We’ve all heard it. Maybe we’ve even said it, ourselves. “If only I could make just a bit more money—then I’d be happy.” So we work hard, sacrificing time away from our families, refusing to take vacations, all in an effort to be the best at our job and to make more money. Often it works and we get what we had hoped for; sometimes it doesn’t work and we get passed over for the promised promotion or raise.
We think back to our newly married days, the days when we didn’t have much, but oh we were happy. Were we happy simply because everything was new? The new love, the new life together? Or were we happy because there were fewer responsibilities, fewer demands on our money and therefore, fewer demands on our time?
Today “affluence is up, but happiness is down, as indicated by rising divorce rates…” says Lynn G. Robbins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons,) in his talk entitled “The Cost of Riches” (Ensign, Jun 2003, 24.) So we have what we hoped for—more money. But we oftentimes don’t have what we really wanted—more happiness.
It is a vicious cycle that has no end, unless we put a stop to it.
Elder Robbins says that “One antonym for greed, and perhaps the antidote to it, is contentment.” The Apostle Paul stated, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philip. 4:11.) Be satisfied with what you have, and more, be grateful for it. Contentment and gratitude are essential if you are to be truly happy.
Benjamin Franklin said: “The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture” (Quoted in Andrew M. Allison and others, The Real Benjamin Franklin (1987), 364.) He knew that time is the one thing that is purchased by not spending money, but that time was the one thing truly worth having more of.
The Savior Himself is the greatest example of proper prioritizing. With so little to distract him He was able to devote Himself to His ministry. The Lord doesn’t expect us to adopt a life of poverty, but His counsel is pretty clear: “Thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10) and “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15.)
Benjamin Franklin said, “When you have bought one fine thing you must buy ten more, that your appearance may be all of a piece; … ‘’tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it’” (The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, and Other Papers (n.d.), 227.) This is especially true today and is evident the country over with families in crisis, and homes in the balance. Where once we were satisfied with small, modest homes, today we often seek out large, grand homes that require not just ten “fine things” but hundreds. We simply can no longer afford the lifestyle our greed has caused us to seek after.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, …
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (3 Ne. 13:19–20.)
Our greatest treasure has to be our family. And time spent with them, nurturing them, making memories together, is the best use of a valuable commodity. Elder Robbins supported this when he said:
“In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” we learn that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.) Since the family is central, then the most important work we do, according to President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973), is “within the walls of [our] own home” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 130; or Ensign, July 1973, 98.) Note the word within. Parents earn money outside the home to make a living, but they spend time inside the home to make a life.”
I feel confident that as we avoid that “outward show” but strive instead to be content with what we have, we will discover true happiness for ourselves and our families.