The Dark Side of Abundance

In Life Lessons by Tommy Thompson1 Comment

Many, many years back Weezie and I had the opportunity to travel to Russia. While much about Russia was magnificent, the overwhelming impression was one of scarcity. We went to a grocery store that was a tenth of the size of our grocery stores here, yet still only had a few items on the shelves for purchase. What a contrast to the lavish abundance that I experience all around me each day!

Abundance is wonderful! Yet unrestrained abundance often becomes a curse.

The most obvious version of this that trips me up is taking something that in the right portion is healthy and enjoyable, and overdoing until it becomes destructive. I do this with food all the time, but food is not the only culprit. I do this with my schedule, overloading it with good opportunities until I reach exhaustion. Even though I am frugal by nature, I overload my world with possessions, buying what I “need” until I have so much that I am overwhelmed by clutter. 

When I allow the blessing of unlimited opportunities to blind my perspective, unhealthy attitudes creep in that sabotage the blessing. Sometimes, amazing experiences become ordinary. I am embarrassed to admit how many unbelievable occasions have gone underappreciated. Even worse, abundance breeds the expectation that abundance is to be expected. This can create an entitled attitude which assumes the world is created to serve our every whim.  Unbridled abundance also fosters impatience when everything we want doesn’t arrive on our timetable. 

How do we avoid the downside that comes with abundance? 

First, consider the benefit of self-imposed limits.

I do that all the time with food. What a sad sight if I ate everything my heart desired! Why not apply similar limits in other areas of our lives? For example, if we pace our day with better rhythm and more space, then perhaps we will enjoy the experiences of the day for the blessings they are. How about practicing self-imposed limits in the area of possessions? I am learning to wait until my birthday and Christmas for the things I want, even though I am able to buy them early. In doing so, I actually get excited and appreciate the gift so much more. Here’s the challenge to abundance: be selective, be restrained, purposefully choose less. Allow space to breathe. This will magnify gratitude and quell entitlement and impatience. 

Second, intentionally serve others.

When we serve others, whether at home, work, or in the community, we acknowledge through our actions that we are not the center of the universe. Serving other people, particularly those who have less than us, right-sizes our world. Surprisingly, we will find that deep joy accompanies serving others. 

Third, re-place people as the priority of your life.

Abundance can deceive us into thinking that life is about extravagant experiences and the latest, greatest things we buy. Eventually, we find out that the glitter of things fades. Give unrushed time to spend with your friends and family. We have forgotten the art of lingering. Hurry and speed so define our culture that we no longer know how to relax. Schedule time with the important people in your life before other lesser priorities consume your time. Use free time to get outside with people you love and do something fun. When we put people in the right priority in our life, then abundance in other areas naturally falls into place. 

We live in a world of abundance, and I am thankful for that. The question remains whether abundance will be a blessing or a curse in our lives. 

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