Every day people are faced with making many decisions. Big or small, important or unimportant, this is part of life.
And in life, we have to choose some things in preference to others.
But choosing doesn’t always involve just “things”. Choosing also involves philosophies.
Ways of living. Ways of being. Ways of believing.
And often in life, we become trapped into a deceptive way of thinking.
One such deceptive trap many fall into is: That we should have everything. That we can have everything. That we deserve everything.
It’s called ‘the more, the better’ mentality. The Joneses.
“Life is short, I am only going to live once. So, I want a luxury car, a huge house, and a ton of all the latest and greatest gadgetry to put in it.”
And when you adopt this mentality, you can’t help but start to notice what everyone else around you has. It’s natural, when you want the best, you must see what those around you have. How else can you make sure what you have is the best, unless you are judging what others have?
And so the competition begins, even if you don’t fully realize it.
There’s just one problem, though…
You. Will. Never. Win.
Every time you try to compete, you’ll always lose. Because even if you have the best of something, someone else will come along in about five minutes that will have something better.
It’s also called “Keeping up with Joneses”…and why should I be interested in keeping up with these Joneses people? I DON’T EVEN KNOW THEM.
The Joneses – A Deceptive Trap
Often in reality, the Joneses actually aren’t who we think they are.
In reality, the Joneses are broke.
The Joneses are stressed out.
The Joneses are living paycheck to paycheck.
The Joneses aren’t really happy.
…In fact, the Joneses are downright miserable.
Trust me, you do not want to be the Joneses.
The Joneses are Self-Motivated
And the worst part is, the Joneses aren’t living for the true needs of their family, or for God. They’re living for status and admiration. They’re living for themselves.
And when you live for yourself, status, admiration and all these other things that come with excess materialism and consumerism, it’s impossible also to live for God.
You cannot have both. It just doesn’t work that way.
As I have mentioned before, in my past I wanted the best of everything. And believe it or not, I still have to fight those temptations sometimes. I am prone to looking around to see what everyone else has.
But at some point in my life I realized that’s not how I want to live. There is no peace there. No happiness. I was like the Joneses I was trying to imitate – I was downright miserable.
And the best part is, once I stopped trying to compete with these annoying Joneses folks and stopped comparing myself and my life to others – the happier I became, and the closer to God I became.
Looking back on things, I simply didn’t have room for Him before. I thought I did. But I realize now I was only deceiving myself. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be. It’s true.
I have learned with time that when you choose to desire and live a more simplistic life, one without comparison, it’s easier to see God in front of you.
And it’s only then, when you see and feel His presence in your life, can you let Him work in you and through you.
The Highest Goal
There are those who truly want to make God’s will their highest goal in every moment of the day. They strive to do all things without considering their own convenience or inconvenience.
I honestly thought I was like this, or at least becoming this way. But then I started to realize that whenever I was trying to do what I saw as “the better thing”, it only worked for me, as long as this did not interfere with all the other things I was focused on obtaining for myself.
Throughout the last year or so I have read many websites, focused on the topic of simplicity and minimalism. And I truly believe everyone who writes about this topic is sincere in wanting to help others escape the trap that is materialism.
But many of them, I believe, have missed a large component. There is much talk about the “freedom” that comes with a more simple life. You can rest more, travel more, and spend more time with family. The list goes on and on.
And I completely agree that there is good in all of these things. They’re important and often necessary.
But the single most important benefit to living a more simple life, one without comparison, is finding God in the space and the freedom that results.
I think most people would agree that they desire peace and a firm, lasting happiness in life.
Living for God, instead of ourselves is greater than any earthly accomplishment, more than any human praise, more than any worldly satisfaction.
Every achievement, success and new possession has its day but quickly passes away.
I am going to continue to fight the temptations to consumerism, materialism and excessiveness. I am going to stop comparing myself to others.
And when I see the Joneses, and I am tempted to think how nice their things are, I’ll realize, “They’re not real.”
But God is real. And He is happiness. And that’s where I want my focus to be.
Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog GrowInVirtue.com, which focuses on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.
I notice too the closer I get to God the happier I become and the less I want and need when it comes to material things.Give me God and the simple life.
Following the pareto principle, 80% of what we have is not necessary, although wanted. The hard part is learning to distinguish between needs and wants. If you don’t use it much, especially clothing, given it away. Don’t bother with collections of anything (coins, stamps, legos, etc). There is much depth to be plumbed on the Gospel saying of serving God or mammon.
Thank you for the good ideas! Btw, what’s the principle you mentioned? I never heard of it.
The Pareto principle is commonly called the 80/20 rule, named after the man who noticed that pattern.
Thank you, after a personally horrible this posting was like medicine for me and personally touched me.
God bless you.
Eugene, I’m glad to hear this. God bless!
When I used to go on retreat, the one thing I loved (besides the TLM and Liturgy of the Hours) was silence.
It seems like there’s a conspiracy against silence. In Josyp Terelya’s book Witness, he wrote that one of the tactics used by the Soviets to break a person was noise. They would bombard you with noise and give you a brief half hour of silence, then they’d start the noise again. People went nuts from such torture.
Do you have any ideas on focusing in prayer when you’re surrounded by noise? Since a car accident some years ago, I can’t focus on prayer. I’m constantly distracted. Example: Our Father… I forgot to call her…who art in heaven… I have to call her today… (You get the idea.)
