So often, the line between our requirements and our baseless and never-ending desires become so blurry that we just can’t differentiate need from greed, and the repercussions of this incompetence, oh boy, ain’t pretty at all.
The reason is that we have inflated our needs to such an exorbitant height that we simply can’t differentiate between need and greed anymore. And to fulfill our ‘so-called needs’, there seems to be no other choice but to become greedy.
If you, intentionally or unintentionally, let your greed be misconstrued with need, then that’s where you will have opened a pandora’s box which will make your life one hell of a journey, and not in a good way. We will get to the serious ramifications of the same, but first, let’s understand the difference between need and greed.
What is ‘Need’?
The best way to realize what your needs really are is to see what you really can’t live without. And when I say ‘can’t live without’ I genuinely mean CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
For instance, you need food and water to sustain yourself, that’s a genuine need. Saying that you can’t live without your “Kim Kardashian makeup kit” is horeshit. See that difference? But having said that, I don’t mean to imply that you live like savages and throw away everything that you don’t need.
If you are earning money to ensure a comfortable and stress-free lifestyle for you and your family, then that’s a need.
If you are eating food to quench your hunger and satisfy your bodily requirements, then that’s a need.
If you are spending some time with your friends to rejuvenate yourself and feel fresh, then that’s a need.
If you are taking the time to keep your hobbies alive, that’s also a need.
If you are indulging in pleasures only when you feel the urge to, then that will also come under needs.
Acting according to your basic nature is again a need.
What is Greed?
To sum it up in one line, everything above our needs comes under the category of Greed. As simple as that.
Don’t confuse greed with just money. Greed can also be for name, fame, experiences, pleasures, and sensations. And if you observe closely, these desires or greed are responsible for making your mind more and more restless.
They may give you a temporary high, but they leave you with a permanent low.
If you are blindly running after money, trying to become bigger than everyone because you can’t stop comparing yourself with others who are more wealthy than you, then that’s a desire.
If you are eating food just for the sake of taste and pleasure, then that’s greed, a rather toxic one.
If you are hanging out with your friends all day long, getting high and drunk, and partying all the time, then, needless to say, that’s greed.
Acting, either positively or negatively, according to the conditioning done by society is again greed. Greed, at times, is not just chasing something positive, it’s also avoiding negative(indulging in excessive pleasure or comfort to avoid doing the painful jobs that you should be doing).
Try This Experiment(if you can)
If you are capable enough and your situation permits, then at least once in your life, try living as scarcely as possible for a week or so, without any electronics or modern machinery, possibly at a remote place away from the city.
Test yourself and see how much do you need to survive. What is the bare minimum that can sustain you? You will be surprised to discover it.
You will come to this realization that you can survive without the fancy brands—who are busy trying to convince you that you aren’t enough on your own— and with limited money.
One doesn’t have to live like this permanently(although you can if you want), this is simply to understand that our actual needs are way less than we think. So, while you will still live the life you have been living, but now, you won’t be acting as per your greed, you would act to express yourself because it’d be your basic nature.
This experiment will help you understand the simple fact that all the materialistic things in the outside world aren’t directly associated with happiness, which is what most people perceive.
And when you will discern that money is only important for survival and you can actually be happy with bare minimum resources, after experimenting, then this simple understanding would automatically eliminate greed, to a certain extent, from yourself.
But hey, in no way, I am saying that you have to be against any of it. Living a comfortable lifestyle is all well and good as long as you are the one extracting comfort from your ‘things’, but the minute your ‘things’ start sucking your comfort is when it’s too much.
Understanding Helps Eliminate Greed
When you start deepening your understanding, you start gaining more and more power because your needs keep on reducing. The lesser your needs, the more powerful you become.
People, right now, have the other way round. They think the more their needs and the more they accumulate things, the stronger or happier they get, but of course, they are wrong. More things lead to more stress and anxiety in the long run.
The more emptiness there is outside and inside your life, the more fulfilled your life will ironically be. Hence, simply accumulating materialistic things isn’t gonna help you live better, nor will holding onto beliefs and thoughts in your inner world will make your life more peaceful. Keep your outer life free of unnecessary and redundant objects, and your inner life free from stressful and useless thoughts.
It’s understanding, not greed or desire, that can help you get whatever you want in life, without asking anyone for anything.
Consequences of Greed
1. Greed Breeds Fear
The more you desire something, the deeper your fear gets of losing the very same thing. You will never fear something you have no desire for.
If you don’t have any greed of earning x amount of money, you won’t be fearful of not hitting that goal or even worse, losing what you already earned.
If you don’t have the desire to become the President of your Team, you won’t have the fear of not being able to achieve the title.
Not having the desire of proving your worth to society, relatives and friends all the time won’t give rise to the fear of embarrassment in case you fall short.
2. You will never be able to live in the Present
Since you have this disease of having more and more and more, you will never be able to live in the present moment and be grateful for what you already have, and would always live in the future daydreaming about all the things you want now.
The bitter fact of the day is that, if you are not grateful for what you have today, then no matter what you get tomorrow, your thirst will never run out and you will always live an unfulfilled and empty life. Even if you get 10 times of what you were hoping to get, you will get a temporary high, but in no time, you will lose interest in it, and would again go look for something more.
That’s the problem with greed. It makes your life anything but content and peaceful. And, in today’s world, living a calm and peaceful life is worth a whole lot more, than having all the materialistic riches of the world but living an unsettled life from the inside.
