Who’s Needy? Practice Closer Encounters

Who is the needy one? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Take a closer look.

Practice Closer Encounters - we're all needy

The main impediment to living a life of meaning is being self-absorbed.
– Barbara Brown Taylor

Can You Tell Us Apart?

I ask him if I can help. Does he need anything?

He says no, he is helping someone himself.


When you volunteer at Manna House, you don’t dress up. I often can’t tell the “volunteers” from the “needy.”  I’m occasionally asked if I need food myself.

I think I know why. I can’t tell us apart because we’re all needy.

Ryan (not his real name) looks like a teenage hippie from the 1960s. Long stringy hair. Tie-dye shirt. Vacant look in his eyes.

Ryan rides in on a bicycle. He parks it in the back of the warehouse because we all know what you leave out front can leave with somebody different. He says little to anyone. He mainly wanders around and does whatever Ms. Fran asks him to do.

He has a hard life. I’m told his mom was in a bad car wreck so Ryan is now the sole caregiver for his disabled mom and whatever siblings are still in the house.

Ryan is needy.

In his case, it’s obvious. So Ms. Fran makes sure he leaves packed down with as much food as he can carry home to meet needs there.

The Less Obviously Needy

Other needy ones aren’t quite as obvious. The man with the clean-cut look and confident stride (clearly “volunteer”) also has needs. You have to talk to him to find that out.

And the lady with the smile on her face and new running shoes on her feet (another sign of “volunteer”) is also needy.

  • She needs to break free of self-centeredness,
  • needs to stop believing she’s self-sufficient, and
  • needs to help other needy.

I know. Because I am that lady.

I am the needy, too.

Get Over Yourself

A unique but valuable spiritual discipline I often need to experience is the practice of encountering others. As Barbara Brown Taylor so bluntly says in her fabulous book, An Altar in the World:

“The assignment is to get over your self.”

Everyone has needs. Some just recognize their neediness more than others do. Maybe they fight it less. Maybe they humble themselves quicker.

  • But we all are crippled.
  • We all have weaknesses.
  • We all have needs.

I’d love to learn more of Ryan’s story one day. He is still guarded; he doesn’t express his needs easily.

Maybe we could teach each other to be more direct about our needs and better accept grace given.

So I’ll be watching closer for him, for an encounter—as one needy person to another.


I ran into Ryan again last Thursday night at Manna House. I asked him how things were going. “Actually, not too good,” he said.

I asked about his mom. She has since passed. And his brother? He’s trying to keep him cleaned up, but the brother isn’t cooperating.

I was proud of Ryan’s honesty and openness. Maybe we are changing. Being vulnerable with our needs is a sign of maturity for all of us.

Let’s keep practicing open encounters.

* * *

Who have you encountered lately that is needy? How aware are you of your own neediness? Please share your thoughts in the comments about the Practice of Encounters.

If you’d like other unique spiritual practices, here is a year’s worth, inspired by Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World:

  1. The practice of waking up to God
  2. The practice of paying attention
  3. The practice of wearing skin
  4. The practice of walking on the earth
  5. The practice of getting lost
  6. The practice of encountering others
  7. The practice of living with purpose
  8. The practice of saying no
  9. The practice of carrying water
    (Physical labor)
  10. The practice of feeling pain
  11. The practice of being present to God
  12. The practice of pronouncing blessings

revised from the archives

76 thoughts on “Who’s Needy? Practice Closer Encounters

  1. Joanne Viola

    This is just beautiful. May we remember that we are all needy. We are all broken. We all need our Savior. Thank you for giving me this reminder today. I was your neighbor at Hear It, Use it this morning.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We definitely all need our Savior. So thankful the Lord took care of that need before we even realized we had it. I suppose that’s often the case with the needy; the provision is there awaiting them before they even become aware.

  2. Debbie

    Yes we are all needy. It can be so easy to look at others who are more obvious. But beneath the superficial exteriors, we all have a story. May we take the time to listen to other’s stories and feel brave enough to open up and share ours.

