Are We Too Materialistic?

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

A Personal Life Experience:

My older brother is a retired physician. Many years ago he described an interesting situation from which we both learned a lot. On one occasion, when he was away from home at a medical convention. He wanted to stop at one of the airport shops to buy a gift for his son, my nephew. His travel companion, another MD, dissuaded him from doing so by asking the question, “Shouldn’t your returning home be enough of a gift for your son? My brother did not make the purchase did not make the purchase and he learned a valuable lesson, that people are more important than presents.


A family I knew of, outside of my practice, gave incredibly(my opinion) large numbers of gifts to their four children each holiday season. While a few of the gifts were clothes, most of them fell into the category of elaborate toys, robots, computer games and on infitem. At the end of Christmas day, their very large home was filled with very large amounts of torn gift rappers and empty boxes. It left me asking myself what these kids were learning about life, values, money, poverty and being charitable and frugal?

In effect, have we convinced ourselves that expensive gifts show love either at Christmas or any other time of year?

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Now, at a time when the unemployment rate in the United States has jumped to over 10% many people are feeling embarrassed and shamed that they cannot give the types of gifts that they did in the past when they were fully employed. This is very troubling.

All of us have been raised with certain expectations at the holidays as well as at birthdays, family celebrations, anniveraries, and so on. The problems is that gap between expectations and reality can cause a lot of depression for those who give gifts and those who receive them.

Men feel emasculated if they cannot provide presents for their families and women and children feel extremely disappointed in their husband and fathers. Even working women decry the fact that their salaries do not bring enough money into the family to afford expensive items.

Some of this is reflected in television advertisents such as the one is a shows a man giving diamonds to his girl friend who, of course, is enthralled by the gems. But, what if a couple cannot afford such things. If the fiancee is not able to get enough money together to purchase a large diamond, he may come to feel defeated and fearful of rejection from his future wife.

There is another television commercial where a husband and father blindfolds his wife and guides out side theirh home. Wrapped in ribbons, she sees an expensive car that he bought for her.

However, at the end of the day, even the most expensive gifts lose their appeal as the novelty wears off. Very often, the purchase of these gifts is an attemp to bury personal depression for the immediate and temporary thrill of giving and receiving.

Mybe its time for all of us to examine these things and find a different and more meaningful way to express love to people we care about. I knew one person, a struggling artist who could not afford gifts for his family and became deeply depressed. Then, he had a brilliant idea(my opinion that it was brilliant). He used his artistic abilities to craft personal gifts for everyone. Not expensive gifts, but those that conveyed real love an affection as opposed to superficial presents..

Isn’t it time for all of us to get real and change all of this.

What are your comments and opinions about this?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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