If you watch the news, you begin to see, in our society, how people are often considered as mere consumers. Many of our success metrics are based on consumerism: Consumer Spending, Consumer Confidence, Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Manufacturing, etc.
If you turn on social media, you begin to see the same thing—especially today on Black Friday. For the past month, we have been treated to a never-ending onslaught of commercials and advertisements promising this store’s Black Friday sale is the best. Or the item on sale at that business is the one that will result in the most smiling faces on Christmas morning.
If you open your mailbox (digital or physical), again you are told that you are a consumer first and foremost. You are offered credit cards and mortgage approvals and coupons and junk mail fliers from countless local and not-so-local businesses.
Even around our own dinner tables, we treat each other as consumers. At Thanksgiving, the conversation quickly moves from gratitude to shopping: What item will you be purchasing on Black Friday this year? What are you hoping to get for Christmas? What are you buying for your daughter? Do you know what so-and-so just bought? What is the hot new toy this holiday season?
But I want to remind you today:
You are more than a consumer.
Consumerism does not need to define your life. You are so much more than that:
You are a human being who is designed for significance and meaning. Maybe you desire adventure and travel… or maybe you prefer a quiet evening at home. You will search for joy in different places, but you are designed to discover it.
You are a husband or wife faithful and committed to your partner, doing your best to create a loving, safe family and home.
You are a mother or father involved in your child’s life, wanting only the best for them. Or maybe you are a grandparent enjoying this season of life more than you ever thought possible.
You are a creative who desires to paint, write, knit, sculpt, or invent. When you do, you spread joy to those around you.
You are passionate about your work. Maybe you are a schoolteacher, a janitor, a banker, a dentist, or a policeman. In any regard, you use your talents and passions to serve others every day.
You are involved in nonprofit work. You are passionate about orphaned children, education, the environment, your faith, or animals in need. You volunteer, you give, and you make the world a better place because of it.
You are a trusted friend. People share their lives with you… and you with them. You are the first phone call when someone is in need and the first to show up when an emergency has occurred.
You are a college student trying to make sense of your next step in the world. You are learning as much as you can right now about the world around you so you can make the biggest difference in it going forward.
You are a vital part of your community. You help at your daughter’s school, you volunteer at your church, you coach your son’s baseball team, or you help organize your neighborhood picnic every Spring.
In every imaginable way, you are more than a consumer!
Over the next several weeks, marketers (and even society) will try to convince you to become a consumer once again. They know you are more than that, but they will return to all the old messaging yet again.
Want to be a loved mother this Christmas? Buy this toy!
Want to be a great husband this year? Buy this gift!
Want to be grandmother of the year? You can get the greatest number of toys at our store!
Want to be a good friend? Buy this pre-packaged gift set!
Want the perfect Christmas morning? Make sure you spend enough money to achieve it!
Want to find true joy? It’s on sale here… and 50% off today!
Don’t fall into their trappings and false truths. You are so much more than a consumer. That is not how your life will be measured.
You are flesh and blood and soul and heart. Your greatest desires and dreams will never be found at a department store.
You don’t need more physical possessions to be the best you that you can possibly be. In fact, you probably need less.
To be the best dad, wife, friend, grandmother, community member… human being… that you can possibly be, remember that you were designed for greater pursuits than consumerism. And then have the courage to craft a life around those pursuits—regardless of how society seeks to define you.
Ella Jones says
I definitely feel like many people get so caught up in the consumerist world, they become defined by the things they own. It is so true that these things should not define us, we should define ourselves, I feel that since removing myself from consumerist habits, I have had more time to focus on my faith and time I spend with others.
I’ve noticed that things are so overpriced out there in “consumer land”. Glad I don’t have a lot to purchase. Yes, we are much more than consumers. Sadly, for some, it’s their favorite pastime—- shopping!
Emily K Stumpf says
Such a good reminder! Thank you!
Valerie Rogers says
I don’t watch tv, nor listen to radio. When I do see or hear it, such as at a friend’s house, what is most striking is how loud and obnoxious the advertisements are. Ugh. It’s called the drumbeat of consumerism. Agree to disagree with all that hogwash, and the less it will affect you. Over time, you don’t hear it anymore.
Sherri Duren says
I do not watch tv or listen to the radio either, I have noticed the same thing when I visit places with tv on. So glad I don’t watch tv!
Janet Fazio says
Thank you for this reminder! My goal for the remainder of the holiday season is to remain present rather than buy a bunch of presents.
Nora Elgammal says
Thank you, Thank you Joshua for reminding us! You are the Alarm Clock that we all need for our wake up coffee!
Love those reminders! Inspirational!
I’ve become so tired being treated as first a consumer. Thank you for putting this to words. Something to continue to teach our children and talk about around the table – we are so much more!
