Families and wealth


#1

Sorry for this long message but I am really questioning things a lot lately.

Why does it seem like to me that familes who have less as in a more modest income are more content and happier with their lives than many families who have much more wealth. I’m sure there are exceptions but my family on my dad’s side is quite wealthy yet we are very dysfunctional. My parents divorced and there is a lot more problems with my imediate family that factor in but in both generations the family is not close. We can not get along and most of us including myself are just miserable the majority of the time granted there probably are mental issues involved.

My dad has been absolutely wonderful as a devout Catholic suppporting us and he works so many hours as an executive giving us so much only to receive little to no appreciation as the three of us are so spoiled. It seems so hypocritical and wrong for me to say there was a better way especially when I benefitted so much from it and still do.

For whatever reason I just accepted this as fine for many years but throughout the past few years I’ve had the chance to meet several Catholic families with the friends I made in college and they are close and don’t have nearly as much as my family yet are just a lot happier. Without revealing too much about how spoiled I am I did try to understand what it is about these families that makes them happier and get to know them more. Of course they have their own issues but I mean overall. Not to mention that life in incredibly difficult for me currently due to being so spoiled and having no discipline. I can not relate to or imagine what it would be like and in fact I say I would rebel but I do appreciate other families’ way of life.

I kind of brushed this all off lately and started law school but after once again going home to my family with another disaster Christmas and using money my dad gave me to borrow one of my dad’s cars and go on a road trip to see many of my friends thougout the state, I just was really bothered by this all again.

I don’t know what I want for my life anymore. Everything in my life revolves around my spoiled self centered attitude I’ve developed not to mention the anxiety issues I unfortunately have. I can put on an act and often do when I visit my friends’ families but it is just an act and I am very tense trying to figure out how to avoid revealing my true self. I just no longer know if I want to become a powerful attorney in order to one day pass off my dad’s salary to keep enjoying my luxurious lifestyle. It just seems much nicer to have a lifestyle similar to some of the families I have met. There are many jobs in the law field and attorney can take that are beneficial to others and make a modest income but only a few pursue them.

I’ve only completed one semester of law school so I have time to think about these things but I’m tired of being miserable over this issue. My main concern is that I just wish I had enough faith in God to do things differently or to be more caring of others but I still unfortunately believe that unless I portray myself and eventually work towards becoming a wealthy attorney then no one is going to like me even if I know this isn’t true and it is this attitude which probably makes this fear a reality. Oh, I also worry that due to the problems in my family and whatever issues I may have I better make enough money to cancel out the negatives. Then of course while I can put on an act for a time being, I can’t imagine not living my comfortable life of luxury with anything I want thanks to the money my dad still gives me and will continue to give me until I graduate law school. Again, I apologize for this long message and there are a variety of problems for me but overall this one topic drives me insane to keep thinking about and I wonder what all the families on here think. Thanks.


#2

To be “poor in spirit” means to be unattached to wealth of any kind. Being unattached to wealth means to be unattached from having it or not having it. It is not being “poor in spirit” to be constantly worried about finances and not being able to make ends meet. That person is inordinately attached to material security. That is just as bad as being materially spoiled and enjoying having tons of money etc.

You can be as wealthy as the Domino’s Pizza guy and still be “poor in Spirit”. He and many other rich men do lots of good with their money. They do not work to make money for its own sake they work to do the best they can at the task set before them. They use their own reason to create their opportunities, but they allow their decisions to be informed by what they know to be true and good. hey put God number one their lives, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t want them to work hard and use their talents. (Remember the guy who buried is talent?)

Don’t fret about what you have or don’t have. Focus on what you need to do to be the best person God wants you to be right now. Study hard if you think your place is in school. Go to mass. Don’t dwell on what others have or don’t have.

Your thoughts are an indication that you are growing and trying to find your place in this world. Keep thinking but do not be distracted from the task at hand.

I recommend The SCrewtape letters for this tim ein your life. ALso some spiritual guide book like Introduction to the devout life. EVen better find a good priest to be your director and/or go to Opus Dei retreats, or Regnum Christi or whatever that available close to you.


#3

Having completed law school and spent time in that profession, you sound like someone who neither belongs in law school or who will make a good attorney. Just like with medical specialists, top attorneys can command considerable fees for their expertise and accumulate substantial wealth. But when either profession is pursued primarily for material gain, it does not produce the best doctor or attorney nor provide the kind or professional satisfaction one derives from attaining skill or expertise in a given practice.

You sound very conflicted about your values, goals for your own life and even career interests. Perhaps some time off for reflection or time spent actually working would be of value as opposed to blindly pursuing a professional degree that neither interests you nor which you will serve with the integrity that the profession itself so desperately needs.


#4

It’s a good thing for you that you are seeing all of this. I think the difference that you are seeing between families is the difference that real love makes. I mean real love is sacrificial, and people who have less might have developed more of that capacity to sacrifice for those they love. People who have everything, well it is kind of hard to come up with a real sacrifice, so they end up with what might seem like everything but they are totally lacking in real love (which really iseverything).

As far as being a lawyer and striving for wealth, if you have no real love for what it is that lawyers really do, aren’t you going to really just be a slave to that job, tied to doing something you really have no passion or interest in? Why don’t you think about ten different careers that you could potentially enjoy doing, then take salary out of the equation, and really think about what you would be happy and fulfilled doing. Is being married and being a father something important to you? Maybe you should think about what type of a job would be ideal for that – something that does not require long hours and has some flexibility.

And just one final note, you seem unhappy with yourself for lacking discipline. Why don’t you start looking for little ways to impose some discipline on yourself? Maybe some fasting, praying the rosary daily, getting up an hour earlier each day, taking the farthest parking spot, being friendly with someone who is unpleasant…these are all ways to strengthen your character with a little discipline. I would say volunteer your time to help the less fortunate, but I have a feeling if you ran out and did that right now, you would feel like a fraud. So have the discipline maybe to start with the small things, and be open to finding a bigger way to give of yourself, because I do think that opportunity will come.


#5

Oh I am very interested in law. There’s no way I could survive the semester without being interested in it. That would be torture considering how many hours a week it takes. The one thing that makes law school worth while is the fact that it is enjoyable to learn. I just started my first day of studying again today in getting ready for Monday but I’m having a hard time coming out of my lazy mode I have been in on break. Hopefully by Monday I’ll be back in hard working law mode. There are a bazillion things you can do with a law degree since there are so many different kinds of law not to mention you pretty much can do any other job with that level of education. I’m just mainly concerned that I will continue my materialistic selfish way of thinking that is ingrained in me and just trying to understand how others do things differently. Oh, and unless I have to due to needing the money I don’t really plan on working for a big firm and the extraordinary long hours. Well all attorneys have to work long hours some of the time but for that matter all jobs do some of the time.


#6

Oh and I do believe that both attorneys and doctors have earned the right to make the salaries they do. To get to that point requires an extraordinary amount of studying and stress. I appreciate your responses though and was just in a really bad mood that night when I wrote that long message after coming back from break and thinking about the issue. I’m over it now and better get ready for the upcoming semester. It’s going to be even harder than the first but at least there is the mandatory moot court competition for first years which involves the courtroom and the fun stuff.


#7

Personally, I think you should start volunteering your time. I think it would benefit you greatly. Go and help out homeless shelters, youth groups, give money to kids who want to go on retreat and can’t afford it and volunteer to be an adult chaperone. Make the time to go on retreat or take a Bible study. Of course in moderation, since you are also in school.

Also, Thank your dad and get along with your family the best way you can. This means that you stop looking at material things for happiness. “Satisfaction” comes and goes. True joy never leaves you, even on a bad day.

