The Struggle between Greed and Compassion

greed and compassion

For some reason I found myself thinking about some of the seemingly forgotten environmental disasters of the recent past, like the nuclear fallout still blanketing the earth since the earthquake in Japan. As I considered the long range environmental challenges facing today’s world, I suddenly realized that they all have a common cause.

Why have the oceans become toxic sewers? Why is everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink polluted? Why is real food being replaced with roundup ready GMO garbage that rats won’t even eat? And, why does the threat of radiation poisoning from 440 active commercial nuclear power plants worldwide hinge on the operation of relatively simple water pumps?

The answer to all these questions is GREED!

Evidently, greed can cause otherwise reasonable people to abandon all compassion and concern for the welfare of their fellow human beings. Whenever there is a choice between low profit, earth and people friendly technology, and high profit ravaging of the earth and its inhabitants – guess who wins!

Despite what you’ve been told…

Cold fusion works, but society gets its energy from petroleum, coal, and nuclear sources instead. Why choose unsafe, dirty energy over technology that is cleaner and cheaper? Greed, that’s why!

Organic farming of heirloom seeds produces a higher quantity of higher quality crops, but agribusiness is built on artificially fertilized, pesticide laden, mutated seed stock that produces expensive, low quality, low yield crops. Why feed the people expensive, chemically tainted garbage while stripping the earth of its resources and poisoning the water and soil? You guessed it – greed!

Health care by definition means taking care of your health. So, why does allopathic medicine promote the infusion of toxic chemical poisons called medications? And when faced with a serious, life threatening disease, why is the first step to destroy the immune system with radiation and drugs? For that matter, why is the curriculum at major medical schools controlled by the giant pharmaceutical companies? Right again, it’s greed.

Take a stand against greed

These are just three examples from a long list that demonstrates the devastating effects from a mindset under the influence of greed. Yes, the ones I mentioned are all coming from giant corporations, but they are run by people who have sold their humanity for power and riches. Is greed on a personal level any more acceptable just because its impact is on a smaller scale?

Greed is poison and it can cause otherwise decent people to act in deplorable ways. Nothing good ever comes from a greedy, hoarding mentality. It’s the most destructive force on the planet and one that should be avoided by anyone trying to provide value on any level.

Choose the higher ground, choose compassion!

Personal development means developing as a person. It means raising the bar of expectation and taking a stand for what is right, even if it’s not the most monetarily profitable choice. It means that our values are expressed by our actions!

True, we have very little control over the choices being made by the self serving mega corporations of the world, but we are in control of our own choices. As individuals, we can choose the higher ground and set an example for others. Some may say that there is no room in the real world for idealism. I say the world has never been in greater need of higher ideals and positive people willing to reject greed and take a stand for compassion.

What do you think?

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  1. Daniel March 18, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan —

    You’re certainly not pulling any punches here …!

    I most assuredly don’t think greed is a good thing, and please understand what I’m trying to say here: speaking as an American, I am finding myself wondering if we are in a fundamentally greed-driven culture — that the hatred we see for the rich is actually driven by envy, not, in large, by a sense of moral outrage. We all want to be billionaires, and given the opportunity, we’d jump on the money and let the rest of the world be damned.

    Money changes people, and big money changes people big.

    Assuming there’s anything to my suggestion here, this would imply that we (as a culture) accept this status quo despite the glaring evidence around us, because deep inside we all want our piece of the pie … before the pie is gone.

    What do you think?

    – Daniel

    • Jonathan March 18, 2011 Reply

      Hey Daniel, I think there is little doubt that most of society everywhere is “a fundamentally greed-driven culture.” That is why the world situation is in its current state. And yes, with few exceptions “Money changes people, and big money changes people big.” In reality though, it’s counterproductive. Why do we choose competition over cooperation? There is plenty of pie for everyone so why should I have 10 pies while 9 people go hungry and my pies go in the freezer?

