Keeping up Appearances

Gordon is a good friend. We have spent some fun times together, but he is totally locked into ‘stuff’. He’s a busy person and he’s gadget mad and considers it a priority to have the latest versions. He has a good job and can afford to buy these things. I suppose when I had a job, I was a bit more carefree with my money, but I sometimes wonder whether for him it is an addiction. I’m probably about five years behind when it comes to the latest technology, but as we talked recently it became clear that he would find it very difficult to go back even a couple of years to what then seemed like a ‘must-have’ piece of equipment. In his eyes going backwards represents a failure of some sort, and his fairly forceful insistence that I should upgrade my stuff is actually quite hurtful.  

I’ve always wanted to be a good provider. I feel the weight of that responsibility. I hope I never lose that sense. But I sometimes feel self-conscious that my car is getting on a bit. Why should I? It runs perfectly well. Yet I feel slightly off the pace of other men whom I perceive to be more successful than me. I realise of course that this is all an illusion and it doesn’t really matter, but you feel the pressure, don’t you.

Financial difficulties can leave you with feelings of uselessness and under-achievement. The trouble is we’ve all come to expect a certain standard of living. These days young couples expect to start out in life where their parents ended up after a lifetime of work. It was all made worse by the ‘buy now – pay later’ idea. When I was a young married man, there was a big shift from saving up until you could afford something, to buying it now on credit. After all, why pay more for it a year down the line if you could get it cheaper now, even allowing for paying some interest.  

I think it was due to inflation. I’m not exactly sure what was getting inflated other than house prices and the profits made by the lenders. That too has now proved to be an illusion – virtual money – Many get caught in the back wash of a financial crisis, and struggle to pay mortgages or rent. Some might find themselves in negative equity on the property they bought, because the market has crashed and they borrowed as much, if not more, than they could afford. Too many are now in debt for one reason or another. 

But we know this. There’s nothing here that many haven’t said before. So what’s my point? My point is that blokes in particular feel an unspoken pressure to compete with one another. The pressure of advertising doesn’t help. I know one guy who doesn’t watch television because he doesn’t want to know what the latest ‘must-have’ gadget is. He doesn’t want that pressure on top of everything else he has to deal with. Sadly, advertisers find ever more cunning ways of peddling their wares especially through the internet. It’s so annoying when adverts pop up uninvited. It’s almost impossible to avoid.

It will take some will power to swim against this tide. We will need to channel some of that drive to be a good provider into holding back on what we want and being happy with what we have. So let’s be comfortable with who we are and be strong enough to avoid the tendency to compare ourself with others and overstretch our resources in order to keep up appearances.

It’s healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up (CEV)

Proverbs 14:30

Image Credit: Charles Deluvio