    Blessings and love,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know you listen to other people’s stories, Debbie. And I love how you’re involved in the stories of the “least of these” by caring for children every day. Their little stories are in the earliest chapters and what a blessing you are to them to be a part of those. Love you!

  3. Kim Adams Morgan


    This is so beautiful and so accurate. I think when I was able to take off the mask and let people in – all people in; really connect with them, listen, let them know my flaws, that’s when they can also let their guard down. I think that’s what Jesus wants of all of us – to trust and let go of our ego and not be afraid to get hurt. There is healing here. So blessed by your words.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You make a great point here, Kim: to encourage others to share their stories, we may need to first tell our own, revealing our own humanity and neediness. It shows we can be a safe place. Thanks for adding this to the conversation.

  4. Ceil

    Yowsuh, another quote to stop me in my tracks.

    Hi Lisa, I’m coming from Hear it on Monday. That quote from Barbara Taylor just cuts right through all the nonsense, doesn’t it? We are all needy, and we all need each other.

    Thank you for visiting me today! We are getting to know each other, and I love it 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Both those quotes of hers grabbed me, too, Ceil. Getting over our self-absorption is definitely one of our assignments, and not an easy one. But how encouraging it is to be around someone who has succeeded in that! A glimpse of Jesus in the flesh.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s it, Sheila. We’re all equal at the foot of the cross. None of us are self-sufficient but we all have access to the One who can handle all our needs. It truly is amazing grace.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Mari-Anna. I am looking forward to some wonderful discoveries this month. It started off perfectly yesterday visiting my daughter’s church when the lesson was entitled “Close Encounters”. Gave me chills! Encountering God is always the first and best one.

  5. brian miller

    smiles. i was just reading a post by another friend that was wiping butts earlier in a situation she did not see coming but allowed herself to be a conduit of love….realizing we are all needy def is a stone on the road to humility…its not about us either…i think this is a great challenge…seeing outside ourselves is a gift…smiles.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “a stone on the road to humility”

      I’ve tripped over quite a few of those in my years. It always hurts (my pride, if not more), but yeah, seeing outside ourselves is a gift in the end. Thanks for your insight, Brian. Always welcomed.

  6. floyd

    I’m that needy person too. The one who fights against the insecurities that I don’t remember ever not having… We’re all broken… and maybe the truly or most broken are the closest to the heart of our Father. “Who is last will be first…” You got me deep in the heart on this one by describing yourself, Lisa. It made me describe myself from the outside in. Thanks.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yeah, you’re on to something Floyd with that “last shall be first” verse. Those who realize their needs the most are those who let the Father hold them the closest. Makes it a little easier to accept our brokenness….

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Um, I’m afraid I know exactly what you mean, David. My initial impression of Ryan was to steer clear of him because he looked so “weird” to me. It shames me to think of how I can still judge a book by its cover after all these years of God proving me wrong.

  7. Laura

    Oh, yes…getting over myself. A daily requirement, it seems. I’ve been working through the gospels and am confronted again and again with our need to realize our neediness. Thanks for the reminder, Lisa.

  8. Katie

    What hinders you from encountering others more often?
    Myself — Hiding inside my own skin and mind and not sharing my heart with others. I have been hiding lots lately, especially since I have had a hurting heart. When I get hurt, I get afraid and I shut down. I have been trying to overcome this again. It seems I deal with this constantly.
    Time- — so much going on I am just so busy that I am overwhelmed.

    What helps you overcome the obstacles?
    The only thing I know to do is just share my heart……. and today is one of the first days I have done that in a long long time. Thank you Lisa, I needed this reminder. I am trying to get into my writing again and sharing at least with God in my journal but it has been so hard to even do that.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think many of us do that, Katie: when we get hurt, we recoil back in to protect ourselves. But look at you in continuing to come back, time and time again! I’m proud of your endurance and courage to not stay down. That encourages me.