      Greed makes us want more regardless of how much we already have. It’s not about meeting our needs, it’s a love of excess. One billionaire could be 1000 millionaires and they would all have more than enough. Why should having money equate to increased selfishness when it actually opens the doors of opportunity to demonstrate increased compassion? Rich or poor, we are all just people, we should act responsibly.

      Daniel, do you really think that “we all want to be billionaires” and that we would all be willing to sacrifice the welfare of others to reach that level?

      • Daniel March 18, 2011 Reply

        Jonathan —

        When I said “we,” I was frankly speaking in a general sense about American culture, which probably was too much of a generalization. However, I’ve seen how a number of people have changed when the individuals in question are presented with what they’d consider “big money,” and I wonder if this “demon” — so to speak — is part of our culture. I’m certainly not saying it’s right. I think affluence gives a person an opportunity to see aspects of themselves they wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and it gives the ego the means to ignore the stuff that isn’t so pretty. In my opinion it takes a modicum of character to deal with big money in such a way that it doesn’t change us for the worse.

        So, we come back to your original message: defeating greed is an inside job.

        • Daniel March 18, 2011 Reply

          Forgive the grammar — hard to do this on a Blackberry!

          • Jonathan March 19, 2011 Reply

            Daniel, this was such an insightful statement, “I think affluence gives a person an opportunity to see aspects of themselves they wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and it gives the ego the means to ignore the stuff that isn’t so pretty.”

            You hit that nail right on the head!

  2. Nea March 18, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan. I definitely agree with what you’ve said here and I’d like to take it a step further. At the core of every greedy person is fear. Fear drives those who would sacrifice almost anything for the accumulation of more, more, more, more. Without that fear, the need for that illusion of security created by wealth vanishes. The struggle won’t stop until people master their fears and realize that we are all one with each other, as well as with mother nature.

    • Jonathan March 18, 2011 Reply

      Well said Nea, that fear is insecurity and as you brought out, money and power are only the “illusion of security.” How sad that so many suffer so that a relative few can create an illusion for themselves.

  3. Kristi March 18, 2011 Reply

    They should get people like me to design some of these nuclear reactors. Like me, but with a lot more education in that area at least. I’m uber paranoid about any of the possible little things that can go wrong – down to let’s not leave the window open too much because of the off chance the cat could come flying into it with enough force to break through the screen and go straight out the 2nd story window (as opposed to just bounce off the glass like a wall if it was closed). I would pretty much fight for any expense necessary to make sure all of the “what if’s” were covered.

    • Jonathan March 18, 2011 Reply

      Hi Kristi, the thing is, people like you would opt for a cleaner, safer, more earth friendly source of power in the first place. We’ve been conditioned to think that the current choices are the only choices, but that is just propaganda. As I mentioned, non polluting, inexpensive energy sources like cold fusion could be used, but their biggest drawback is that they simply aren’t as profitable. They don’t feed the greed machine’s insatiable appetite.

  4. Evan March 18, 2011 Reply

    I think greed is part of the answer.

    Other parts. Viable alternatives that people can adopt now. I can’t divert my waste water from flowing to the ocean on my own.

    Places to discuss the problem (blogs like this).

    Ways for people to collaborate on building desired futures. (Much room for skills of conflict transformation and creative planning here).

    Defeating greed is an essential but not a sufficient solution to my way of thinking.

    • Jonathan March 18, 2011 Reply

      Hey Evan, I don’t know that greed can be defeated except on a personal level. I just wanted to shine a light on how destructive an influence it has been and continues to be. Awereness is always a good place to start.

      • Evan March 18, 2011 Reply

        Hi Jonathan, like you I don’t think greed can be defeated on anything but an individual level. I guess I didn’t make this clear.

        I also think that the collective influences our individuality. Even if change starts with the individual in social matters it doesn’t stop there.

