Last week, I was so lucky enough to have three out-of-town friends visit me in Portland. Amid all the time we spent eating, laughing (and eating), walking (and eating), and book-browsing (and eating), we managed to have a meaningful discussion about a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. That topic was our seemingly insatiable insatiable desire for more. More stuff, more social currency, more actual currency.
Picture this. We were sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop getting caffeinated for the day (and, oh yeah, eating pastries) when a well-heeled, gorgeous woman walked by. My two girlfriends and I followed her with our eyes.
“I want her hair”, said K.
“I want that jacket”, said A.
“I want a purse just like that”, I chimed in.
The male friend who was with us was, ironically, oblivious.
We watched her walk out the glass door and into a new-looking black Audi. I thought of my decade-old dent-covered Honda.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy and I’m inclined to agree. The question is, though, why do we always seem to compare ourselves with those who seem to have more than us? If you live in the United States, even if you make a modest wage, you are likely in the top 1% globally with regards to wealth. Don’t believe me? Just plug in your numbers here.
But for many of us, myself included, that often doesn’t seem to be enough. My closet full of clothes isn’t enough. My comfortable little home isn’t enough. My reliable car isn’t enough. It was a relief to hear that I’m not alone in this. My friend W, who is an ER doctor, shared with us that he often feels annoyed by how his neurosurgeon colleagues will own not one but multiple Teslas.
This is clearly insanity. To be honest, I don’t actually want to own multiple $100,000 cars. But when I think about those who do, I feel left out. Left behind. Less than.
This is just human nature. In fact, it extends beyond just humans to our primate cousins. It upsets us to receive less than others. But this all stems from what Richard Rohr calls “the commodity culture”, in which what we possess defines who we are. Because it’s not really about the objects we covet. It’s about what we believe those objects say about us. Commodity culture makes us believe that we are the equivalent of what we consume.
If you were raised in the the Western world, this mindset has likely been deeply ingrained. I know it has been for me. In my last post, I made a vow that I was going to spent an entire week without online shopping/browsing/coveting. You want to know how I did?
I made it about 6 hours.
My lack of success shows me how far I have to go.
But my conversation with my friends last week reassured me that we are all in this together. We are all subject to greed and jealousy and, well, admitting you have a problem is the first step to healing.
I’ll end with this.
Trusting that we are gifted with an inherent dignity allows us to stop looking for fulfillment outside ourselves. If I can trust that I am loved by God just as I am, I can stop worrying about accumulating more things to signal my worth to others. And if I can increase my capacity for self-love I can stop funneling my insecurity into consumerism. It’s not about judging or depriving ourselves…it’s about loving ourselves more!
Does any of this resonate with you? Do you have any tips or tricks for increasing self-love and/or trust in God’s love? I’d love to hear!