I have always been a big believer that money doesn’t change who you are as a person, just enhances what’s already there (thanks Will Smith). It’s a beautiful idea and something that I want to be true because, well, I want to be making more money and don’t like the idea that I will end up a greedy immoral jerk because of it.
We just did a show this last week on how more money affects people and a number of studies have shown that when people have more money, their ability to have empathy for other diminishes, it clouds their moral judgment, and they have more trouble enjoying the simple things in life.
Even just this last week, I saw it in action in a few callous comments made about poor people shopping on Black Friday. Just the notion that you have more money in relation to another person made these commenters less empathetic to another person’s situation.
So is all hope lost? Are you destined to be poor and broke but empathetic and moral, or rich and comfortable but greedy and terrible? I’m going to leave you with a story that actually inspired the radio show and let you decide:
Jack Kenney ran a tennis camp in New Hampshire for wealthy children. The camp was extremely bare bones, right down to breakfast, where each kid only got one box of cereal and only a few of the boxes were the coveted Fruit Loops. By the 3rd day, it was clear who was going to be getting Fruit Loops all summer.
Jack sat all the kids down that day and said, “In the city you see people grasping, grasping, grasping. Taking, taking, taking. And it must be so hard! To be always grasping-grasping, and taking-taking. But no matter how much they have, they never have enough. They’re still worried. About what they don’t have. They’re always empty…
“You have a choice. You don’t realize it, but you have a choice. You can be a giver or you can be a taker. You can get filled up or empty. You make that choice every day. You make that choice at breakfast when you rush to grab the cereal you want so others can’t have what they want.” The next day, kids were practically forcing other kids to take the Fruit Loops.
“The distinction between haves and have-nots, winners and losers, wasn’t entirely gone, of course. But it became less important than this other distinction, between the givers and the takers.” [emphasis mine, because damn, isn’t this the crux of what it means to be human?]
To get posts like this straight to your inbox, sign up for Brunch on a Wednesday: the b&b biweekly newsletter!