        • Jonathan March 18, 2011 Reply

          Hey Evan, It’s a nice thought to think that positive change that starts with us as individuals doesn’t stop there. I figure we can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. I’ll shoot for part of the solution every chance I get.

  5. David Stevens March 18, 2011 Reply

    I agree “greed” has much to answer for. However, before we can destroy this “villian” on a personal level I believe we need to know exactly what greed is.
    I think people’s take on this will vary. Greed to one is not greed to another i.e the lines are blurred.
    Be good to yourselves

    • Jonathan March 18, 2011 Reply

      Hey David, What an interesting observation, I like it. It would be easy to say that the definition of what constitutes greed rises or falls according to what a person has, but that would be like saying that greed can be defined by possessions or position. That would be a pretty shallow appraisal mechanism. In reality, anyone, in any situation can manifest greed because it is an attitude of never being content and always wanting more.

      • David Stevens March 20, 2011 Reply

        Thanks Jonathan,
        Your final sentence about sums it up. However “…an attitude of never being content and always wanting more” is really where we should all be in Life…..working to be better, achieve more. I think the “greed” here is possibly the way we go about this i.e at what sacrifice to others?, who gets hurt along the way?……what do you think…

        • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

          Hey David, while wanting more in the sense of being better and an insatiable desire for more at any cost may seem very similar, I think there is a fundamental difference. The quest for more personal growth without greedy motives will include positive attributes like compassion and community consciousness. We actually expand our awareness of and concern for others. Add greed to the formula and those unselfish aspects of growth are replaced with the desire to take regardless of the consequences to others.

  6. Nancy March 19, 2011 Reply

    Great thought provoking post Jonathan – you mentioned how amazing it is that “greed can cause otherwise reasonable people to abandon all compassion and concern for the welfare of their fellow human beings” – powerful statement and so very true! I had to ask myself where does greed stem from? Is it FEAR based since compassion is LOVE based?

    In gratitude,

  7. Jonathan March 19, 2011 Reply

    Hi Nancy, there are three core desires that drive human behavior. The desire for approval, the desire for control, and the desire for security. Of the three, the desire for security is king. A perceived lack in these areas can cause a person to try and fill those desires any way they can. Greed often stems from the false notion that having more (money, power, authority, friends, etc.) is the same as having more approval, control, and security.

    The hole in this approach is that one must constantly look to external sources in order to satisfy their insatiable need for MORE. And if it comes from external sources, then it can also be lost to external sources and that’s where fear enters the picture.

    When we learn how to satisfy those three core desires internally it creates a much less fragile sense of security that doesn’t require constant propping up. This, in turn, fosters feelings of emotional abundance and we want to give (love, compassion, support, etc.) rather than take.

    This is a subject I cover in depth in my book TRUE SELF.

  8. Sandra March 20, 2011 Reply


    This is so potent! I like it when you get feisty like this. Yes, greed is a driving force. But what’s behind the greed? It’s confusion about who we really are and what will bring true happiness. If people really understand the key principle that harming only harms you in the end, they would never for a single moment act in such detrimental ways for themselves and the planet. They will only suffer in the end.

    I’m so grateful for people like you who see clearly. Thanks for telling it like it is.

    • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Sandra and thanks for your kindness. I think the word confusion is very appropriate here. When someone has a limited perspective and sees themselves as the center of the universe they will act without consideration for anything except self. When we see the bigger picture, then we naturally develop a deep respect for the web of synergy that connects everyone and everything. As a result, we see ourselves as one tiny component in the vast machinery of interdependent life.

  9. Stuart March 21, 2011 Reply

    I think this post sums up the maxim “you have to give before you get” pretty well.

    It’s a shame that there’s too much greed, especially as ‘greed’ is the definition of ‘too much’. I think most people become greedy out of fear, they don’t want to lose out and be left with nothing, so they try and hoard as much as they can, without giving any of it away to other people, even if they’d need it more.

