We are a society that loves to go shopping.
This weekend stands as proof.
In America, a holiday previously dedicated to giving thanks has become, instead, a day for families to plan their next shopping trip. According to predictions, over 140 million Americans will go shopping this Black Friday/holiday weekend. In total, during the holiday season, Americans are expected to spend $616 billion dollars (source).
We are a culture that loves to acquire more and more. We like to shop for ourselves and we like to shop for others.
But no matter how great the sales, shopping will never deliver the things we desire most. Marketers promise the world, but never deliver.
Consider this list of pursuits, all common to the human spirit, that can never be found in the accumulation of material possessions.
1. Happiness. Shopping may, at times, deliver quick thrills and moments of superficial happiness. But the happiness that comes from buying new things is temporary and fleeting at best. It often fades faster than the purchase we just made. Always remember, there is nothing you can buy that will make you any happier than you have already chosen to be.
2. Fulfillment. Fulfillment is a byproduct of aligning our pursuits with our greatest passions. Too often, society hijacks our passion and causes us to direct it toward temporal things. But nobody gets to the end of their life and wishes they had bought more crap. They wish they had loved more, contributed more, and lived more true to themselves. Our greatest passions are for pursuits greater than material possessions.
3. Significance. Our world is quick to measure success by the amount of money in our bank account, the size of our home, or the model of our car. But, when we begin to shift our life focus to achieving significance instead of success, we wonder why we wasted most of it chasing something different—or what made us think excess was ever a good measurement of success anyway.
4. Influence. More often than we care to admit, the desire to impress others motivates our lives. This desire to impress others impacts the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the technology we embrace, and the houses we live in. But cars rust, fashions change, and technology advances. The purchases that impressed your neighbor yesterday make no impression today. True, lasting influence is found in the lives that we live, not the things that we buy.
5. Contentment. Marketers pull at our hearts and minds to keep us desiring more. And we are far more susceptible to their messaging than we know. Over time, we begin to believe the lie that our life will be more complete with their product. But contentment can never be found in physical possessions. If it could, our drawers, closets, and garages would not be overflowing. Our discontent is evidenced in our excess. If you are not content today, there is nothing you can buy this weekend to change that. (tweet that)
6. Confidence. Because our society so heavily values physical possessions and worldly success, we often see them as a shortcut to confidence. We fall into a trap thinking our possessions increase our self-assurance. But it is a foolish decision to find our confidence in exterior belongings. Our self-confidence is more adequately found in the appreciation of our uniqueness and our drive to make the most of it.
7. Security. Security lays the foundation upon which many of our life’s choices can be built. It is essential for all other pursuits. I’m all for it. And while I would never argue against developing our talents, working hard, and trading our paychecks for food, shelter, and clothing, I would argue that most of us have exceeded the point of enough a long time ago. Instead, we are confusing security and comfort. And when we spend beyond our means to pursue comfort, our personal debt makes us less secure than if we had just stopped at security in the first place.
8. Gratitude. It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. Gratefulness is a life discipline that results from choosing to recognize the many blessings we already possess. It is never a byproduct of shopping. In fact, if we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?
9. Freedom. Not only does shopping not deliver freedom, it brings the exact opposite. Each purchase we make adds extra worry to our lives. Every physical item we own represents one more thing that can be broken, scratched, or stolen. The sense of freedom that comes from owning less is truly refreshing. Indeed, it is more than a feeling; it is a reality that can define your life.
Shopping never delivers the things we desire most. We will need to look elsewhere.