“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Mostly, I have taken the time to write about positive character attributes and virtues. I have attempted to focus on how to leverage strong tools towards self-improvement. However, a person who is ignorant of a trap will fall right into it. Today, I would like to use this space to discuss a human quality with little to no redeeming value.
Greed is as old as the world, it would seem. Throughout all of recorded history, we read the accounts of men, women, and entire nations caught up in their covetous battles. At some level, each of us wishes for things we do not have: a better job, a nicer car, a larger house, or simply a higher income. Of course, it’s good to desire improvement and make a plan to achieve it, but there’s a point where a healthy line can be crossed.
One of the surest indicators I know of for identifying greed is the time at which you wish poor circumstances on another for the sake of a better outcome for yourself. If you live in a crowded apartment within a dangerous neighborhood but wish you could afford a sensible house in a safer neighborhood, your motive is not greed. In this example, you merely want to provide your family with a safe, secure environment to live and thrive. On the contrary, imagine you’ve just found the perfect home for you and yours, but it’s just sold to another family. Greed is the point where you wish their deal would fall apart so that you could make the purchase instead.
Like so many things in life, the defining line is very difficult to nail down. It’s simple enough to make extreme examples about the difference between wanting improvement and greed, but greed can be subversive. Unfortunately, there’s no one easier to fool than yourself. Often, I feel, we forget the difference between “needs” and “wants”, and we convince ourselves there is a greater urgency to our lusting after something.
Having said that, it’s also important to note that this line is a moving target. It wouldn’t be fair for myself or anyone else to attempt to define exactly what set of actions constitute greed. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and each life requires a slightly different approach. What’s important isn’t your ability to recognize greed in others – you cannot control their behavior, anyhow – it’s about your ability to recognize your own greed.
I’ve written about acceptance already, and I would recommend that entry for a further opinion on defining your own needs in life. I believe that whenever we want something for ourselves, we need to really attempt to understand our own motives. Perhaps you want a new career? Is it because you want more money? Do you need to pay off the balance on a boat you’ve purchased? Or do you honestly feel your talents are being misused and misapplied in your current position?
In the face of greed, practice contentment in your own life. Lead by example and others will follow.
Thank you for your time.