    This is fear in action, where people refuse to believe that the world can provide enough for everyone to live on. The world isn’t limited, everyone can enjoy it. So people need to be more compassionate :-)

    • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Stuart, what a nice balanced comment. You made some excellent points here. I looked up greed just to get a few synonyms. I like how having a list of words that express different aspects of the same concept tends to expand our understanding. Anyway, just to throw it out there, here’s what I found: gluttony, voracity, ravenousness, greediness, insatiability, hunger, self-indulgence, appetite, craving.

  10. John Duffield March 21, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan. If I may, I’d like to toss in a story about the “roots of greed”. I think everyone agrees greed is wanting everything for oneself, at the expense of others. Take two men on a desert island with one piece of food for instance. A greedy person wants it all, even if the other person starves to death. But behind greed is a very fundamental kind of selfishness. By that I mean, our unshakable belief that we’re all separate “selves”. This basic belief in “individuality” makes us think we can take from others without harming ourselves. But we’re dead wrong. To illustrate our misunderstanding, imagine a greedy Siamese twin on that island with a single piece of food. He believes so strongly he’s a completely separate individual, he doesn’t even realize his Siamese twin is a part of him. Motivated by greed, he’s prepared to sacrifice his brother and take all the food for himself. So what happens when his brother dies? The greedy guy dies of selfishness, because they’re both part of one whole. Same holds in the real world. In reality we’re not completely separate individual “selves”. We’re all part of each other like one humongous multi-faceted Tiffany lamp. And the moral of this story? Until we realize we’re not separate, individual people, greed born of selfishness will continue to destroy the whole world. Just like it destroyed our Siamese twins.

    • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

      John, you amaze me sometimes. I don’t know how you come up with your seemingly unlimited supply of illustrations, but it is a rare and powerful gift. Your comment painted such a vivid and complete picture that my only response is – Thank You! Truly awesome how you nailed this.

  11. Debbie March 22, 2011 Reply

    You hit the nail on the head with this one. Greed is taking over the world. It is time we dejunk and start getting our priorities straight. Money is just a tool, would you really want or need 100 hammers in your house. I do agree with you fully on this post. It is like they are drugging everyone so we won’t notice what is happening to us. My mother was one that trusted the doctors and the drugs are what killed her.
    Wonderful Jonathan and thanks for speaking up. It needs to be said over and over again until people finally understand. Debbie

    • Jonathan March 22, 2011 Reply

      Hi Debbie and thanks for your support. Interesting that you said “It is like they are drugging everyone so we won’t notice what is happening to us.” I read somewhere that 15 years ago the average prime time TV show was geared to a 7 year old mentality. Now they say it is down to a 4.5 year old mentality. It’s the systematic dumbing of the masses.

  12. Steve March 25, 2011 Reply

    Hi, Jonathan: As Gandhi stated, We must be the change we wish to see in the world. For me, then, the challenge is to model compassion and generosity toward people in my immediate circle of influence, and across the world. I can choose to be intentional in supporting causes that work to end poverty and suffering around the world.

  13. michael November 10, 2011 Reply

    I see greed every signal day of my life school/work/TV/internet/society/even in my own family. I’m feeling overwhelmed I feel I need to be greedy before compassionate. I feel to help others, I must help myself first.
    Eg. Id have No problem walking over someones family to save mine.
    john u said “It’s the systematic dumbing of the masses”.
    How to we overcome such a powerful force without corrupting our selves.

    I’m scared it’s already to late that John Duffield was absolutely correct.
    We have already eaten the food, killed our “twin” and now we are awaiting the death of selflessness……to die in our own greed.

  14. Ima Nutcase March 22, 2013 Reply

    Morality has been replaced by capitalism. Our competitive life styles are destroying the planet. If it turns a profit, it is out of the ground. If someone comes along with something that hinders profit, they are ignored. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. but anything with morals has been ousted by Capitalism. And people say the Nazis were evil. They were, however we are just as evil. It is time to wake up from the intoxicating slumber capitalism has administered.

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