It’s quite simple, really–hardly worth even blogging about. You pull them aside and you just say these four words, “I don’t need you.”
But feel free to be more creative if you like.
Personally, I prefer using the phrase, “I have no need of you.” Somehow it sounds a little more theatric, yet it accomplishes the same thing. I’ve used that phrase often with my family over the past 23 years.
If you don’t believe me go ahead and ask them yourself.
Now before you call DHS, indicting me for shattering my girls’ fragile self-esteems, let me explain why we should be telling our family members that we don’t need them.
Here are five reasons why we shouldn’t tell them we need them.
- It’s secondary. It’s much more important to tell them we want them. I am always clear to communicate “I want you,” “I cherish you,” “I delight in you,” “I enjoy you.” “I like being with you,” etc. — even while using my epic line “I have no need of you.” These are powerful phrases that communicate that they are desirable, lovable, interesting, and treasured. They don’t need to be needed, but they do need to be valued.
- It’s bad for them. Making them feel needed, can create an unhealthy sense of co-dependency, where their identity is wrapped up in meeting the expectations of others. I know many older adults whose entire adult lives were consumed with having to please others to their own detriment.
- It’s bad for us. Viewing a loved one as a “need” of ours might put us in the position of consumer with them being our provider. It can create high expectations, where our happiness depends on their performance. This could lead to us using or manipulating others. Such a “you owe me” attitude is a setup for serious marriage and family conflicts.
- It’s a deviation from what is true. I believe that God is truly our only real need. Everything else is a want. This truth is the subject of the first of my 40 “Life Resolutions” — everything else that is important rests upon it. I disagree with Maslow, If God is truly the giver and sustainer of life and love for this life–as well as for eternity–then we don’t technically need anything else. Period.
- It’s a setup for our devastation. When we view our loved ones as “needs”, it sets us up for deep despair and bitterness should we lose them to death, disability, deficiency, or desertion. Let me expound on each.
- Death. We have no guarantees. Life is fragile. We live in a fallen, precarious world. Our family members are mortal. It’s conceivable that the God who gave us our loved ones could choose to take them away. How would we handle that? I’ve seen two responses. Those who see their family members as a “need” that they’ve been robbed of invariably shake their fists at God and descend into a dark tunnel of bitterness. One dad who lost a son became so bitter that his other sons lost their dad emotionally for the next 10 years. On the other hand, I’ve seen families lose a child yet praise God for the precious time they had together. Although they grieved their terrible loss, they were eventually able to press forward knowing that their child’s earthly presence wasn’t something they “needed” in order to be joyful. In my daily prayers for my family I tell God, “Help me to treasure my family more and more, yet hold them looser and looser.”
- Disability. We can probably all think of marriages that dissolved after one spouse became disabled. A Christ-centered marriage shouldn’t depend on our spouse’s physical prowess or functionality. “He (or She) didn’t meet my needs” should never be an excuse for splitting up. That’s not what Christlike, unconditional love is. “In sickness and in health, till death do us part” is the commitment that was made. Thankfully, our spiritual disabilities don’t keep Jesus from loving us.
- Deficiency. Parents often “need” their children to be star athletes, musicians, performers, scholars, etc. This then becomes a point of contention when kids don’t live up to their potential. Parents sometimes derive their own esteem from their kids’ performance or try to live out their own unreached dreams through their kids. This pressure adds stress to kids’ lives and often builds walls between parents and kids. If parents stopped “needing” their kids to be something they want, perhaps they could help their kids explore who God made them to be.
- Desertion. Kids who abandon the beliefs, values, or lifestyles of their parents can cause devastation for parents who “needed” their kids to stay true to the faith. These parents often try to scold, nag, or pressure their kids to come back to the fold, which ironically has the opposite effect. On the other hand, parents whose joy doesn’t depend on their kids’ choices are free to live their own lives. Though they will certainly remain concerned about their child’s choices and well-being, they don’t lose their own ability to worship, serve God, and take care of themselves. Ironically their ability to worship God and love others amidst disappointment may be the very thing that influences their kids to come back to the fold.
[Please note that in this article I’m using the word, “need,” in a technical or literal sense. I recognize that “need” is also commonly used in a more figurative or pragmatic sense, such as, “We need to work together as a team,” or “I need help making supper.” I take no issue with such “needs”! Yet I have found it helpful to limit my use of the word “need,” substituting “want” or “would like” whenever possible as a way to ensure I don’t fall into any of the pitfalls listed above.]