I am not poor. Poor are those who desire many things.Leonardo da Vinci
This is probably one of the hardest things that we (and I’m definitely including myself in that ‘we’) struggle with. If I’m honest, most of the times I feel discontent are when I compare myself to those with more than me (which of course, is actually a very small percentage of the world’s population). When this happens, I start to feel life is just not fair, I’m not getting what I should, and most importantly… if I could just get a little more.
I just need a bit more.
Not too much.
I know deep down that greed is bad.
I don’t want to be super-rich.
Just a bit more than I have now.
Often I try to temper this feeling to make it more palatable, even if it’s only to myself. I say “It’s not that I want a Ferrari or anything, but if I could just have a newer minivan – how can that be wrong?” “I don’t want a giant McMansion – but a bit bigger house would be good for my family – that’s not asking for so much is it?”
The problem is we actually believe there is some level of material wealth, of comfort, of possessions – that we can plateau at – and then we won’t desire any more. Our most truthful response to the question “How much money is enough?” would be “Just a bit more.” If we are not content with where we are in life – because we are looking, longing, coveting for something just a little bit more – why do we think it will ever end?
The opposite of greed – an attitude of giving and generosity – also works in the same way. If you can’t be generous with what you have now, it’s unlikely that you will be generous when/if you ever have more. I have seen this kind of generosity that stems from the heart- that doesn’t try to justify the gift based on the giver’s current place on the socio-economic ladder. It is so good for me to see others who give not just sacrificially – but willingly, joyfully- as it helps me see the greed in my own heart.
I don’t believe our place along the greed-giving continuum will automatically slide when we move up or down the ladder of financial stability and success. If we are greedy for more when we think we don’t have much, it won’t change because of a change to circumstances. We can always be greedy, and can always think we don’t have much. If we can’t be generous with what we have now, we likely never will be, for we can always compare ourselves to someone who has more and say “then -then – that’s when I will stop wanting more and start to be generous.” We need to start recognizing this for the lie it is.
I find this is maybe easiest to see looking backwards as well as forwards.
If you journal – this is a great opportunity to look back and see the things you used to think ‘would be great to have, and would be all you need.’ Have they now become just base-line existence?
Look forward to the things you are longing for now. What do you think will really change?
Reflect on comparing yourself to what you used to have, or what less would look like – not only more.
Ever Generous God,
You have given us all so much.
Family, friends, homes and communities.
You have allowed us to find things that feel meaningful,
We have the beauty of your creation to enjoy
The joy of music, the marvels of science, the mystery of the mind.
Help us to find joy in what we have – this very day.
Help me not to NEED one more thing.
Show me the gifts I have been given,
and for now – to just be grateful for those.