Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 20, 2011

Songs help us affirm our need of other people

Songs are important. They make a profound difference in human existence. Our tastes are different and there many styles from which to choose: country music, gospel music, classical, easy listening, blues, and others.

Songs touch the heart. They express emotions that are common to us all. Take Hank Williams’ songs for example. No matter who you are, you can relate to one of Hank’s songs. It might be “Lovesick Blues,” “Cold Cold Heart,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” or “I Saw the Light,” but you can identify with one of his sad songs.

 I have a problem with the words of some songs. An example is the song “People” that Barbara Streisand made popular. It contained a phrase that many of us remember easily, "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world." At first glance that idea seems sound but it is actually a distortion of reality.  There is both truth and nonsense in that statement.  

The truth is, all people need people. There are no people who do not need people. No matter who you are, you need people or life makes no sense. We are created to enjoy relationships with other people and with them to engage in significant and worthwhile endeavors.

There are of course people who pretend not to need others. They can walk past you with a nod and you realize they want you to think they do not need you. You can give them a break and suppose they were in another world, their minds focused on other matters. There may have been a good reason why they did not give you the time of day. There is no need to get on your high horse and criticize them. We are all guilty of brushing past people when we have something else on our mind. So there is no need for the pot to call the kettle black.

Then I suppose there are some people who, having taken offense at something we said or did, choose to ignore us intentionally. It is their way of saying, "You are no longer worthy of my respect and attention, you sorry so and so; now stay out of my life!" That can happen without our even knowing why the other party is offended. Such behavior causes most of us to become defensive. We are not guilty. They simply misunderstood what we said or did. That makes the break in our relationship their fault, not ours.

In this defensive stance we can take the attitude, "If you don't want to be friends with me, then fine. I can get along well without you too." We can become as huffy as they are. That is the way some friendships end. But friendships can be saved if one party is willing to eat a little humble pie and say to the other, "I regret what has happened between us and I want to apologize for whatever I may have done to offend you. Your friendship is important to me, and I want very much for us to be good friends again."

That attitude, however, is not possible in a person who feels no genuine need of people. Such a person actually needs other people but, having been hurt many times, refuses to admit the need of anyone else. In that frame of mind one may become quite caustic and bitter, and apologies are strongly repressed. The person who is hurt is apt to feel that it is the other person who should offer an apology.

Let us examine another phrase in the “People” song: "the luckiest people in the world." We know what the songwriter meant but healthy friendships are actually not the result of "luck." The word "fortunate" says it much better. An even better choice might be "blessed."

So we come nearer the truth when we say, "People who need people are the most fortunate (or blessed) people in the world." The phrase would make even more sense if we changed it to say, “People who admit their need of other people may be the most blessed people in the world.”

The key is to acknowledge our need of others and admit it. Why is it so hard for some of us to admit we need people? Pride probably, and our stubborn reluctance to let others know that we need their acceptance, friendship, and love.

A richer, healthier life is available when we are willing to swallow our silly pride and let other people know we need them. People – all people – need people, and the sooner we freely admit it, the sooner life is filled with meaning and joy.

So, risk it. Pick out a person who seems to ignore you. If that is a person whose friendship you would like to have, walk up and say, "I would like for us to be friends. If you have time for a cup of coffee, I'm buying. What do you say?"

"But what if I am rebuffed?" you may ask. Look at it this way: to be rejected by another person will not diminish your worth one molecule! And there is no shame in offering your valuable friendship to another person. The loser will be the person who refuses your offer of friendship.

Your admission of need might break the ice and allow a healthy friendship to develop. It's worth a try since we only go around once. So go for it! There is a good chance you could become one of the most blessed people in the world. Then you would not feel sad when you hear Hank sing “I’m so Lonesome I could Cry.” + + +