The Case Against Praising Excess

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” —Jim Carrey

Our world is quick to applaud success—as well it should. It is entirely appropriate to champion those who develop their talents, work hard, and overcome obstacles. There are many successful people in my life that I admire, look up to, and wish to emulate.

But our world is also fixated on praising excess. This is not entirely surprising. We are not the first society to worship conspicuous consumption, nor will we be the last. But it is certainly a defining attribute of our society.

Magazines overexpose the details of the rich and famous. News publications rank those with the greatest net worth. Television applauds the lifestyle of those who live in luxury. Streaming services parade “stars” in front of us for hours and hours each day. And the Internet attracts readers with countless stories about those living with excess.

Even in our own lives, on a smaller scale, we do the same. We comment on the size of the houses in the neighborhood down the street. We point out the luxury car in the lane next to us. We envy fashionable clothes and designer handbags.

We desire to live the life of those who seem to have it all. In our hearts and in our affections, we praise those who live with excess.

But we are making a big mistake because success and excess are not the same.

It is good to praise success, but there are lots of reasons to stop praising excess.

7 Reasons Why We Should Stop Praising Excess

1. Excess is often arbitrary.

Sometimes, financial gain is achieved through hard work, dedication, and devoted discipline. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, wealth is only a result of heritage, dishonesty, or just plain luck. In those cases, no praise has been earned. And telling the difference is often more difficult than we realize.

2. Excess is rarely the wisest use of our money. 

Harvey Mackay once said, “If you can afford a fancy car, you can make more of an impact driving an ordinary one.” His statement is true. There are better things to do with our money than spend it on ourselves.

This advice stands as wisdom when purchasing cars, houses, clothes, or technology. Just because you have the financial resources to afford excess doesn’t mean it is the best option for your life. We should stop praising those who use it exclusively to that end.

3. Excess adds stress and anxiety to our lives.

Not only is there a greater good that could be accomplished with our money, but increased possessions add burden and weight to our lives. Every increased possession adds increased worry. It becomes one more thing to manage, store, repair, and remove.

Adding extra burden to our already short lives seems like a foolish thing to admire and praise.

4. Excess is harming the environment around us. 

It is difficult to ignore the impact our praise of excess has meant on the earth. Perhaps Gandhi said it best, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

Holding up those who flaunt their excess as an example to follow is hardly a wise decision for anyone’s future.

5. Excess causes us to praise the wrong things.

Our world keeps checking the wrong scoreboard. Those who live in excess are not necessarily the ones who live the most fulfilled lives.

Often times, it is those who live quietly, humbly, and in the service of others who are the happiest. Those are the choices we should be praising and those are the lives we should be emulating.

6. Excess causes us to lose sight of the things we already have.

It is impossible to find peace, gratitude, and contentment while holding on to envy of those who have more. Unfortunately, we do it all the time. Admiration is a healthy emotion, but envy is not. And choosing to exalt those who flaunt their excess results only in greater discontent.

7. Excess is not the answer.

Everyone is looking for answers to the most important questions: What is the purpose of this life? Where can I find fulfillment? And what does it mean to live an abundant life?

These are difficult questions with difficult answers. But surely, “owning as much stuff as possible” is not the answer to any of them. There are greater pursuits available to us than excess. But they can be difficult to discover when all our energies are being directed at the wrong things.

Admire success. But do not praise excess. Our society is longing for people who can tell the difference.

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