This is a guest post by Philip A. Clemens, former Chairman and CEO of the Clemens Family Corporation.
“We buy things we can’t afford, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like!”
In the 21st century, many people are conflicted about the lifestyle they live and think it is all about showing others where they are in life. We love to make others think that our things define who we really are, when in fact, they describe what we are.
Most people would say they don’t choose their lifestyle, but rather, they adapt depending on their income. But there are three paths people take when choosing what kind of lifestyle they will live, and only one leads to a truly fulfilling way of life.
1. Impressing Others - Pride
Let’s all be honest, we like to impress people with the things that we have. For some, this comes in the form of houses, cars, jewels, toys, spouses, kids, and that list can go on. Why do we want to impress others? I think the answer is very simple – pride. We are proud of what we have and we want others to really be impressed since we think it will make them think more of us and of our accomplishments. We want them to know we have arrived.
Pride in and of itself is not wrong. However, when we allow pride to rule in our hearts, it will direct us to make choices that, most of the time, don’t include God. Pride is driven by ego (Ken Blanchard has described EGO as Edging God Out). It is because of this attitude that America today faces so many problems, especially in the financial arena. We hate to admit what we can actually afford – it’s more like how many more payments can we afford so we can continue to impress the people around us who are also struggling to keep their merry-go-round spinning. Image is everything, whether real, imagined, perceived, or put on. Your image defines you, and thus we set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment.
2. Compulsively Buying
Then you have the group that has the compulsive need to just buy. They aren’t buying just to impress others, but instead they are buying to fill a void in their own life and are hoping that things are the answer. Many times the things they buy are used maybe once (some are never taken out of their package) and then just put on a closet shelf, in a drawer, or set aside. Go to many garage sales and see how many brand new or only slightly used things you can find. You say to yourself – what were they thinking? But, you may end up buying it only to take it home to use it once (or never) and then put it away. Then you find that you are exactly like the person you bought it from. You were both trying to fill something in your life that you just didn’t know how to fill or even that the hole was there. Many of us fall into this trap.
3. Choosing Intentionally
On the reverse side, some people operate by a very different agenda. They really don’t care what others think and are willing to make huge sacrifices to use their resources for other very specific needs. They are willing to live in less costly housing, drive an older car, buy clothes that aren’t the latest fashion and may even be used, and rarely spend money on costly “fun” things or trips. All so that they can be intentional with their resources. They have chosen a different lifestyle.
In I Timothy 6, the apostle Paul tells us to strive to have godliness with contentment. If we have the basics of life – food and clothing, we should be content. He said that many of the people whose only drive is money and material possessions walk away from their faith and end up with only trouble. We should be content with the basics because we have Christ. No amount of money can buy contentment and joy.
Are you intentionally choosing a lifestyle for contentment and joy? Or are you allowing pride and impulses to drive your actions?
For more on living intentionally, read Phil's five keys to living a lifestyle of contentment.