      Keep taking those steps, however small you think they may be, to overcome obstacles that life puts in your way. Your God is much bigger than any stumbling block. I believe in Him and I believe in you.

  9. Dolly@Soulstops

    Powerful post…isn’t that the hard part of maturing…getting over ourselves? Yes…I am so grateful God loves us through the process, which can sometimes be, for some of us, not so pretty (thinking of myself here)…blessings to you 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Equating getting over ourselves with maturing—yes. That’s definitely a huge part of our maturation process. Babies come in the world totally selfish; maybe by the time we leave this world we’ve learned to let go of self a whole lot more. Thanks for adding this, Dolly.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Hmm…I think of myself as fairly independent and self-reliant too–I’ll take that as a sign I need to throw myself even more on God’s mercy. Thanks for stopping in, Dan.

  10. bill (cycleguy)

    As a pastor it is often easy to put on airs that I am not needy. But I am. Not to the point of craving it but I do relish human contact and friendships. I am a social person. But I also have to remember it is not about me. It is about HIM and His impact on others’ lives. Good reminder Lisa. Thanks.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think of God as very social too, so you’re in good company, Bill. 🙂 And yes, we do all have to remember it’s about HIM–we can so easily forget that, not only concerning ourselves but also in how tangled we get in other people’s lives. God is the center and all else needs to revolve around him.

  11. Barbara Isaac

    To get over self… yes. To be there and free to love, to simple be there in Jesus’ name, not all perfect but all there, with empty hands and a heart full of Jesus. Yes!
    Thanks, Lisa. Love, love, love your writing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “not all perfect but all there”

      That speaks to me, Barbara. I know I never get the “all perfect”. But I often don’t even give the “all there” either. Being in encounters with others I need to be all there. Thanks for this word.

  12. Angie in Guernsey

    Lisa, your writing always catches my heart. Love that we are all needy but I also love the reminder to keep looking out for others, to have a real encounter.

    One of the obstacles I have is an innate shyness, of thinking that the other person won’t be interested in my bothering them. My mother always used to say that being ‘shy’ was being ‘self-centred’ – that I was thinking of myself too much when the other person might be shy themselves and needing someone to talk to them. This didn’t help me overmuch as a shy child – I can still remember the excruciating feeling of shyness – but it did enable me to reach out to others more easily as I grew up, and I’ve never forgotten her wise words. So, remembering them helps me overcome the obstacle of shyness that hinders me from encountering others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, I relate to your feelings about thinking you’d be a bother to others. I often feel that way even as an adult. Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say? I often feel so boring.

      But I know deep down that your mother’s words are true: others may need us to talk for their good. It’s not necessarily being self-centered when we share our own stories; we’re providing openings for them to tell theirs and to be a friend as well. Thanks for passing this along here, Angie. Much appreciated.

  13. Jen Ferguson

    “Because I am that lady.” You got me in the gut right there. Just this morning during my quiet time, I was thinking about breath and Yahweh, what to breath in (the Holy Spirit) and what to exhale. And the only word I could come up with was self.

    You. Me. The same page, lady. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Exhaling self. Yep, that’s imagery that works, Jen. Kindred spirits here.

      My husband was in the room last night as I was playing your SDG video; I told him you were such a sweet woman and he said you sure sounded that way. Thought I’d pass that along to you.

  14. Linda

    Funny how I go to help and think it is the others who REALLY need the help when I also need to turn and look right into my own heart to see NEED. This is a direct landing on…me! I am thankful to be able to look and hopefully see.
    May we listen to others and have less self absorbing stuff in our own way so we can hear ourselves.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Linda, it is funny how we think our mission is to help others (and it still is) but it’s also a way for the Lord to help us, even when we don’t realize we’re in need. He is masterful in how He deals with us.

