Well I think I'm going out of my head.
Yes I think I'm going out of my head
Over you, over you.
I want you to want me.
I need you so badly,
I can't think of anything but you.
Let's focus on that idea of wanting someone to want us; of needing to be needed.
I don't have to tell you that it's a powerful engine of motivation in your life. You've known it for years. From childhood you tried to figure out whether people wanted or liked you. When they did, you gravitated toward them. When they didn't (or you didn't think they wanted to) you may have avoided them or perhaps tried to win their attention in some way. In some cases, it made you feel crazy: “I think I'm going out of my head.” You could hardly think of anything but getting noticed. The point is, you wanted to be wanted.
If this were only a childish pastime, like playing tag during recess, it would be one thing. But we never get over it. The tactics and strategies change. They become more sophisticated. But not the essential desire. My question here is, why? Why is there such urgency to be wanted? I particularly address the caregivers among you—professional and otherwise. Theory and experience suggest that you have an even stronger need to be needed than most; that your want to be wanted is a significant factor in why you entered the caregiving profession to begin with--not to mention the reason for your darkest, most anxious hours when the need went unfulfilled.
Mental health experts and addiction specialists often warn of the danger of “codependent” relationships. In a clinical context, codependency means we rely too much on another person for own good. We so desperately want them to like or need us that we will say or do anything necessary to get it. When professional people helpers are codependent, they risk doing damage to those they are trying to help.
As a pastor and counselor I've seen more codependency than I could enumerate. I think of the parents who have destructive relationships with their children, giving into their demands, bailing them out of jail, making excuses for their irresponsibility—to the extent that it harms the kids. Why would parents do such a thing? Why would a mom hide her son's drug addiction or promiscuous lifestyle, knowing full well that it is hurting him and everyone else? She says it's because she loves him so much. But is it really?
I think of pastors who burn themselves out in their ministries, going without sleep, never taking a day off, neglecting their marriages and families, burning the proverbial candle at both ends--all in the name of love. It may be. But it may also be more insidious. In many cases, it's more about what they can get than what they give. I know many pastors, missionaries and counselors who are secretly motivated by the need to be needed. So much of their activity is really driven by the need for affirmation and validation. They want to be appreciated. They're searching for significance. And when they don't get it (and they can never get enough), they think they're going out of their heads...
Why? What's behind all this want to be wanted?
Mental health experts will usually say it's because of a poorly defined or established self-image. The prophets of self-esteem, whose voices have become so dominant in our generation, believe that the ultimate solution to codependency in relationships is to find more significance in ourselves than in others. The need to be needed is a distraction or distortion, they say. We may think we need a pat on the back from our boss. But what we really need is a pat on the back from ourselves.
I'll bet you've heard that before. Maybe you've even tried it or proclaimed it to others. But there's a problem with it. It's not true! The need to be needed, the want to be wanted, is not some deficiency in our souls that we must overcome. It's not some malfunction of the psyche that can be reprogrammed with the right therapeutic technique.
The fact is, God designed us this way. We are social beings and our very neurological hardware requires that we derive meaning and significance from relationships. The problem is not that we want to be wanted. The problem is, where we look for it. It's not our search for significance and affirmation that results in destructive codependency. It's the ones from whom we seek it.
The message of the Bible is that God made us for relationship with Him. He hardwired our brains so that we would need to be needed—by Him. This would be an ever present motivation to seek fellowship and intimacy with our Creator. But, if you know your Bible, you know that things went horribly wrong. Our first parents started it. They rejected that need for their Creator and tried to find it somewhere else. We're still feeling the blowback today.
Perhaps you remember the parable Jesus told about the four servants who were given amounts of money to invest (Matthew 25). Though the specific reason Jesus told the story was to contrast the faithfulness of three of the servants who invested the money wisely to the one who didn't—illustrating the contrast between His faithful followers and the religious establishment—there is a phrase in the parable that I want to consider:
"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:19-21).