Materialism: Are you enslaved?

Our American culture values this idea of being busy so that we can have more and do more. If you were to walk the streets of downtown Los Angeles, New York or really any other metropolitan area, you would see how incredibly busy and complex people can be.

You will find people rushing, honking, shouting and people who are always in a hurry. Where are these people going? Well, they are busy and they are trying to get somewhere. They follow this idea that time is money and since we are limited with the time that we have, we are in a rush. People in America are also taught that we should have all sorts of stuff at the end of the day. People work hard so that they can get more and more things. Sometimes it is wanting to have the latest smartphone, or other times its wanting to have a nicer car. At times wanting more can mean even wearing the latest fashion trends to look cool, or having things that we believe we deserve. So, what does all this stuff equate to?

Materialism.

Materialism is a product of capitalism and there are so many people who value themselves and others with the things that they have. It always amazes me when some people are not accepted by others because they do not look, dress or act a certain way. In fact, if we look at any sort of commercial or advertisement, they are all trying to promote an image, or an idea of how we should be, how we should behave or what we should strive for. Willingly, people follow what they read, see and hear. Now, let us consider the idea of “keeping up with the Jones’”. While I personally can see much good that comes from capitalism, I also am aware that there are some downsides to it. It appears that materialism is a product of capitalism. I could be wrong, but I am very concerned about those who value themselves with the things that they own. One of the biggest downsides materialism is the very idea that people value themselves by the things that they own. They desire to compete with the Jones’. If people who fall into the lie of materialism fail to keep up, they see themselves as nothing; they see themselves as something less than normal.

So, who are the Jones anyways and why should we care? Well, if you think about it, the Jones are a concept. They are people, maybe your neighbor, maybe someone you go to church with, or maybe even a family member. They are the people in your life who have the things that you do not. They drive a nicer car, they have a hotter wife, they have a better job and a bigger house than you do. But what about being better than us emotionally, or spiritually? We have to think that ever fiber of our being can become entrapped in this identity of keeping up with the people next door. These are the kind of people that we tend to compare ourselves with. It is truly unfortunate, but it is so true today. When we value ourselves by comparison, we are placing ourselves in a battle we will almost always lose. Even when we win and pass the Jones’, the mindset of doing even better can ruin your joy. The mindset of materialism is a poison that can ruin every single aspect of your life.

Let us, think about social media. Many of you are connected with social media and if you are not, then I am sure you are aware of what it is. All you need to do is unlock your phone and go to any sort of social media service and see what people are posting online. You will find stories of people, pictures, videos and posts of people living their life. People put their best foot forward so that they can make things appear to be better than they really are.

I am reminded of the side-view mirrors in cars and how they used to say that “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”. It is interesting because this message is to allow drivers to be cautions of what they see. They may see one thing (the illusion) when the actual object (the reality) may differ. In the same way, I wish that social media had some sort of disclaimer. I wish that Social media would say “posts may be falser than they appear” or something of the like. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone onto social media and I have seen people make their posts, pictures, videos or whatever look better than they really are. We cannot Photoshop our way through life. In fact, when we lie or when we create something that is less than true, we are masking the very fabric of who we are. If you think about it, people want to paint the picture of perfection or something close to it. People are creating the illusion of perfection so that they can feel loved, important and so that they can indeed keep up with the Jones’. There is so much more to this life than a comparison of an illusionary social media post. Many people get caught up in this unhealthy mindset of comparison to the point that their self-worth is trying to catch up with others. We should not live for the material, for the material will deteriorate and pass away in the end. In fact, when we think of the modern world that we live in, technology, cars, equipment, phones, well, they all fade away in the end.

So, what are some signs that you are comparing yourself to others. The following below can help: Simply ask yourself:

  • Am I happy when someone gets a new car / phone / computer / house? Or do I find myself to be jealous, full of anger, hatred or envy?

  • Am I happy with the things that I own and appreciate what I currently have?

  • Do I constantly buy things that are eventually replaced with the newest model or fad?

  • Do I find myself satisfied or am I always chasing a proverbial thirst for more?

There is nothing wrong with having the desire to have a good life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have nice things. There is nothing wrong with being a hard worker to make a living or to get by. We must be careful though when that desire becomes an obsession in the making. We must be careful when our efforts are never enough to quench the thirst for more. Materialism can be an addiction.

So, what can you do to combat the unhealthy mindset of obsessive materialism?

  • Learn to appreciate the things that you have.

    • This is a very hard thing to do, but we live in a culture where we already have so much. One big example that I had to learn the hard way was buying a car. For the longest time, I wanted to have a brand-new car. I wanted to look cool in my new ride so that people would see me as an awesome guy. With a new car, came car payments and with car payments came restrictions of money. I would always have to pay $365 a month for my $21,000 car. It certainly would take me a lot more time to pay off a $21,000 car than a cheaper car that gets me from point A to point B. So even though I had a new car, it came with a price.
  • Be patient and slow to replace items.

    • Consider cell phones. It seems that every 6 months, the cell phone companies release a new phone. Is there really a need to purchase the newest phone every single time a new one is released? I mean, unless the phone is broken, or operational, is there a need to replace it? Cell phones like many other things can last for a couple of years. Save yourself some money and use your phone until it breaks, cannot be repaired or replaced.
  • Understand that people value different things.

    • People value different things. Some people value wealth while others value family. Some value contributing to society, while others value the environment. Some people value knowledge while others value times in nature.
    • Ask yourself the question: What do I value?

The desire for wanting more and more things can be enslaving to someone’s happiness. We should not be valued by the things that we own, rather we should be valued with who we are as people. There is more to this life then constantly buying the latest and greatest fashion, technology or any sort of material possession. After all, Life is Short.

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