Is Materialism Getting in Our Way of True Happiness?


After the past year, we are pacing ourselves through a period of re-boot. Most people are cautiously optimistic that society will march forward and growth will take root.

The definition of growth can mean something different to each of us. Can growth be quantified by our possessions? One mystifying part of our human nature is the aspect of materialism.

From the time we are children, we begin to make plans about how we would like to live and the status we expect to obtain. In short, what will make us happy? There is no question we need material possessions to help us feel safe, confident in our place in this world, and have our needs met. The question that we face throughout our lives is where is the balance?

That balance comes from our deep well of values. The degree of comfort we have in terms of spending our energy on material possessions versus achieving close family and social connections, engaging in experiences that we treasure, gaining a sense of spirituality or even status and power is a delicate mix.

The average American juggles approximately $92,727 in consumer debt, according to Equifax Credit Reporting. The typical credit card balance is $5,897 alone, not to mention all the other options for buying power. Personal loans, car loans, mortgages, student loans, and payment plans are easily available if we need something or want it. Our national debt is a hefty sum we can’t even begin to fathom.

The point of materialism is tipping too far beyond that balance of need. Our willingness to use our energy striving for far more than what will accomplish to obtain we value most can disrupt that equilibrium.

The compulsion to rush out and get the newest and best of things from the latest cellphone to a house in the hottest development in town could signal a need to be important or successful through the eyes of others. It could also be a desire to maintain a very comfortable life through the means of possessions.

The desire for modern conveniences and nice things isn’t really materialism. It really is a fine line. Not everyone is striving for the biggest and best of everything. There are plenty of us scaling back in several ways. The tiny house era, the minimalist movement, issues of our carbon footprint, and living simply are choices we can make for a variety of reasons.

A man mentioned to me a while back that he just wanted his wife to be happy. He explained that they lived in a huge home, had the best of everything, and yet she still wanted more. Apparently, he couldn’t deliver what she expected. He didn’t talk about his five healthy children or the happy memories they had piled up over the years. His sadness and confusion worried me. Beyond the objects they possessed, something was missing.

We all tend to make mistakes with our money and learn as we go. It’s hard not to compare our progress and success with neighbors and friends. It is also perfectly normal to get excited about the purchase of a car you’ve had your eye on for a while or a new outfit.

Yet, seeking balance is worth a look at any stage in life. If you feel like a slave to your debts or work to pay for things you don’t even care that much about, take stock of what makes life meaningful for you. Adjusting your needs versus wants can be an eye opener. People who constantly look for things to make them happy tend to struggle to achieve lasting peace.


That steady feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment in life often comes with a very simple plan. Want what you have.

The old saying is, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” That often means things money can’t buy. Some of the happiest times in my life had nothing to do with the size of my house or the car I drove. In fact, I don’t even remember what I was driving. I do remember the people and the laughter and the warm feelings that meant I was loved and able to give love.

Today I encourage you to test yourself. Do you want what you have? Let yourself absorb what the world has to offer – right where you are.

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