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Does Money Get In The Way Of Happiness?

15 October 2018

Money and Happiness.jpg




“I think one of the most pervasive evils in this world is greed and acquiring money for money’s sake. Once you have six houses and a plane, it’s just about a number. It’s never been anything I understood.” – Kevin Bacon (Actor)

“Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough.” – Janwillem van de Wetering (Novelist)

“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” – Erich Fromm (Psychoanalyst)


“Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.” – Benjamin Franklin (Founding Father)

“Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.” – Saint John Chrysostom (Early Church Father)

To someone with little, more is better, and throughout history most people have had little compared to the abundance Americans enjoy. We all have lived in a fossil-fuel engorged lifestyle for longer than anyone alive can remember, we live in a level of comfort that our ancestors could not have imagined, and yet we always desire to have more.

Our cars are oversized, our houses are oversized, our debts are oversized, and, for many of us, our bodies are oversized, yet we keep on thinking that more will be better. The entire lexicon of economics is devoted to this belief. A rapidly escalating economy is called “robust,” not “out of control,” and as it slows down it is called “ailing,” not “stabilizing.”

But beyond a certain point, more just means more of what we already have too much of. That goes for eating, drinking, or just about anything. A growing body of data shows that once a person’s basic needs are met, money no longer does anything to make them happier. Yet everyone, whether they make 40,000 dollars a year, or 400,000 dollars a year, or 4,000,000 dollars a year seems to think that they would be happier if only they made perhaps ten percent more.

However, even as people’s houses get larger and our possessions multiply, people’s happiness has been going down. Some sociologists have suggested that discontent is related to economic growth, as our new wealth is used to build homes further away from each other, as it is used to buy more electronic devices that occupy our time but offer only short-term pleasure, and as it is used to spend more time commuting and less time with loved ones, we get more lonely and more discontented. Do the experiment yourself. Would you rather have a new, bigger television, or a new friend?

In an article titled, “Money giveth, money taketh away: The dual effect of wealth on happiness”, in the journal titled Psychological Science, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn talked about how she found that people are not happier when they have more income, but when they give more away. Those who responded as happiest to survey questions turned out to also be the ones who gave most to charity.

Most interestingly, this runs counter to what we all have been taught; when Dunn asked the subjects of her experiment what made them happy, almost all said they’d be happier spending money on themselves.

Perhaps the lesson in that is that by and large, we are capable of being better people than we now realize as being possible.

Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19 & 20)

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