Greed isn’t as bad as people say. At its heart is a key to happiness.
I can say that with confidence because I’ve used these blogs to hack into your bank accounts and track you’re spending patterns. Really? $350? On tim-tams?
But I also know that you’re greedy because if you’re reading it this you’re probably human, and all humans are greedy. We all have that impulse to be greedy – to take more than we need and stash it in a hole in a tree for winter where the other squirrels can’t get it.
It’s part of the basic operating software. It’s a default setting.
What defines us as people and productive members of society though is the way we work with our competing drives and express ourselves in the world.
And the most generous and selfless among us – the Mother Teresa’s and the Johnnie Depp’s – are just those people who have made the drive to give, to share and to nurture so dominant that we think they’re not capable of anything else.
But every i-phone has the capacity to run Angry Birds. Every human has the capacity to be greedy.
But society has also evolved in a way that we don’t think of greed as a piece of software that sometimes hogs a bit too much operating memory.
We tend to think of greed as a disease. A malfunction. Something’s gone wrong. The devil’s hacked your brain and now the operating drives are corrupt.
If you had kept your heart and mind pure, you could have stayed content in your natural state of chastity and generosity. But no. You had to go looking at women’s ankles in church and now the devil’s got the remote access code to your brain.
And now you’re greedy. Shame on you.
And I can understand why society as a whole has developed a greed-shaming strategy. Things flow a lot better if we at least pretend to be all generous and righteous – if we keep our greed and our gimme gimme hidden away.
It’d be chaos if greed and gimme gimme were totally off the leash. I’ve been to Vegas. It isn’t pretty.
So we shame greed.
But shame is always a work-around, a patch. There is a difference between shaming something like greed back into the shadows, and confronting it head on and shirtfronting it.
When we face up to greed (or jealousy or anger or lust or any one of the seven deadly dwarves) we have the opportunity to grow and mature. We become more integrated. We are not at war with part of ourselves.
That means less struggle. That means more energy for other things – like property investment seminars to name just one example.
And that means more success.
Let me say that again. The less time you spend fighting yourself, the more time you can spend fighting battles that actually matter and you can actually win. The more energy you have for success.
But back to greed. The trouble with shaming greed is that unless we’re particularly careful, we end up shaming desire.
Now I’m not here to tell you that greed is good. But I am here to tell you that desire is good. It’s fantastic.
Desire is one of the sweetest things in life. It excites and drives you.
You desire a kiss from that beautiful person. You get all giddy. Your heart races. You even start writing poetry.
“Roses are red
Violets are blue
I spent $350 on tim-tams
And they’re all for you.”
Or we want to buy our son a car for his 18th birthday. We want to see the look on his face. We desire his happiness.
Or we want to take a wife on a cruise now that the kids are old enough to stay with grandma. Or we want a new boat to go fishing with the boys. Or we want to ditch the Datsun and buy a Landcruiser.
We want things for ourselves and for others. And that gives us energy and drive. And achieving our goals – for ourselves and others – gives us a sense of satisfaction.
Absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But we’ve been taught that desire is wrong. We’ve been taught that wanting things is wrong. We’ve been taught that taking care or our interests and doing our best to be happy is wrong.
It’s greedy and it’s selfish.
Of course there is a line somewhere between wanting a new Landcruiser and wanting Jerry Seinfeld’s sports car collection. It can get a bit out of hand.
And there’s a difference between wanting a Porsche because you love the way it handles, and wanting a Porsche so you can rub your brother-in-law’s nose in it next time you see him.
“Wanting” can go rogue. It can become polluted or corrupted by other drives – like insecurity, fear and envy.
Sure. I can see that. But that is not a reason to stop wanting altogether.
Just because desire gets out of hand sometimes with some people is not a reason to give up the sweetness that comes with wanting and with getting what you want.
It’s what makes life awesome.
So my advice would be, just go with your greed. Don’t fight it. Just roll with it. Recognise that sometimes you become a panicky squirrel. That’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
But then try and distil out the fear and insecurity and jealousy in your wanting. Come back to your pure wanting. The wanting you have for the things that make you truly happy.
Recognise that wanting is a beautiful thing.
Then go out and get ‘em tiger.
How do you stop ‘want’ slipping into greed or any of the other less-awesome expressions?
What do you think?