As we continue looking at the issues surrounding financial distress as well as mental wellbeing, we need to identify another driver of bad debts which might be simply described as lack of personal contentment which feeds an attitude of materialism. In other words, it is quite deceptive to believe that one’s personal happiness and sense of worth depends on how much stuff we possess. This mindset lends one liable to a never-ending cycle of chasing after more: more money, more clothes, more property, more of everything.
Quite clearly, life does not comprise in stuff and status: there are many people who are very affluent by any yardstick one might use, but who do not seem to have the joy of living one might expect if indeed material prosperity equated with such intrinsic values as personal wellbeing and identity. Rather, whether one has enough or not is a question of choice: there must be an appreciation of the limitations of material goods to provide our need for self-worth and purpose. When one makes the acquisition of goods their chief aim in life, they are bound to fall into many traps that quite easily damage instead of enhancing their own wellbeing.
In order to discover freedom from such futile pursuit after happiness based on amassing stuff, one needs to cultivate a healthy sense of contentment (of course this should never be an excuse for failing to aspire for personal improvement based on one’s abilities and opportunities). This is where a clear understanding of what confers value on a person based on a clear biblical perspective on the true identity of a person as someone who carries the very image of his creator becomes really fundamental. A failure to discover one’s true value based on a sound relationship with one’s creator will inevitably result in a life of futility and discontentment (which if unresolved leads to the disillusionment which translates into mental distress or worse).
In order to avoid the futility of materialism and the pain or embarrassment arising from the attendant poor financial choices one might make it is important to learn to simplify one’s life: this would have to involve a willingness to face up to the reality that in this life there will always be people who have more than you (as much as there will be others with less). One has to resist the urge to compete needlessly with others. Your greatest competition is within yourself: when you consider all the opportunities you have had in life and where you come from, are you being a good steward of the resources The Lord has allowed you to have access to (not in comparison with anyone else, other than yourself)?
If there are certain habits or lifestyles that are beyond your means right now, it would be prudent to let those go for now: eating healthy does not have to mean eating expensive food. A good education for your children need not necessarily mean the most expensive private school in town. Being able to be mobile does not require you to have the flashiest vehicle around (with all the costs that it brings). Socializing does not require a fortune each month: it is possible to have friends and interact at home or less costly venues than one might have done.
Being able to honestly take stock of these kind of matters and acknowledge the need for some radical adjustments might create the pathway to financial freedom that might have been elusive this far.
Above and beyond these adjustments, it would also be prudent to be intentional about training our kids (and other dependents) to be moneywise: if you want to live happy, only spend what you earn. In practical terms, that might mean requiring them to help with chores at home or supervising the work at the garden in order that they earn their allowances (and learn to handle finances responsibly). Children should learn that money does not grow on trees: one needs to work for it (it may reduce some frivolous demands for finances which only increases the burden on the parents).
It is important to recognize that lasting solutions to financial distress will usually require considerable time and personal effort. One might have to acquire new skills or begin to do something new to earn extra income i.e. increase earning capacity to service legitimate financial obligations. The key in it all is to remember that there are no easy solutions to problems that have taken time to manifest: above all, do not despise small steps that can build into significant results.