Can we talk? About greed?

GREED. That’s a strong word, I know. It’s not one we mention or even see mentioned very often. I think we are making a mistake, however, by avoiding it.

Sculpture: Deadly Sins (Snowglobes): Greed, Pure Products USA, by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, Eyebeam Open Studios Fall 2009 / 20091023.10D.55558.P1.L1.SQ / SML
Creative Commons License See-ming Lee via Compfight

Do you notice when the feelings of greed get a hold of you? I have been trying to pay attention to when I feel greedy. When I place my needs ahead of the needs of others (it’s easiest when they are faceless and nameless). When I feel like I “need” something or even “want” something so badly that I am willing to grab it before someone else does. Or when I decide I want whatever it is and the heck with the consequences.

You deserve a break today.

I’m worth it.

Sometimes I justify my desire by telling myself I “deserve” it. I worked so hard last week, that I “deserve” to drive miles across town to see a movie. I have noticed all these advertising campaigns telling me over and over how I “earned” x (fill in the blank for yourself) or how I “deserve” to “reward” myself. Well since it’s the advertising industry telling me that, and not my best friend, I have to wonder: why are they telling me that. Oh right, it’s because it’s their job to sell me stuff.

Treat yourself this Mother’s Day.

Treat yourself to the best.


Greed operates most freely when I have been tricked into believing the myth of scarcity—that there isn’t enough for me and for you. To the winner go the spoils. Winner takes all. It’s a competition, a race to the top. And of course, there isn’t room for all of us at “the top,” wherever that is.

This is a dangerous path to tread. Not only dangerous to those around me (and those far away as I externalize the price of meeting my needs) but dangerous to me. To who I am inside, to my humanity. As soon as I let greed take over, I am stepping all over not just the other human beings around me, but also the human being inside of me.

We are fooled into believing that greed can get us ahead, that it makes our lives better, easier, more successful. We can look to Wall Street*, and sometimes even Main Street, for examples of the champions of such material and financial “success.” But the reality is that greed leads us away from a human (or humane) path. When we act on greed, we are  controlled by it, and we are collaborating with an oppressive system that makes some of us winners and many many others losers. We are selling out the human inside of us, in order to feed our inner consumer. The one, incidentally, that is never satiated.

stop greed

What do we do about it? We can begin by recognizing the damage it causes us all. The way our greed affects others—many of whom we will never, ever know. And the way it eats at our insides. We get to face the fears that this profit-oriented society uses to keep us in line rather than running from those fears in belief. Is it true that there is not enough for us all? Is it true that in order for you to win, I must lose?

That’s why I say: open our hearts to greed. Open our hearts to it so we may see it and know it. Introduce yourself. Get acquainted with it. Let our greed know that we aren’t going to let it call the shots. Not if you we help it.

*Nearly 40 percent of financial services employees working on Wall Street for 10 years or less said they would engage in insider trading to make $10 million — if they knew they could get away with it, according to the survey conducted by the law firm Labaton Sucharow.

When do you feel greedy? Like you want whatever-it-is at any price? What are you prepared (or not prepared) to give up? Can you tell the toll greed takes on you? Let’s get the conversation going, and if you have already started this conversation in your community, well done. It’s time. Share your thoughts. Please click on the title of the post above, to go to its page and post your comment.