Keeping Up with the Joneses

I'm as guilty of me-too-ism as the next person, but what does that really say about my commitment to be a person of transformative contentment?
Keeping Up with the Joneses

My 10-year-old daughter wants a mobile phone. She knows she's not getting one anytime soon, but she keeps asking anyway. When I ask her why she wants a phone, she basically says, "Because everyone else has one." (When I ask her who "everyone else" is, she can name only a few people, but that's beside my point.) When I ask what important purposes her phone would serve that the family phone doesn't, she pretty much draws a blank. She just wants to have what other people have. She's so like the rest of us.

I'm as guilty of me-too-ism as the next person, and as I've paid attention, I've noticed three activities in particular fuel my sense of discontentment: watching TV, watching my neighbors, and taking even one step inside a mall. As far as I know, I have no actual Joneses living in my neighborhood. But I'm surrounded with people who might as well be Joneses, because I want to keep up.

We are motivated by competition, and acquiring possessions feels good (at least temporarily). As long as we're surrounded by advertising that appeals to our desires, we'll lust for more. As long as people around us have things we don't have, we'll not be content. And as long as we feel that lack of contentment, we'll fool ourselves into believing that "one more" will satisfy us.

Not only are we surrounded by fuel for our discontentment; in these economically troubled times we're actually told to consume more for the sake of our system, which apparently is so deeply grounded in greed and unchecked consumption, it can't withstand the shock of people living within their means. Apparently, discontentment fuels a better life for all of us (or at least those of us who are "haves"). It also fuels chronic and widespread unhappiness with the "better life" we lead. It fuels workaholism, greed, griping, theft, oppression, obsession, exploitation, and destruction.

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Amy Simpson

Amy Simpson is the managing editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today's Christian Woman and the editor of Connect with Amy at

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Contentment; Gratitude; Joy; Needs; Selfishness
Today's Christian Woman, November , 2010
Posted November 1, 2010

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