I read the following instruction in a magazine, ‘Be the envy of your friends. Don’t settle for anything less’. I object to this instruction. Envy is a negative emotion which can be very destructive. Why would I want my friends to be envious of me, something I own or my lifestyle when nothing positive will come from it?
My Heinemann Australian Dictionary defines envy as, ‘A feeling of discontent or resentment aroused by seeing another person’s good fortune, superiority etc, usually accompanied by a desire to possess the advantages of the other person.’ Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and social critic said, ‘Envy undermines happiness - it generates pain from what others possess, instead of pleasure from one’s own possessions…’ I don’t want to make anyone unhappy and especially not my friends.
Consumerism encourages people to spend money on glitzy houses, the latest gadgets, trendy furniture, cars and such. Often people are manipulated into buying things they don’t need by clever advertising. Sometimes one thinks one wants something and then you get it only to find it isn’t so wonderful at all.
On occasions people get into debt for the latest car or other possession. This can cause lots of stress especially if the person has their hours reduced or loses their job. Sometimes the new car isn’t so great and can cause tension in a relationship. Years ago I had a friend whose husband had bought the family a brand new top of the range car. He insisted she park it in the most remote part of the car park when she went to a big centre to do her shopping. He felt it was less likely to be backed into or bumped by a runaway trolley if it was parked away from other cars. She had two small children to take shopping with her. My friend said she would rather have had their old car and the convenience of parking closer.
There is nothing wrong with buying nice things and having a lifestyle which includes comfort and convenience. It is lovely to have a comfortable home and to spend time choosing furniture and trimmings to express your personality. It is a good feeling to come home to a dwelling that is welcoming. It is enjoyable to invite friends over for a meal, a chat and a laugh. You want your friends to feel welcome and comfortable when they visit, not envious and bitter.
I appreciate the things which are special to me which I have in my house. However, I feel it is psychologically unhealthy to encourage people to compete against each other in an effort to have a ‘better’ house or more trendy appliances and furnishings or other ‘stuff’. The pressure and competition to outdo others is so negative. Surely friends and good relationships are more important than trendy possessions. A fancy new car won’t give you a shoulder to cry on when life gets tough.