Dear Reader, I Don't Need You.
Know this: I don't need you. I want you, but I do not need you.
How does hearing that make you feel? Special? Like you matter to me? Did it send a tingle up your spine? Make you feel warm and loved?
I'm not sure who started this, but can we end it? Can we stop acting like this is the highest compliment that can be paid to another human being? Can we declare "I don't need you, but I want you" a catchy slogan that got turned into a couple of songs, but is now obsolete?
Let's take a diversion for a second to talk about NPR.
Three or so months ago NPR holds a week-long fund drive. Between every single commercial break, they're making the pitch: donate today and get something awesome. They pitch assertively and frequently--regular schedule be damned. Then one day, one of the on-air talents gets on the mic and tells millions of listeners, myself included, that NPR does not need our money. They'll be fine without it, he says. I mean sure, donate. They'll accept it, but for the record they'll be a-ok without it.
While factually correct, I didn't understand the purpose of stating the obvious: NPR will survive without my $20. Additionally, as a matter of rational thinking, you cannot simultaneously tell me that you don't need my money and tell me that you want my money.
I was so baffled and irritated. I didn't pledge a dime. They didn't need it. If that's my relationship with public radio, imagine a more substantial relationship. Imagine my hearing that from someone who I love. Better yet, imagine hearing that from someone who you love. "I don't need you..." Let that float around your head and echo in your imagination. I don't need you. I don't need you. I don't need you.
Does the second half of the phrase, "...but I want you," soften the mild hostility of the first half?
I get it. People aren't food, clothing, or shelter--our basic needs. And we aren't living in the olden days where we need each other's resources and labor to survive. If someone isn't in our lives, we will live. We'll survive. And water is wet. Only, we know that "I don't need you" serves one purpose and that is to protect the one who proclaims it. It's the ultimate hedge. A defense mechanism. A verbal guard. It's also off-putting.
Look, it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that, in the most healthy way, you need another person to pull off a few major goals. Sure, you can do life by yourself, but if you're trying to build something in partnership with someone, then you need a partner to build with. To recognize a need is mindful and discerning, but to pretend that your need doesn't exist is pointless. Wholeheartedly want and need who you hope for.
So, let me set the record straight. Dear Reader, I absolutely need you. For you to ride with me, read what's on my mind, and hopefully relate to things I talk about is a blessing. Your presence in this space is essential because it helps me to fulfill my purpose of showing up for you. Of course I want you, but it's a little deeper than that. I also need you.
Photo credit: Matthew Miller via CC Flickr