I have been practicing speaking my need lately. It goes something like this. I ask you to coffee or lunch or we’re just sitting around shooting the shit and I say, bluntly, “I need more intimate friendships in my life,” or “I need inter-generational relationships at church,” or even “I need to talk about this later because I don’t quite know where to go from here.” And maybe you look at me and feel some sort of pity. Or maybe you feel bullied, like I’m trying to manipulate you into meeting my need in some very specific way.
But hopefully you’ll look at me and sort of sigh-smile, saying, “I see your need and I am reminded of my own.”
It’s been a wild experiment in neediness this past year. Tired of getting caught up in a bunch of patterns and relationships I didn’t really want, I started trying to be clearer with people about what I was after. And hopefully they would say this is what I’m after, too. But maybe they’d say, I don’t really share your need but I know someone who does and you should give them a call. The thing with neediness is you’re grateful for the morsels.
I tried doing this with a new group of friends I wanted to be intentional with. I sat each of them down and said, “I need community. And I need it to be regular. Not like every Tuesday regular because that depresses me a little but one serious hang a month and another more casual one.” And each one, God bless us, said yeah, I need that, too.
I tried doing this in my working relationships. And it came off a little crass at times, to be honest. I’ve been trying that whole speak for yourself notion when you only say how you’re feeling and not what the other person is doing wrong (or how they’re making you feel). And it works well for the most part, but sometimes you just have to cut the crap and say this is what I need from you but this is also what I wish we would have done differently. That’s okay, too. Neediness isn’t meant to paint you in a corner of compassion. It can be courageous and shrewd, too.
This week I’ve been naming my need for more writing buddies. I met with a super cool writer lady who was really up front with her limits, like when I ended our meeting with, “Maybe, I’ll see you at church sometime,” she replied, “Probably not. I don’t really like to chit chat there. But let’s do this again.” I liked that. I told her my need for some writing accountability, some physical contact with other writers since it’s easy to get lost (and lethargic) in my own office. Maybe even a writing group, but I’ve never tried one before. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for,” I told her. “But I know what I need. And I’m just putting it out there, seeing what comes back to me.”
The fact that I had to google The Secret tells you that I was never really in on it, that is, the new agey notion that you attract what you put out. But I do believe in the power of naming, a power that is laced throughout Scripture as a prophetic witness of what God has done or what God will do. When I name my need, I create and I trust and I wait and I submit and it is good. I know it is good.
I don’t mean to be all new agey, I promise. But something happened this week. A phone call with a writer friend who wants to go on retreat with me. An email from a colleague in town who I didn’t even know was a writer, working on a memoir and wanting my company. Turns out someone told her about my need.
And I can see it happening. I can see it so clearly ’cause I’ve named it and they’ve named it, and I can say to them with that sort of sigh-smile, “I see your need and I am reminded of my own.”