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Jack London wrote a wonderful story illustrating one cause of greed.  It's called "Love of Life," and it's about a man who comes extremely close to death by starvation.  When he's rescued by the crew of a ship, people start to notice that the hardtack is missing.  When they search his quarters, they find that the man has hidden hardtack everywhere possible--he's hoarded the stuff, for he's afraid that he'll go without food again and that he may starve.  He's become incredibly greedy because of a fear that has become a very real part of him.

Isn't that what makes most people greedy?  Fear?  For some people, their greed is a result of something that's happened in childhood, something they were deprived of, something they didn't get.  Because of this lack in their lives, they feel that they have to hold on to everything they possibly can.  Some people won't donate money because they're afraid their own financial resources will be drained. Some won't give love because they're afraid a person will take it and leave, leaving them with less love.  Some won't give food because they're afraid they'll run out of food themselves.

No matter what the cause, though, greed is deservedly one of the seven deadly sins.  My dictionary defines "avarice" as "greed for money and abnormal hatred of parting with it," but it's impossible for me to see greed as being limited to money.  Greed pulls us away from other people, makes people want to avoid us, makes people feel bitter and angry towards us.  Yes, there are those people who will feel compassionate, who will know that the greed's controlling us, and not the other way around, but those people are relatively few.  And just because they feel compassion for us doesn't mean they want to be around us, for they know that there's always a chance that our greed will end up hurting them, too.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a beautiful example of a greedy man.  Much of the beauty of the character lies in Dickens' explanation of the cause of Scrooge's greed--no matter how much we despise the man, we have to sympathize with him to a certain extent.  Money has become a symbol of safety to him, and to let it go means to lose his security.  At a young age, he even gives up his fiancée because of his need for the security that he thinks money will provide.  He finds out, though, that his focus on money has turned him into a solitary, isolated creature, without a friend on the planet.  Dickens ends the story wonderfully, showing us how a simple change in perspective can change a man's heart.  We're glad, of course, for the other characters who no longer have to deal with the skinflint Scrooge, but we're even more glad for Scrooge himself, who finds a bit of happiness in his remaining years on the planet.

Greed hurts everyone, but it especially hurts the greedy person.  If I have to deal with a greedy person, it affects me negatively for a moment or three, but then I leave, and then I avoid that person.  The greedy person, though, because of a fixation on something material or something they're afraid of losing, hurts and alienates people, and very often ends up quite alone until he or she is able to rid him or herself of the fixation on their object of greed.

Somehow, these people need to learn that they're fine just as they are, and that their lives aren't being made richer by possessing the things which they crave, but poorer because of the way that they act in trying to get the things they crave and trying to hold on to the things they have.  My hope is that they can be happy without the need, without the things.  

The bounty of nature is too little for the greedy person. …Seneca  

There is no vice which humankind carries to such wild extremes as that of avarice.

Johanthan Swift

 There is a sufficiency in the world for people's need but not for people's greed.

Mohandas Gandhi  

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.

Erich Fromm   

Greed lessens what is gathered.

Arab proverb


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