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Our world applauds success, as well it should. It is certainly appropriate to champion those who develop their talents, work hard, and overcome obstacles.
Unfortunately, however, our society is also fixated on praising excess. Magazines overexpose the details of the lives of the rich and famous. News publications rank people according to their net worth. Reality television applauds the lifestyles of those who live in luxury. The internet attracts readers with countless stories about those who appear to be living the good life.
We do the same in our own lives. We comment on the size of the houses in the neighborhood nearby. We point out the luxury car in the lane next to us. We envy fashionable clothes and designer handbags. We make jokes about marrying into money. We dream of a life without limits because of our riches.
We desire to live the life of those who seem to have it all. In our hearts and in our affections, we praise those who live with excess, but we are making a big mistake. Success and excess are not the same.
Possession of riches is often arbitrary. Sometimes people achieve financial gain through hard work and dedication, but not always. Sometimes financial wealth is a result of heritage, dishonesty, or just plain luck. In those cases, the rich have earned no praise for their wealth.
Purchasing excess is rarely the wisest use of money. Just because we have the financial resources to afford something does not mean it is the best option for us. So why do we keep celebrating those who use money selfishly?
Our world keeps score wrongly. Those who live in excess are not necessarily the ones who have the most fulfilled lives. Often it is those who live quietly, modestly, and contentedly with a simple life who are the happiest. Those are the choices we should be celebrating and the lives we should be emulating, but this definition of success is foreign to most of us.
How are you making material excess into something it is not? What does it reveal about the hold that consumerism has on your heart and mind?
Admire success, but do not celebrate excess. Learning to know the difference will change your life. So will wising up to the strategies implemented with the sole purpose of convincing you to buy more than you need.
Achieving liberation from excess and from our need to possess will require each of us to recognize and resist the consumerist society in which we live. It will also require us to peer inward, to identify the vulnerabilities in our own natures.
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