Sometimes we want nice things because they’re fun, helpful or enjoyable. Other times, we want nice things just because we want other people to see us having nice things. When that happens, it’s a sure sign of slavery.
The Bible teaches that, if we’re not careful, money can make slaves of us, and we’ve studied many of the different ways that this can happen. Some are obvious, like greed and debt. Others are more subtle, like the slavery of discontentment or false expectations. Pride falls in this second category. When we find ourselves making financial decisions based on how they will make us look to other people, we’re showing signs of slavery.
Pride can show up in our financial lives in a variety of ways. One is the subtle, quiet kind of pride that comes from comparing yourself to others and deciding that you’re more successful than they are. It can be kind of fun (in a really twisted way) to look around and see how much “better” you’re doing than your peers. But this is a two-edged sword. Get in the habit of comparing yourself to others, and you’ll inevitably encounter someone who is more financially successful than you are. When that happens, it can be a devastating blow to the pride that you’ve been building up. In the end, nobody wins the comparison game.
Pride can show up in our financial lives in another way, by compelling us to strive for a material lifestyle that will look good to other people. Everybody enjoys having nice things in life, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your money responsibly. When the primary thing that we enjoy about nice things is that other people see us having them, though, that’s dangerous territory. Trying to impress other people with our stuff almost always leads us to buy things that we don’t need, or to spend more money than we should on the things that we do need.
This shows up in all sorts of ways. An old, high-mileage vehicle that has been well maintained can serve your needs just fine, but many people buy new cars every few years because they like the impression that a new car makes. Or consider real estate: Have you ever noticed that, in your town, there are certain neighborhoods where the prices of homes are ridiculously high for the size of house that you get? Those expensive neighborhoods are often highly desirable not because the homes are big or well built, but because living in an expensive “status” area like this says a lot about the homeowner.
It doesn’t have to be big things like cars and homes, either: We can fall prey to making pride-based decisions on all kinds of things, from the kinds of clothes we wear to the schools our kids attend and the grocery stores that we shop at. However pride manifests in your life, it’s dangerous. This pattern will eventually lead you into a cycle of “keeping up with the Joneses.” And since your neighbors are likely struggling as hard as you are to make good impressions, you’re actually just keeping up with the slaves.
Finally, pride is dangerous because it can keep us from asking for help when we need it. There’s a stigma attached to financial illiteracy in the modern world, and so it’s easy for us to feel like we should be able to figure out our financial lives without anyone else helping us. But the truth is that money is as complex as it is important, and getting wisdom and advice from people who have proven successful is one of the best ways that we can set ourselves down the road to prosperity. If you fail to ask for help in your finances because you’re too proud to admit that you can’t figure it out by yourself, you’re signing on to a life of slavery.
Of course, none of these problems is irreversible. The antidote to pride is a strong dose of humility. If you find yourself struggling with pride in your finances, humility can be your ticket out of slavery and into freedom.
Photo by HavanKevin. Used under Creative Commons License.