenges of this world are far too heavy.  God brings people into your life for a reason.  He wants to give something to you through them.  I encourage you to try this out in your interactions with people.  Approach it from a stance of needing their input, perspective, and abilities.  Leave a comment for what you find out!

Update: found this quote the day after publishing – “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.