Principle 9: Help Those Who Need to Relieve Suffering (The Need Principle)
By the Good Works Corollary (C3-4) we know that relieving other people’s suffering will help relieve our own. However, as detailed in the Cause Principle (P6), desire is the cause of suffering and fulfilling desire creates more desire. So how do we relieve suffering if the way to do it causes more suffering?
As I have said, desires are not the problem. Clinging to those desires is the problem. Still, we can’t know that people won’t cling to the desires we help them with. But desires have their good sides. Hunger, the desire to eat, keeps us from starving to death. But hunger is different from most desires. It is a desire that we can’t help but have. Beyond being a desire, it is a need. If we don’t eat, we die.
To me this is how we attack the joy issue: we help people with those desires that are at the same time needs. This gives everybody a chance, and I think everyone should have a chance. Not only a chance to live, but also a chance to make their own search for God. Some might think that having no food or shelter is the way to God, but I think having to worry about your next meal or where you are going to sleep gets in the way of searching for God.
I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with this principle. I really thought it could be a derivative, and I struggled with trying to come up with a logical justification for it based on the 29 other statements I have worked through so far. But I couldn’t make an argument that really felt solid to me, so I decided to go with it as a principle. Again, this is fine. This is part of the point of this whole exercise: to find out what things I must take on faith in order to support the whole of what I believe.
The Doubt Corollary (C2-1) tells us that we must be ready to doubt what we believe, because we can never really understand the truth. The principles of our belief, the things we must take on faith to support the rest of our belief, are the foundations that must be doubted. I have my doubts about this principle. This year I have been practicing Jesus’s command: “Give to those that beg of you.” This principle does not go to that extent, but I am not sure if Jesus was right. In time I may come to a different decision, but for now this works.