Do We Need Each Other?

Anthony de Mello says not really.

So I’m having this conversation with someone, on whether we need each other or not, and whether our happiness depends on anyone else other that us and God.  And de Mello keeps coming up.

I don’t have his writings in front of me for exact quotes, but my memory is that de Mello posits that most unenlightened human interaction is all selfishly driven, and that when we say “I need you,” what we mean is that we expect “the other” to cater to us in order to keep us happy.   To need others is really to chain ourselves to them, and abdicate responsibility for our own happiness, fulfillment, etc.  He goes on to point the absurdity and selfishness of our own expectation that others–the ones we need–actually place our happiness above their own, and how we often accuse “the other” of being selfish when they place their own happiness above ours.

Okay, so there’s some truth to all that.  However, de Mello would leave us isolated, cut off in some way from the vital relational connection that is deeply embedded in our very nature–in fact, relationship is implied in the Imago Dei, a needed relationship.  The very processes of life are all dependent on relational exchange between various components.  It’s all well and good to say that we depend on God alone, but He exchanges energy and life with us through many, many portals, our fellow human beings being primary among them.

I think we need each other.

That’s all the time I have for now, so I’ll leave it with you.

What do you think?

2 Comments

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  1. Saying that we only need God is like saying, a feather and a penny will fall at the same rate–but, it’s true only in a vacuum. Yes, we do only need God, but we have to contend with all the other people in the world who also only need God. The problem is that we don’t have unfiltered access to God because of the things de Mello mentioned: selfishness, need for happiness, etc. So God has made it such that a large portion of our access to Him is through other people.

    De Mello is right about one thing, though, something actors have understood for awhile: human interaction is selfishly driven. Even C.S. Lewis affirms this in MERE CHRISTIANITY, when he is discussing the benefits we derive from helping other people–the benefit the other, but possibly ourselves even more. We are constantly acting out a desire to fill a need. But there are good ways to do this and bad. He forgets that, yes, even though I expect my wife to put my happiness above her own, she expects me to do the same. If and when we do this, this mutual submission of our own happiness, we have the potential for joy and great fulfillment. I think this is more easily achieved than isolating yourself from others in order to commune only with God–after awhile, how do you know you’re not just talking to yourself? Don’t you need to compare notes with other people? Perhaps I am not far along enough in my “elightenment” to know God that intimately yet.

    The last response to this philosophy is regardless if de Mellos’ theory is true, acting on it, isolating oneself from others in order to be with God, is a direct disobedience of His wish for us to help each other. If you are a Christian, I don’t see how you can read the New Testament and come to the conclusion that permanent isolation is acceptable. The obvious corollary is that frequent short-term aloneness with God is not only desirable, but demonstrated by Jesus.

    • de Mello’s endgame is that as we eliminate selfishness, we become more able to help “the other” that’s standing in front of us. We see them according to who and what is really there, instead of a person (or object) merely there to fulfill some need we have.

      I suppose that to say everything is selfishly driven may be true enough, but it is a God-given orientation to things that can be, as you say, either good or bad, depending on how it’s used.

      Thanks, Josh.

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