You might have everything, but your greed would see to it that you feel like the poorest person in the world because you’d always be comparing yourself to someone who has more than you. And let me tell you, you will never run out of people who will have more than you in some aspect or another.
3. You will always be Restless
The thing about being greedy is that it demands your peace, your calm, and your serenity, no matter what. Those are the conditions that you have to comply with to call yourself greedy.
If you get the things you want, you would either live under the fear of losing them or would inject some bigger desires and would die endlessly and meaninglessly pursuing them.
And if you don’t get what you so desire, then obviously you would never be able to relax and live a serene life. You might even begin to rely on unethical or illegal ways because you have been blinded by the light of greed.
4. You miss out on Living
People who are greedy from the inside and have this disease of more and more will likely miss out on actually living their lives.
They will be so busy portraying a perfect image to society and everybody on the internet about how happy and amazing their life is when the reality is something different. And since they are gonna be preoccupied with trying to make it work on the outside, they will never focus on what they are losing on the inside.
Living your life doesn’t necessarily involve showing it to the entire world about how happy you are. In fact, people who are living their lives to their fullest, don’t need any validation from others of any kind whatsoever.
5. You will Miss the Whole Point
Constantly chasing more and more and going down the greedy hole may result in you taking your eyes off the 8th ball.
What may have begun as a sports career that was built out of pure love for the sport, might soon regress into a status-driven, money-making, and attention-grabbing job for you, where you are focusing more on the endorsements, TV commercials, etc than the game itself.
What may have begun as you trying to solve a problem and providing jobs, may soon become a hustle to get on every entrepreneur magazines’ cover page, interviews with celebrities, increasing the bottom line by hook or crook, and you might forget why you started the whole venture in the first place.
You can replace these examples with your situation and see to it whether you are doing what you are doing for status or greed, or happiness and fulfillment.
The desire to have more just for the sake of having more, without any meaningful reasons isn’t gonna add any value to your life. So be careful with what you are running after and make sure you never lose your values or principles chasing another temporary dopamine hit.
This Example Will Make Things Simpler
Imagine two football teams are to play against each other. Now, one team has been all pumped up to win the match because they have to make their country proud, their fans happy, become famous, get featured on every media outlet, earn brand endorsements, and so on. The other team on the other hand is simply told to play their best game.
Who do you think is gonna play the better game? The one with the never-ending list of desires or the one who is focused on just the game?
Many people think that to get ahead in life, they have to be greedy or chase some superficial desires, but if you question thoroughly, are desires what help you grow, or is acting intelligently in life the better path?
The former team will be restless and under a lot more pressure, because they have a whole mountain of greed and desires and expectations on their shoulders they have to fulfill, while the latter team would be chilled out and play peacefully without any pressure as they just have to play their best game.
Anyone whose understanding about the game is robust is more likely to win the game irrespective of whether he has any so-called greed to win it or not than someone who only has a deep desire to win it but no understanding of how to play the game.
And let me clarify this as well, playing the game to the best of your abilities is not a desire, it’s a need. When you were kids, then indulging in some form of a game was a need for you, not a desire. Playing any kind of game was how we as kids used to express who we are. By ‘game’ I don’t just mean physical sports, but any activity under the sun.
This means, doing your work with your full potential is a need, not greed.
The Right Kind of Greed/Desires
Having said all that, if all we are doing is simply fulfilling our basic needs then what’s the difference between us and other animals? We humans have the power to think and act beyond just our needs which is what’s pushing the human race forward.
A normal animal wouldn’t have greed in him. He won’t invade others to amplify his territory, he’s gonna be pretty happy and satisfied with just fulfilling his basic survival needs. So, it is pretty clear that if humans also simply act according to just their needs, then we would probably stop advancing.
If animals start acting according to their desires, then the whole jungle would probably be wiped off, leaving only a handful of strong animals. But fortunately, there’s nature’s intelligence in play. Animals only hunt for their need, except for this one animal: Humans.
This is why it’s so important to have the right kind of greed or desire. So, what are the right desires? All those desires that advocate the growth of your own self from the inside are the right kind of desires. And, subsequently, all those desires that are simply driving you to accumulate things on the outside are petty or shallow desires.
You should be greedy in terms of how much you are learning, how strong you are becoming from the inside, how sharp your mind is, how fearless you are converting, how better you are getting in your field of work, how intelligently you are understanding your arena.
Those are the things you need to be greedy about. Don’t chase external materialistic wealth, consisting of name, fame, or money. Be greedy in the right direction and these things will automatically take care of themselves.
The ideal situation is where you are hyperactive in terms of your actions, being greedy to act on those right kinds of desires, and at the same time being grateful about what you have already achieved to maintain a sense of calm from the inside.
Essentially, this is a state where you are acting not for anyone’s approval, or to show off, or to prove anyone anything, or even to get anything materially(name, fame, money) in return; you are simply acting because it has become your basic nature to act.
Remember, life is growth. Growth is a need, not a desire. Anything that’s living is bound to grow in some way or the other, and all those that are dead become rigid and fixed. So, while growing is not a desire, growing in the wrong direction, in the wrong place, at the wrong pace is the problem.
For a bird, flying high in the sky, discovering new sights, trying new flying techniques, and going to places she has never been before, are all part of her basic nature. That’s a need. But flying just to appease some spectators or to impress the onlookers to get something in return, that’s all a desire.
Don’t raise your needs to such an extent that you can no longer differentiate between your needs and your desires.