  15. Dianna

    Yes…we all are needy, and the ones who are brave enough to admit it are those who are truly blessed. I am needy in the area of being a better listener to others. So many times we walk around with smiles pasted on our faces, but our eyes tell a different story. He’s giving me an opportunity tomorrow to be a listener…one who listens with His heart and not my own judgmental attitude. Love you, Lisa, and the way you get right to the heart of the matter with things here on your blog.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “We all are needy, and the ones who are brave enough to admit it are those who are truly blessed.”

      Another sign of the upside-down Kingdom that God designed, yes? Sometimes it’s hard to break out of our worldly thinking to remember those kinds of truths.

      I’m guessing you were a marvelous listener to those sweet grands that you got to spend time with!

  16. laura

    Get over myself. Yes, this is good advice. I wonder what it must be like for God to be able to look at each one of us and see our true neediness. This is one of my prayers, to see with God-eyes.

  17. Maria

    I think one of the biggest mental misconceptions we have about what “needy” means sometimes can keep us from helping those who needs us. We think of needy in two contexts: poor people or clingy people. But we often forget– me included, that there are those needy for spiritual growth, guidance, mentoring and just a ear to hear us. Thank you for a beautiful post and would love to know what happened to him.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Excellent comment, Maria. Our definition of “needy” rules out so many legitimate needy among us (ourselves included). We are all needy in different ways at different times, and many of those ways can’t be detected from an outward look. Thanks for sharing.

      I didn’t see “Ryan” again last Wednesday when I was at Manna House. I’ll try to find out something more next week.

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  19. Martha J Orlando

    Yes, every one of us is needy; we are all fallen and broken in some aspect of our lives. And I agree – we have to get over ourselves. It’s not just about us, it’s about all those with whom we come in contact.
    Great post, Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s easy to get wrapped around ourselves as the center of it all, but yes, we need to be bumped off that trajectory to remember it’s not just about us, but others that God puts in our paths. Thanks for being in my path, Martha!

  20. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I have found that one of the best remedies for when I am grumbling, self-centered, and have a case of constant complaints, is to do something nice or helpful for someone else. It helps me to get my mind off the giant ME and to basically get over myself. I don’t know of anyone who couldn’t use a lift to their spirits??!! Thanks for a timely reminder…I was just grumbling about this never ending summer heat and humidity. I needed a swift kick in the pants to get over myself!!
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “The giant ME” – I see her in the mirror every day. 🙂 I was grumbling about the heat and humidity too so your comment was a swift kick in my pants too. Thanks, Bev! God sent you my way.

  21. Barbara Harper

    Yes–I’m sad to say I’ve thought that of other people: “They just need to get over themselves.” But I’m the one who needs that most of all. Thanks for the reminder that neediness comes in a variety of dress and appearance, and we’re all needy in some way. I’m thankful God has abundant supply not only for the vast number of needs but the variety of them.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your comment reminds me of a quote I read last week that is attributed to Charles Spurgeon: “I’ve never met a person who has given me more trouble than myself.” Great minds think alike, Barbara. 🙂

      I’m thankful also that God isn’t stingy with any of us and is wise enough to know what we need and when.

  22. Lesley

    This is so true – we are all needy. It’s not always easy to admit, but we are and we need to be able to accept help as well as offer it. Thanks for another great post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lesley. I had a huge spasm Monday in my sciatic nerve and I realized immediately that I was super needy! Unfortunately, there was no one around except my 1 1/2 yr old granddaughter asleep in her crib that I was going to need to go get when she woke up. I was so thankful that God got my body working again before she woke up. I was desperate for his help.

  23. Patsy Burnette

    Lisa, this is so heartbreaking and at the same time eye-opening. And then I realize, this is not really a new post. It’s 6 years old. Which leads me to this thought—it’s not a new problem, but an ongoing, continual problem of humanity—neediness. From the Garden of Eden until now people have been, and continue to be, needy. A need that can only be met by a Savior. Thank you for these reminders!


