Q: This has always been a puzzle to me. Perhaps you can help me figure it out.
My brother and I grew up on the same farm. We had the same parents, went to the same school and often hung around with the same kids (we are only 19 months apart in age). So why are we so radically different?
He is without doubt the greediest person I have ever known. He makes Scrooge look like the fairy godmother.
I, on the other hand, am way too generous. I am close to being a free handout for just about anybody. Like my mom, I am very sensitive and like my dad I do whatever I can to help people who are struggling a bit.
We are so very different, my brother and I, so much so that I worry about him. His greediness has cost him dearly on social networks. He has no friends. His wife left. She got fed up about five years ago, having to account for every penny she spent. She pulled their three kids out of school one day and moved away.
If it was not for my mom’s insistence, my brother would have nowhere to go for Christmas dinner, New Year’s, Thanksgiving or any other celebration for that matter.
I would like to help my brother but I am not sure what to do. How do you help someone who is so gosh-darned greedy?
A: I am not sure how many different kinds of greedy people there are in the world. Probably there are a lot. I just want to focus on two types of greed.
The first comes from those people otherwise known as psychopaths.
Psychopaths have absolutely no social conscious, are totally insensitive to hurts and sorrows of their acquaintances, and often delight in torturing anyone who might be caught in the sights of their long bows. The greedier they are, the more miserable is everyone else. Psychopaths figure into one percent of the general population. I doubt if your brother is a psychopath.
The second type of greed about which I would like to refer are those whose greed is fermenting in the well of anxiety. In fact, greed is just another form of anxiety. The problem with anxiety is that those who are anxious in fact do not know what it is that they really want out of life. All that they know for sure is that they want more, and the more that they get, the more that they want. It is a vicious cycle. As it turns out they not only do not know what it is that they want, they do not know what they have when they get it. They want the power of the dollar but then do not know what to do with it when they get it. So they go for more.
If you really want to help your brother, your only real option is to settle him down, relaxing the anxiety and helping him figure out exactly what he wants, both in the long run and in the short run. Who is that real person hidden away down inside of himself?
Helping your brother figure out what it is that is buried in his own personal pot of gold at the end of his rainbow is hard to do. It is going to take time. He does not know what it is he wants. And neither do you. It is going to be especially hard for you to help him because most likely that anxiety that is driving you into sensitivity and generosity throughout your community is drawn from the same uncertainty about yourself that seems to be guiding your brother’s greed. Both of you need to discover that hidden self.