Most of us, if asked, would admit that we want more than we already have. Whether money, relationships, career, or possessions, we’re wired to “reach” for more. This isn’t always a bad thing. Considering the innovation we’ve experienced over the past 100 years, and how it’s improved life for so many, I’m grateful that we keep reaching forward and upward. But, when it comes to finances, how can we know when reaching for more is not good?
From Grateful to Greedy
I remember one Christmas morning when my daughters were 2 and 4 years old. There were at least a dozen presents under the tree from grandparents, uncles, aunts, and us, their parents. As they began opening them, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself.
The first gift they each opened provided that picture-perfect reaction of gratitude and joy. They were mesmerized by the gift, and had we not handed them the next present to open, they may have spent the rest of the day enjoying it. With each gift they opened, they became less joyful and noticeably less grateful. I recall one of them quickly tossing one present aside after opening it, barely looking at it because more gifts were waiting to be opened.
This phenomenon [condition] is quite common in us humans. When we don’t have much, we tend to be grateful for the little we have. When we experience abundance, having more than we need or can consume, we lose our way, devaluing our possessions and reaching for the things we desire and do not yet possess. The good news is this condition is not permanent; it can be appropriately diagnosed and cured. Although similar to a disease, it can lay dormant until the right stimuli cause it to appear and wreak havoc again.
The Key to Financial Balance
Maintaining the proper balance is the biggest challenge when managing our finances. On one end of the spectrum, there are the desires to spend on the things that make life more enjoyable and fun. On the other, there’s the need to save to safeguard our future. We know both are necessary, but spending is fun and saving, well… let’s be honest, it’s not! Is it possible to maintain the proper balance between these two competing and equally important things? I believe it is. And the key is gratitude.
Gratitude is simply being grateful for what you have, a spontaneous emotion that comes from within. But it’s more than just an emotional response; it’s also a choice. We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful – to take what we have for granted.
“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have, we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.” – Br. David Steindl-Rast
The way to have balance in your finances is found in this simple but profound quality of being grateful for what you have now. As I stated earlier, this is a choice, and it doesn’t come about naturally in any of us.
Two months ago, motivated by someone I deeply respect, I started keeping a “Thankful” journal. For the past 60 days, I’ve started each day by writing down five things I’m thankful for. Truthfully, I’ve missed a day here and there, but I’ve been consistently practicing being grateful. It’s remarkable how this one act of being thankful has influenced my attitude and perspective.
My desire for stuff has diminished considerably. Hey, just because I teach this stuff doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the desire for things!
We all have our weaknesses, the stuff that makes us reach for our wallets. For me, it’s anything automotive-related; it’s my kryptonite. Since practicing gratefulness, the things that captivate me and increase my desires are less alluring and have less of an effect on me. I’ve experienced a significant enough benefit related to financial decisions and in other areas that I intend to continue practicing it.
We truly live in a wonderful time in history. We experience luxuries and possess things that would leave past civilizations in awe. This should make us the happiest and most grateful people that have lived on this earth to date, and we can be. Choose to be grateful for what you have right now. Practice gratitude every day, and you’re sure to experience more balance and peace in your finances.
*Leo Sabo, Christian Stewardship Network; 03.03.2022.
How do you practice gratitude? Are you consciously see your blessings through gratitude eyes?
There is a good book that can help your thinking here: One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp .