For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. – 1 Timothy 6:10
In J.R.R. Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings” – an interesting character named Gollum has a very scary obsession with the One Ring, which he calls “my precious”. He is so absorbed with the object and its powers that his life is consumed with the owning of it and to making sure no one gets it.
One Ring altered Gollum's behaviour. When he didn't have it, he became a weak and sorry creature. But, when he possessed it – it caused him to feel powerful and selfish.
Bill Ward recently authored a fascinating article entitled, “Possessed by Money” [StarTribune]. He interviewed a professor at the University of Minnesota (Kathleen Vohs) on some recent studies she's done on what happens in people's minds “in the context of wealth”.
Her findings showed that it wasn't so much that wealthy people were the ones who became “mean” or “standoffish”. It was those who were constantly in the pursuit of wealth.
“We [found] that certain really wealthy people don't think about money all that often,” she said, “and sometimes middle-class people think about money a lot and poor people think about money a lot. So it's more like how much money is on your mind rather than whether you yourself have a lot of it.”
She also notes that money will tend to focus individuals too. This is certainly not a bad thing and an obvious point. If getting money leads you to a goal of – say – buying a home or providing for your family, this seems (to me) like an overall, healthy endeavour.
Does money possess you?
But, it seems like the more folks are constantly concerned with the possession of it (money) – and how to get more and more – the more IT possesses them.
Vohs found that – when money is in the environment:
- People become less helpful to others.
- People work hard and want to achieve goals on their own.
- Painful experiences do not seem as painful.
- People don't mind being socially excluded.
- People see social inequalities as acceptable.
Now these finding are sure to incite debate and cannot be generalized across all people. But what I have found in my own experiences and even personally – is that when I have set money as my main goal and motivator, I tend towards an intensity that can leave me with a tunnel-vision that lowers my sensitivities to those around me while elevating my awareness of what I want/need (above all else).
So, does money make you mean? I'm hesitant to blame money as the problem or anything else for that matter. I think there is something deeper at play here.
Here's another talk on how feeling wealthy can make you mean, by Paul Piff
What say you?