December 11, 2004

"Your belief might be insulting..."

I received this comment today, and felt the need to respond to it:

"Thanks for sharing.

"I admire, in a way, your belief that all the things that we need will come to us, if the need is great, and we "shut our mouths, and open our hearts, minds, souls," etc.

"But can't you see that your belief might be insulting to people who have unmet needs?

"Think of all the millions who died in the Holocaust -- in your estimation, they were in some way responsible for their own demise. Surely their need was great, and surely some of the millions who were killed were able, as you advise, to open thier hearts, minds, and souls. What about them? What about those who died on 9/11? Or their relatives -- they may need their dead relatives back, no?

"Can't good people die poor, say, or with their needs unanswered?"

How can we presume that even the needs of the condemned are not met merely because they were unable to prevent their deaths? If death were the indicator, than none of those who have passed before us have had their spiritual needs met. And all of us dies, one way or another, by the hand of another or through the ravages of time or disease.

By your statement, taken at its most literal, all of us will die with our needs unmet purely because we have died. Life and living are the great needs.

This just isn't so. Merely being alive and living a life are not the greatest needs of a life. Living a life as well as we can, touching in a positive manner as many lives as we can during this life, and leaving a legacy though your children by teaching them to do the same are the greatest needs of a life.

Can any of us know that at some point during the internment of a Holocaust victim, on what may have seemed to them at the time the darkest day, that some small need was not met? Can we know that at a moment of absolute degradation or humiliation or even death, that a kindness wasn't

Is there any way for us to know who was not actually there? None of us can, as we were not deep within the psyche of any person or persons involved. To presume we know, or to claim we know is vain.

I can only speak from my own experience of how an affirmation has been experienced. This particular situation was life affecting, but there have been others, smaller and more humble, throughout the last several years:

A smile from my daughter when I was sick at heart,
A kind word from a person I had never spoken to,
An unexpected hug, or touch, or even a pat on the head,
An unanticipated "Thank you."

There have been affirmations much greater and very humbling in recent months. There have also been unmet needs, great and small, most of which will never be met. It is a part of the human condition, and it always will be. But a major difference between me in my situation, and many of the others who would trumpet and display their own unmet needs is perhaps the difference in how we interpret the word "needs" in our day to day lives.

I would like for my elderly parents to live for another 20 years, to be there for me and my family whenever I want to talk, or when my daughter needs some guidance or a warm soft shoulder on which to cry. I may feel now, that if anything were to happen to them that I needed them to stay with me forever, but deep down, I know this not to be true. I want them to be with me forever, but I recognize this as a selfish want, not a need, and certainly not one which considers their needs.

I would someday like a new car. I don't need a new car. I only need for my old car to work adequately. I would someday like to sing the National Anthem at a sporting event here in Indianapolis. I don't need to do this. I merely would like to do that one time.

Most of all, I would like to have a lovely, gentle life with no disappointments or difficulties, with a job where my talents and knowledge are appreciated and sought after, surrounded by all of the people I love, constantly pampered, entertained and cherished by those who love me. Who would not want these things? But to believe that anyone needs all of these things in constant supply is to be deluded and self-centered, nothing more or less than an ego-driven child.

It is the same sad mindset that would look at what was a life changing and spiritually affirming event, and declare that what the event gave me and taught me was in any way insulting to anyone who has not found their needs met in a similar manner. But let us look at this from the other side.

Many are the survivors of the Holocaust who found their beliefs stronger and their souls not only healed but enriched, and not merely because they survived but because of how they survived. The same can be said of the greatest number of 9/11 victims and/or their families. Some were shattered, some believed it to be irreparably. But many sought and received that which was needed to mend the tatters that were all that they believed remained of their lives.

"But can't you see that your belief might be insulting to people who have unmet needs?"

Can't you also see that your statements above might be equally insulting to people who have needs which have not been met, as well as those who find their needs met in times of despair or grief, in some small or profound way?

Posted by Mamamontezz at December 11, 2004 10:21 PM

While the events of the Holocaust were horrible the lesson to mankind is positive. Treat others with the same kindness and respect that you would expect. Most people who have unmet needs are held back by repressive governments, personal ignorance or societal customs. Some have beliefs that inhibit their abilities to meet their needs, others do not.
What is insulting is the belief that anyone who has faith in a superior being guiding their lives is insulting to those who do not.
We are blessed that we still have a degree of freedom of choice, we can exercise that choice by not casting dispersions upon those who believe or whining about someones unmet needs. We all have our needs and aspirations but for those who believe, God helps those who help themselves. I do not consider myself a religeous person but I've had enough experiences to convince me that we are not alone. I chose to come to this site instead of some athiest's site.

Posted by: Jack at December 12, 2004 12:14 AM

Hmph. Yet another knucklehead who confuses "wants" with "needs"...

I have a lot of things that I THINK I need, but, in reality, don't. A "need" is something completely different. Christians know this. Secular Humanists don't.

Good response, Mama. As usual.

Posted by: the Humble Devildog at December 12, 2004 11:14 AM

Great posts, Mama, both of them and I agree with Jack and Humbledog. I'd add that, IMO, that things happen for a purpose. I recall when my Mother was dying I questioned why. She looked at me and smiled and said there was some purpose for her to have gone through what she did. She said she didn't understand it but she accepted it. I believe now if her death hadn't happened when it did I wouldn't have been where I needed to be, in many ways, to meet my husband. I think she was right. That doesn't mean I'm a doormat for life and let myself be abused, etc. It means when things happen that are completely beyond my control I can "let go" and not drive myself insane trying to understand why. Gah, going to bed before I get more incoherent! lol

Posted by: ElizabethM at December 12, 2004 08:48 PM

Some People get insulted too easy ,and should spend more time on there unmet needs.
We all have unmet needs which somehow get met.Being insulted takes no effort and shows a lack of grace.

Posted by: NeilVanEerde at December 14, 2004 02:06 PM

The gifts I'm most thankful for; integrity, determination, forthrightness and a discerning eye, and my faith (and, let's not forget my family and my friends), were all achieved/acquired/strengthened through adversity.

I am only guessing here, but I would suppose that those who suffer the most, such as the victims of the holocaust, are more profoundly aware of the blessings they've seen in their lives, than those who simply pass through unchallenged. Their memories of family and friends would have remained intact, even when all else had been stripped away.

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