Can Happiness and Materialism Co-exist?

EnnDeathKnute_2Studies show people with intrinsic goals, such as deep relationships (mainly introverts), have happier lives than those with extrinsic goals, such as reputation and fame (mainly extraverts). Those with extrinsic goals suffer more shame, fear, and physical problems. This is from Arthur C. Brooks’ NY Times article, 7-20-14, “Love People, Not Pleasure”.

The most unhappy people Brooks has ever met are self-aggrandizing “pundits, TV loudmouths, media know-it-alls.” And, he says, the bulk of studies say people who rank materialistic goals, such as wealth, at the top of their list are way more likely to be anxious, depressed, to use drugs, and to be physically ill than those whose values are intrinsic.

Brooks concludes it’s healthier to love others, to practice charity, to repudiate materialism, and to deny love to objects. “Finally,” he says, “it requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires. Of course you are driven to seek admiration, splendor and physical license. But giving in to these impulses will bring unhappiness…. Declaring war on these destructive impulses is not about asceticism or Puritanism. It is about being a prudent person who seeks to avoid unnecessary suffering.”

In an article about the Pope’s visit to South Korea, “Pope implores youths to reject materialism,” the SF Chronicle reported, “Pope Francis urged the youth there to renounce the materialism that afflicts much of Asian society today and reject inhuman economic systems that disenfranchise the poor, pressing his economic agenda in one of Asia’s powerhouses where financial gain is a key barometer of success.” Speaking on his recent trip to South Korea, the Pope pointed out the danger of outwardly affluent societies is that they often produce inner sadness and emptiness in people.

The Pope said, “May [the youth] combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhuman economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers.”

The Associated Press wrote, “Many [in S. Korea] link success with ostentatious displays of status and wealth. Competition among the young, especially for place at elite schools, starts as early as pre-kindergarten and is fierce. The country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.” The Pope lamented, “Upon how many of our young people has this despair taken its toll!”

Out of a concern for the pressure on teens in his country, South Korean publisher Dr. Kim Hwan-Young, asked me if I would write an Enneagram book for teens. The Enneagram for Teens will be available soon in Korea and in paper and ebook form in September in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. The Enneagram is a rich tool for personal and spiritual growth. This book is especially accessible to teens due to its humor and the sections where teens speak for themselves.

See to sign up to be notified when The Enneagram for Teens is available and to check out my other books, including The Enneagram of Parenting.


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