close up shot of a woman smiling

How Much Does Happiness Cost?

I think we know the detriments of materialism. Maybe we don’t. We still confide our worth into things like cars and clothes. Maybe it’s because we love these things. Maybe it’s because we don’t know an alternative to how we can express ourselves.

What does it mean to be materialistic? Materialism is to place value in having a lot of possessions, or possessions in something rare. These possessions could be money, objects, and even people (how many followers do you have?).

I’m pretty sure we know that materialism leads to unhappier lives even though we believe that things can bring happiness. I don’t think people understand why accumulating things doesn’t bring happiness. Objects are a scarce resource, so to accumulate things one must compete with others to obtain them. Just think of shows like House of Cards, Game of Thrones, or Succession. There’s only one prize and people do whatever than can, usually in ways that undermine other people with selfish intentions, to receive what they hold dear. The same thing happens when it comes to job promotions, exclusive relationships, and shoe drops. As a result, those who are inclined to be materialists experience more bouts of anxiety, and depression and report more physical ailments.

What Are You Hiding?

Materialism happens to be a cloak for insecurity. The person with the big monster truck driving down a two-lane street is hiding something. The times in which we buy something, or want to experience something are typically during the times we compare ourselves to others. We want to get a Tesla because the people around us have Teslas. We want to go on a vacation because we scroll through Instagram and find that our friends are in Japan. When we prioritize the pursuit of happiness, we’re saying that we lack something. The thing we buy is supposed to fill us, but rarely does that happen. Some people spend beyond their means in search of this happiness, which only results in debt, financial hardship, and even more stress.

The crazy thing about our world is that materialism is only showcased to us as positive. You can take a look at the advertising industry and see how brands manipulate insecurity in hopes that people buy things they don’t need. Materialism provides no benefit to people, but it does allow for corporations to increase profit which brings in tax dollars for the government. Kind of weird that we allow made-up entities to have more priority over us. I think we believe we benefit from these industries and institutions, but do we? Well, we say, “Businesses create jobs and allow people to have livelihoods.” How does it feel to be a Robin Hood who takes from the poor and gives back to the poor? The only person who truly benefits the most from any business is the owner. And so the value of entrepreneurship is born because not everyone can be a boss.

Conflict of Interest

What do we say about those who are materialistic and also follow some type of religious doctrine? Would we say that they are operating in a conflict of interest? It was Jesus who said you can only have one master. One would have to choose between him and the dollar. Yet, it seems like we have Christian-believing folk thinking that they are having their cake and eating it too. Why does it feel like the conservative Christian (or maybe it’s people who claim to be) is the worst offender?

There is a belief that God wants us to have possessions when, in my opinion, God could care less about what you have. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe God loves us, but if we believe that love is tied to material gifts, we have a warped definition of love. But I guess that’s why we give gifts at Christmas? Many Christians believe that their prosperity is a reflection of God’s love for them. Does that mean He hates poor people? Is that the reason why we drive past the homeless person in disgust?

They believe that they are following the doctrines of Christ but are manipulating those who are supposed to be their brothers and sisters for higher gain. Higher gain ordained by God at the cost of His people!?!? You can’t have goals to be like God while also praising money. Putting “In God We Trust” on paper doesn’t make it divine. Especially people living in this contradiction will experience a lower quality of life mixed with conflict and the stress of their choices.