Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fame, Wealth & Beauty: The Source of Sadness

Think Being Rich, Famous or Beautiful Will Make You Happy? Think Again.

I must admit, when I’m all alone with my thoughts I often imagine that I’m a world-famous conference speaker or a highly-successful author. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I had enough money in the bank to just stay home and write my books and articles all day, rather than going into work on Monday morning.

You can probably relate. I think everyone has their moments or seasons of wondering “What if?” or contemplating “If only I had more money. If only I was famous. If only I was more attractive.”

Maybe this is why no one blinks an eye when asked what they would wish for if they suddenly found that genie in the bottle. Other than asking for three more wishes, (or world peace), most of us would probably wish for incredible wealth, a dash of fame, and a younger body. Why? Because these three things are universally accepted in our hearts as being the missing link to happiness.

Following a recent study by the University of Rochester on this very subject, one of the researchers, Edward Deci, a professor of psychology, said, "Even though our culture puts a strong emphasis on attaining wealth and fame, pursuing these goals does not contribute to having a satisfying life.” In fact, according to the results of this study, being rich, famous, well-respected, or beautiful can actually have the opposite effect. It can actually make you miserable.

Maybe this explains why one entertainment news show after the other reveals the desperate sadness and despair found among the celebrity class in our society. What do we see? Drug abuse, infidelity, diva tantrums, criminal acts, psychological meltdowns, and other assorted examples of self-destructive behavior. It’s no different for politicians, CEO’s or lottery winners either.

Recently a friend asked a co-worker who had been newly appointed as a Senior Director a revealing question. He asked, “How has this promotion changed you as a person?” Before we get to the answer, let’s examine the question. Why do we assume that success will change us? Nothing about us has changed except our paycheck, and our position in the company. So, why do we expect these outward changes to have an inward effect?

I can remember when I first got licensed and ordained as a pastor over twenty years ago.
At the time I expected this to change me somehow. But I was still impatient, petty, selfish and prone to use coarse language – just like I was the day before I was ordained. Why didn’t this act of being ordained change me? Because nothing changed about ME on the inside, only my title on the outside.

The same thing happened when I got married. I expected that moving from being single to being a married man would make me a different person, but it didn’t. Sure, my responsibilities changed, and my living conditions changed, but I did not change as a person. I was still me on the inside.

So, what was the response given to the question about how the recent promotion had changed this person? Simply that, “I’m still the same guy I was before.”

The researchers at the University of Rochester found that achieving "materialistic and image-related" goals, such as wealth and fame, can have negative consequences like "headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy.” The scriptures agree.

“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 1:14

Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived, and that wisdom brought him all the things we often crave for most; fame and wealth beyond our wildest imaginations. Yet, all of this brought him nothing but pain and sadness. In the end, the single wisest thing he ever said was this:

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Even if you have the greatest mind of your generation, as Solomon did, the smartest thing you can do is to lay that aside and trust in God rather than in your own wisdom.

The secret to real happiness and contentment is not found in the things of this world. It’s not found in our circumstance. I’ve met people who are dirt poor and yet full of joy. I’ve met people who are rich beyond belief and yet still empty inside.

"For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:11-13

As followers of Jesus, we have to have a change of mind – a "metanoia” – to see reality through the lens of the Kingdom of God. In God’s economy, the first are last, and the greatest of all is the servant of all. We either believe that Jesus is telling the truth – and our lives reflect this – or we live by the code of the world which says that having more equals greater fulfillment. We can’t have it both ways.

Still, it’s fascinating to me is how this study confirms what Jesus has been saying for over two thousand years now. According to one of the main researchers in the article referenced, “The things that make your life happy are growing as an individual, having loving relationships, and contributing to your community."

God give us the courage to live every day as living testimonies to the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Help us to grow in Christ, to love others and to contribute to the success and happiness of others in this world around us, and in the Body of Christ.



"If the Gospel isn't transforming you, how do you know it will transform anything else?
-N.T. Wright

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26

1 comment:

Randi Jo :) said...

yes yes yes!!! thank you.

contentment is found in the Lord! our "success" is found in the surrender.

Christ is all :)