I agree! It doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, somebody is trying to make money off of us. I remember when our local zoo made the exit from the zoo go *through* the gift shop so that parents, who already paid an admission fee, can’t even leave without dragging their tired children past all the toys and stuffed animals. Then there’s all those “parties” where your “friends” try to sell you stuff you don’t need and spend money you don’t have. Sometimes I feel like more than a dollar sign than a person.
Michelle Anderson says
As always Joshua Becker you ground me and make me realize what is important. Thank you!
Thanks Joshua, that’s a really useful reminder. I hear so much about climate change and how we need to change our whole economic structure to respond, with consumerism a core contributor. If we’re always measuring in consumeristic terms, that’s part of the shift that needs to occur.
Carol Hammond says
I so appreciate this essay. It is so true. I have come to really dislike all the ‘black Friday’ thing.
We are much more than consumers.
joan mckniff says
Such assumptions. I am not a partner, spouse nor wife.
I am not a parent, mother, God mother, step mother, foster parent. Applied but not accepted as I am single, nonparent.
I was a daughter but my parents died decades ago.
These assumptions can be painful, especially on holidays.
joshua becker says
Thanks for the comment.
Are you a “human being,” “creative,” “passionate about your work,” “a friend,” “involved in nonprofit work,” or a “part of your community?” If so, then this post applies to you.
Judith J Bentley says
You are more than a consumer–One of your very best essays yet, Joshua. I live a minimalist lifestyle, love giving stuff away I no longer need, use or want; love giving to others, period, by sharing my talents, by listening to others, by focusing my shirt life on what matters most, by making my relationships a top priority, one of my face quotes from you is “Fill your life with stories to tell, not stuff to show.”
Tammy MacNeil says
I stop in the afternoons to read your messages..and I am always delighted by what I am reading. These words take me right back to a simpler time when we weren’t “consumed by consumerism”. I will definitely plan to implement these ideas as I move closer to an intended way of life.Thank you
Joshua… do you ever get judged on your minimalist wardrobe? No one makes comments?
I have a small wardrobe and tend to wear the same outfits. ( Always clean of course!!) I have been judged! I don’t know how to handle it. It really brings down my self esteem.
joshua becker says
Judged? Just a strong word… I’m not even sure how to know if someone is judging me based on my clothes. Do people notice that I wear a similar style every day? Yes. But wearing a similar style every day is the quickest way to establish an iconic style. I never feel negatively judged doing the right thing.
The pressure to confirm is huge at this time of year. I’m meeting a group for lunch on Sunday , and someone suggests Secret Santa ? I feel a real killjoy saying no thank you. I’ve offered to donate to charity instead.
I’d love to share this article on Facebook, is there a way I can do this?
joan mckniff says
You might participate by giving something of yourself: a free lawn mowIng, ride to X, home cooked treat or meal and then donate the gift given to you to a shelter or the like.
Linda, I think sometimes you just have to dare to be different. I do not enjoy shopping or buying gifts to exchange and I do not want to receive gifts I don’t want. Yesterday, I was at a large Thanksgiving gathering at a cousin’s house, when my cousin said we were having a female cousin’s get together there next month and for me to come. She said, “Everyone is just bringing a gift under $25”. I said, “I’d love to come, but I don’t normally do gifts. Do you mind if I come but just don’t participate in the gift giving?” And she replied, “Of course not!”
Perhaps some people actually enjoy the whole gift scenario. But, if people would tell the truth, I think most people would say they prefer to skip it. In my opinion, it removes the stress and makes a visit more enjoyable.
This was beautiful. So much appreciated during this Black Friday temptation!
I am struggling. I keep deleting all my e mails that are calling me into their “traps”!
I love what Manolo is doing.
Thank you for the great post!
Such a beautiful reminder. I refuse to fall into any of their traps. Happy with what I have and will always be grateful for smallest things. Life is much better, meaningful and beautiful that way.
I’m a work in progress as I move in the direction of becoming minimalist.
Manolo Farfan says
Me too! I am soon starting to declutter, I already bought my “dress” uniform for work. I will be selling my nice, new, “big” house and moving into a smaller one, paying all my debts and being free to do what I want, travel and/or having more experiences with my kids who are still young (9 and 12). Good luck to both of us!
Cindy Deerman says
I am a work in progress. Yestetday my daughter just gave me the best compliments about how clean and neat my kitchen is, that’s because I have been getting rid of all the unnecessary clutter in my kitchen and she noticed!! The progress continues in other rooms!
I’ll get there, just takes a while to unclutter and let go of 40 years of accumulation. ??
John McGrath says
I love what you said so much, being free to have more experiences with your still young kids. You have nailed the meaning of life