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How greedy are we

Updated on January 15, 2015

Greed is common

If we look around in our world we think we can see the greed of others. But seldom do we think about our own greed. But how strange is that to think we can see the greed of others but not our own. Maybe that is because we think greed has to do with behavior others show towards us. While our own greed is not greed in our eyes because we understand why we show that behavior.

Death valley
Death valley

What is greed

Is it a mortal sin

Declaring greed a mortal or deadly sin is the easy way out. Because saying greed is a sin means we are not allowed to be greedy and should do everything we can to not be greedy. Now all you need to know is what behavior is seen as greedy and which not.

But is that clarifying what greed is. Of course not, all I now have done is make greed a taboo or a forbidden behavior. I have added a value to greed not an explanation why we should not be greedy.

So why should you except my or anyone's rules for behavior if you do not understand what those rules are about. Should you except them because I know better or because I am an authority or because you are greedy and it is much easier to let others decide how to live then decide for yourself. Or should you except my rules because I am an behavioral expert or someone with excellent behavior and real life experience when it comes to greed. Even if I can not explain what greed is and how it influences our lives and world.

So what is greed

The definition of greed is rather vague:

  • Merriam-Webster dictionary:
    • a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed.
  • Wikipedia:
    • As a secular psychological concept, greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs. It is typically used to criticize those who seek excessive material wealth, although it may apply to the need to feel more excessively moral, social, or otherwise better than someone else.
Now you only know what kind of behavior it is, but do you really know what greed is. Do you understand how it makes you feel when you are being greedy. Do you know how it feels if you are the victim of greed. Do you know why people are greedy and what kinds of acquiring people do when they feel greed. Of course you can not know through a definition what greed is, because if you did you would know how not to be greedy. But how many people who are greedy can stop their behavior just because someone tells them they are greedy. So it seems that greed is much more than just behavior that can be criticized.

Maybe we should not ask what greed is, but how it comes to be and what it does.

What other feelings - could create greedy behavior

Do you think that these behaviors also create feelings of greed:

See results

Greed is more than behavior - it also is a feeling

Road through Death Valley
Road through Death Valley

If we drop the definition of greed as behavior and replace it with what we know about how greed makes everybody feel we might better understand it. It might also help us to see that greed is normal human behavior because we apply the feeling and behavior the feeling creates in many situations. We even use greed in situations in which we would not call our behavior greed.

A feeling of greed: jealousy

So greed is more a feeling than a behavior. It is our feeling of greed that creates greedy behavior. What feeling makes us greedy. Probably the feeling of lacking. If we feel that we get to little of something we become greedy. So we become greedy for love if we feel that we get to little love. Normally we call this feeling jealousy or lust. But in reality it is greed, we want something in excess because we feel we have to little of it. So we want to make sure that we have enough of it, so we do not have to feel that we get short changed.

A feeling of greed: selfishness

But then is feeling out of time and not wanting to spend time with other people also a form of greed. Because the fact that spending time on others gives us the feeling that we have less time for ourselves. Which creates the feeling that we want to keep our time to ourselves to prevent feeling a lack of time. Which then creates the behavior that we only spend our time on others if we think it is spent useful, like with family, friends and co-workers or clients. Because we can earn money or get friendship or unconditional love so we get the feeling that the little time we have was well spent. Which probably explains why we do take time to walk with our dog, but not with our neighbor or a complete stranger. Normally we call this behavior selfish or egocentric or stressed for time. But in reality it is a form of greed, wanting to keep all the time of our life for ourselves and for our self to decide what to do with it.

A feeling of greed: inferiority

Inferiority is the feeling of being less than others. But how can this be a feeling of greed. Greed is a need for excess of something and who wants to feel an excessive amount of being less than others, nobody. But feeling inferior leeds to greedy behavior, because we want to spend less and less time with others so we can avoid feeling inferior. So inferiority creates greedy behavior as people want to spend as little time with others as possible to prevent the situation that they might discover that they are not inferior. Which would mean they have to let go of this feeling of inferiority which gives them a feeling of knowing themselves and through that a feeling of safety.

The goal of feeling greedy

Because the goal of the feeling of greed is to feel save, as greed is a feeling that comes forth from feeling insecure about oneself or ones future or ones relations with others. So what our mind tries to accomplish by being greeding is finding the feeling of being save and secure. But what the mind must discover is that the more it lives according to its greed the less secure it will feel. Because feeling greedy means we feel victims of our circumstances and by being greedy we try to control the situation we are in to get rid of the feeling of greed.

What has Amazon to offer - on greed

The last chance
The last chance

So greed is

normal human behavior

If we look honestly at the feeling of greed and the behavior it creates, we must admit it is not an exception. Greed is the basic instinct of humans and most animals to cope with their world, their surroundings. Look at tigers who are solitary animals who need to be vigilant all the time and protect their territory from other tigers, so they can have enough food to survive. But also look at the fact that the most successful hunter of the African planes is not the lion but the hyena, who make a lot of effort to create a territory. What the hyena shows is that cooperation is a better way of coping with a world in which food is not abundant.

Both behaviors could be called greedy. The tiger greedily protects its territory, while the hyena greedily cooperates with other hyena's to protect its territory and its food supply. What can we learn from this animal behavior? That greed is good and bad and that it is normal behavior, because it stems from our instinct to survive. Which means that to answer the question in the title of this lens, our answer would be:

We are very greedy, but that is natural.

What we need to learn from greed is that we have to understand why we are greedy and find a solution for the feeling that causes us to be greedy. Because that is something humans can and animals can not. So we need to understand why we are feeling jealous, selfish or inferior or any of the other feelings that make us behave greedy.

What is your opinion - about greed and feeling greedy

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