The Nakedness of Need

Podcast version

I went to yoga class today for the first time in two years. I no longer have the flexibility that I did as a kid. I used to rock the sit & reach. But not anymore. Now, yoga hurts. In class today, my hip flexors visibly twanged. Sitting on my feet in the pose of perfect serenity was not serene. My not-quite-healed ankle sprain made me choose between enduring pain or releasing the pose multiple times. I chose to release the pain. When pain spasmed, I breathed heavily. Heads turned. I drew attention to my own discomfort, and I was embarrassed.

Pain is visible, unless we hide it or hide from it. We look away from pain when we can. If someone’s crying, we don’t look. When someone’s digging through the dumpster, we look away. That kind of need shouldn’t be visible, but it is.

People that don’t have money, they’ve got visible need. People with bodies that don’t move the way folks expect. A cane, a wheelchair, a squawk, a flail. They’ve got visible need. A pair of pants with too big a number, or too small a number. Visible. I need help, it says. It declares: this person has a body that’s an uncomfortable place to dwell. It evokes pity or disgust.

We all avoid seeing need. We look away or glance at our phones and fixate on the shiny screen. Even this act of avoidance speaks of need. It says: I have need, too, and my life doesn’t meet my needs. I have to look elsewhere.

Visible need always creates discomfort.

For example, puppies and babies. All they have is need. And love for those that meet their need. That’s it. It’s a simple exchange. Meet baby/puppy’s need and they give you gift of love.

But need can be overwhelming. If you’ve ever had a puppy or a baby, you know. Puppies need to chew and to play, and if those needs aren’t getting met, they will chew on your chairs and steal your stuff and run away in the funest-unfun game of chase-the-dog, so that you can get back your sock or shoe or journal. Puppies need to play, and when they’re bored, they destroy your stuff. It’s that simple. Unmet need equals destruction.

It’s taxing to be a care-giver. Equally taxing on the soul, the ego, the mind, to be needy. To be a care-receiver.


Because we feel shame.

We look away from the guy standing on the street corner with a cardboard sign. His need is naked. “He should be ashamed” is the unspoken thought. Of course, he is. His need is naked. It makes us feel ashamed.

But in truth, we are all naked with need. We have always been. In the Garden of Eden – we were naked, but we didn’t know until we ate the fruit. Then our eyes were opened to our own need, and we hid.

Why? Because I was naked, Adam says in Genesis 3:10.

 “Who told you that you were naked,” God asks. Who told you that to be ashamed of your own need? To hide it? It wasn’t God.

Who told them to be ashamed? They told themselves. To be naked, to have visible need, is shameful.

We told ourselves. Yet, we all still have need. We are all naked, in that sense, and still as ashamed as two people darting into the bushes to hide themselves.

Rather than hiding from our need, or worse, denying that we have need – naked, embarrassing needs – we could admit them. The emperor has no clothes.

We all have needs. It’s okay. It’s allowed. It’s more than allowed, it’s inherent in our make-up. We are all born naked.

We all need help to meet our needs. That’s how its supposed to be. If we acknowledge, and ask for help, we can get it. We all can be clothed – if only we first admit that we are naked.