    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Patsy. Yes, I originally met this young man 6 years ago. I’ve seen him several times in the years that passed, but it had been awhile. Until last week. I saw him again. I really felt God put us in each other’s paths again so I had to revise this post and remind myself anew of how much I need Jesus.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Getting over ourselves is one of our hardest assignments! I need reminders of it daily. It’s amazing that Jesus, the very Son of God himself, was able to empty himself out, yet I have trouble emptying out my human self. Grateful for his example for us to look up to. I need it.

  24. Debra Jean

    Yes, we are all needy! I love the quote about getting over ourselves, so true! The fact that vulnerability is a sign of maturity, also true. Although, many people see it the other way around, praying more see their need and become willing to be vulnerable in that place of need, as this is where we find help. Great Post! Many Thanks 8)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Debra Jean. It’s often hard to let ourselves be vulnerable in a world that admires strength. But once we can see that vulnerability is ALSO a strength, it can become easier. With practice anyway. 🙂 And yes, the place of need is where we can find help!

  25. BettieG

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. The Lord is teaching me so much about my own self-sufficiency that has had to come down through this journey with chronic illness. After a lifetime of being the “volunteer,” it felt so different to be suddenly thrust into the place of the one who is needy for assistance. And yet God’s grace has given so much beauty through these lessons. What a blessing there is in pressing into the arms of Jesus ever more deeply thru the need.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      One thing is for sure: each one of our bodies will eventually fail us, even to the point of death, so we’re better off learning early that we will all need help at some point, if not many points in our life. I love hearing that you’ve seen God’s grace come through for you through your own pain, Bettie. I still pray he would just remove the pain, but I’m glad that you are finding blessings even through it as you walk with him.

  26. floyd samons

    Awesome post, Lisa!
    Ain’t that the truth! We’re all broken and the foot of the cross is level!

    I often think that the ones with the most pride are the most broken according to God’s word. The broken have found humility, which is the only position to find and come to know the Truth.

    We’re all that person… even if we do have the nicest tennis shoes on…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      There are so many places where humility comes in handy. Being vulnerable definitely requires humility. “The broken have found humility” – and “the only position to come to know the Truth.” Wisdom, Floyd. Thanks for passing it along.

  27. ~ linda

    When I realize that I need to confess my neediness, my sin, my weaknesses, and actually do that, the weight lifts and I know I can be free of those things when I realize I walk around hiding those things. Thank you for being you and sharing these precious moments which open to being set free…again and again.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good insight, Linda: “when I realize I walk around hiding those things.” We’re often not even aware of the baggage we’re carrying with us until we look over our shoulder and see the weights that we’re not releasing through confession and humility. Daily I need to let Jesus set me free. Thanks for your inspiration, friend.

  28. Anita Ojeda

    So true. We’re all needy. This year, we’re starting small trust circle groups with our students (we are to facilitate and guide, not participate). I’m looking forward to seeing how these small groups might change the culture at our school and help us all to realize that we are needy.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a wonderful opportunity you’ll have to guide the small trust circle groups! I’ll look forward to hearing about the progress you see throughout the school year. You use so many of your gifts with these kids, Anita.

  29. Laurie

    I love this post, Lisa. We are all needy. This sounds like a book I must read. I have often had a similar thought when driving for Meals on Wheels. Often the residents who are receiving the meals I deliver wind up helping me far more than I ever help them. One woman in particular, who is 93 and has bladder cancer, is teaching me to live a joyful life without complaints.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      93 and bladder cancer…yet still being a blessing! That’s a wonderful example. I’m glad you’re able to minister to her and that she is able to minister to you, Laurie.

  30. Meghan Weyerbacher

    All these words. Ah. Painfully direct yet refreshing.
    “The assignment is to get over your self.” Yes. It reminds me of the book I am reading by Chad Bird right now, Upside Down Spirituality. This post is my favorite I am pretty sure. Thank you.

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