Any help you can give is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
That is a good sign that it is hard to pray. We are all going through similar temptations. The best is not to panic. Second come back to your prayer think of who are you addressing. Put Holy water on you and around (read Teresa Avila on how to sprinkle holy water, where her pains left after sprinkling area where demon was standing. In revelations of St. Bridgett of Sweden, Christ told her that he allows this for us to fight through it to gain greater merit in heaven. St Jean Vianney teaches us to use those temptations or situation as an act of reparation, where you offer it for those who can not pray (no will to parry at all, if you hurt your leg offers it for those who do not go to church …. you get the idea), that saint tells us that demons are beside them selfs when you use their ammunition against them selves. One last thing to bring your spirit up my friend, St Louis De Monfort tells us that Rosary is one of the hardest prayers to say for that exact reason, he tells us to slow down say less but say more he places a cross between each stance. For example Our Father …. Who art in heaven ….Hallowed be Thy Name ….
Hope that helps 🙂
Thank you for the good advice! What you said about the Rosary is absolutely true. If I try praying the Rosary at home, I’m constantly bombarded by distractions. When I go to the local Eucharistic Adoration chapel, and I have Our Lord in front of me, then the distractions are either gone or greatly diminished. (Invoking St. Joseph, St. Benedict, Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and my Guardian Angel helps too).
Even at chapel, sometimes I can’t get beyond the first two words (Our Father , Hail Mary). It takes me at least 45 minutes to pray the Rosary.
God bless you!
In Christ the King,
The Thirty-Second Chapter
Self-Denial and the Renunciation of Evil Appetites
The Voice of Christ
MY CHILD, you can never be perfectly free unless you completely renounce self, for all who seek their own interest and who love themselves are bound in fetters. They are unsettled by covetousness and curiosity, always searching for ease and not for the things of Christ, often devising and framing that which will not last, for anything that is not of God will fail completely.
Hold to this short and perfect advice, therefore: give up your desires and you will find rest. Think upon it in your heart, and when you have put it into practice you will understand all things.
Imitation of Christ
Thomas a Kempis
The age old problem is the moderation between austerity for the sake of austerity and over-indulgence.
Now the author of this piece would probably condemn me as I want a better life for myself, I want some security in my life (i am currently living paycheck to paycheck, saving a little here and there).
I am on the cusp of crossing the threshold in my professional career where I will be charged with the care of clients money, making decisions based upon my professional judgement and being held to account for it. Crossing this threshold would mean significant salary increase with the possibility of an annual bonus and (if I do my job well) future promotion and increases.
I want this for the simple reason that promotion would mean that I could realistically start thinking about a wife and family of my own, of investing for future school fees (I would obviously want to send them to Catholic schools), giving little Natasha, Thomas, Gus and Vladimir a much better start in life than I had and setting aside money for my old age.
But no according to previous posters I am a supercilious materialist who needs to be ground back into the mud from whence I came (of course this does not apply to them, they are hard working, decent men blessed by St Joseph).
And you wonder why so many people come to Mass only to avoid hell. ……..
In one his Epistles, St. Paul says that ‘the *love* of money is the root of all evil. It’s not money itself – it’s the love of money.
There are many Saints who came from wealthy families (e.g. St. Basil the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas et al) who either 1) gave their wealth to the poor or b) lived a according to their station in life but were detached in their souls from the wealth they possessed.
From what you posted, all you want is enough to support a wife and family. That’s not being materialist.
This might console you:.
In Your indescribable graciousness and great goodness You came to Cana in Galilee, and blessed the marriage which took place there. Thus You made it clear that it is Your will that there should be lawful marriage and from it the procreation of children. Now, Most Holy Master, hear the supplication of us, Your servants. As You were there, so also be here with Your invisible presence; and bless this marriage, granting to Your servants N. and N. a peaceful and long life, matrimonial chastity, mutual love in the bond of peace, a long-lived posterity, happiness in their children, and the unfading crown of glory. Keep their married life above reproach, and grant them to see their childrens’ children; give them dew from heaven and the fruitfulness of the earth; ***provide them with an abundance of temporal good things, that they in turn share their abundance with those in need; *** and grant to everyone here present with them all that is necessary for salvation.
From Byzantine Catholic marriage rite
Sorry, I had to edit the source. It hasn’t been updated in years. M
I also want to be able to support my mother in her old age. She’s done an excellent job raising two children by herself and whilst she’s not going to starve when she retires, I want to make sure that she’s comfortable and doesn’t have to worry about money.
I don’t know that any of the other posters would make that judgement about you. Many of us are in very similar circumstances, in fact. I am married and have three young daughters. As a married layman, it would not be acceptable for me to attempt to the holy poverty of St. Francis. That would be inappropriate to my state in life. I am the head of a family, and that means that one of the duties proper to my state is the management of my family’s resources. My family SHOULD own things.
This essay, though, is trying to counsel prudence with money, which can apply in any state. There is nothing wrong with you doing well in your job and being rewarded for it, but how will you spend it? The priorities you mentioned certainly indicate you’re on the right track.
St. Francis de Sales was adamant that we should not makes our homes into monasteries or our monasteries into homes. That advice was helpful to me as I was just starting out as a husband and father. Our lives have their own character distinct from the religious state, and handling money is natural to our state.
I’m sorry, these are really great thoughts and all, but it comes across as a humble brag when you refer back to yourself so often.
The Joneses are those who crave goods in the Capitalist System, which is run by Usury, still a Sin according to The One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church.