Go to Mass more than once a week if you can. Start a devotion. Go to adoration. Pray the rosary daily. You can’t get what you want if you don’t work for it. Fall in love with God and His Church.

And prioritize. Start a list of the important things in your life. Make another list of new priorities and work on those. Hint God should be first. :wink: School is important, but not more important than God. If you want to be the one of the best lawyers, it starts by putting God first.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you in my prayers. We are all called to be saints you know. All of us! I’m not perfect in ANY way, but I thought I would but in my 2 cents. :thumbsup:

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” - Blessed Mother Teresa


#8

I have been a full time volunteer/missionary within the states and one of the other volunteers at the time was a law school graduate. She served her volunteer year as an assistant at a free law clinic in a poor neighborhood while she prepared and took her exam to get her license in the state where we were volunteering (she already had her license in the state where she earned her degree). She now works for the same organization making enough money to live and she is happy.

Personally, I have many attorneys in my family. My dad is a judge, my step-mom is an attorney for the government, my uncle has his own practice but spends some of his time working with a lot of poor Latinos/Latinas and their employment legal issues with their bosses. I can say for certainty that my uncle is the one who is most happy and least rich out of the three. He use to be less happy but when he started helping the poor in addition to working with his other clients his whole persona seemed to change. He now has a purpose, a meaning to his life and law degree. He now thinks outside of the materialism. Yes, he does enjoy finer things in life from time to time but they are no longer the end all be all of his happiness. As for my dad and step-mom, I’ve never personally known two people as miserable as they are and they have all that money can buy (wish they’d pass some of that money to me :wink: ).


#9

I don’t think they make enough, at least anymore, when you consider the education/training/long hours. Of course, my view is somewhat jaded seeing how much my ex with no degree could make in the music business. I’ve often pitied doctors for all they have to do for their money, and hope that it is more than just money that they are in it for.


#10

I don’t think families who are “poor” are happier than families who are “not poor”. I think everyone has a different set of stressors. While Joe makes 500 grand a year, he doesn’t get to see his kids or wife because he’s working so much he’s never home, so he’s never been a presence in their lives so he’s almost a stranger. While Mike makes 5 dollars an hour, he’s working so much to put a roof over their head that the same situation is in place.

While John works 40hrs a week, and makes 50 grand a year, he gets home every night to eat dinner with his family, attends school plays, soccer games, dance recitals, parent teacher conferences, and remember birthdays and anniversarys. He’s around more often than he’s not. He sets his priorities straight. Good house in safe neighborhood, access to health care, and unconditional love

Perhaps it’s what parents demand from their children, and expectations on both sides that are set and met that determine happiness.


#11

WJP,

A good rule I follow is this: Don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides.

There’s nothing intrinsically virtuous about living lower economic level. My husband and I and kids do. We still have to work out our holiness with fear and trembling every day.

Galandriel offered great suggestions. Even if you don’t still feel rotten about the Christmas visit, these are good suggestions. The increased prayer, devotion and sacraments is something we should all be striving toward anyway. The spending of one’s self for others is our Christian vocation. Consider spending a year with the Jesuit Corp of volunteers or the Franciscans volunteers, or as a mentor in a L’Arche community for mentally retarded adults. God’s people need to be loved. You could love them.

Spending a year pouring yourself out loving God’s people-- would that interfere with your plans? That’s the kind of interference the world needs. That might be just the kind of interference you need.

Finally, along those lines, your dissatisfaction and mild distrust of the pleasures of the world might be God calling you to a religious vocation. There’s plenty of room in religious orders or diocesan service for the person holding a law degree.

Many good vocations are lost because the ‘mood’ passes-- really, it’s the call, which sometimes starts as a dissatisfied stirring-- the call is drowned out by more and better busy-ness, more and better experience, and more and better stuff.

may you be blessed!


#12

I agree. It took me a while to appreciate what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t have. By now I am ashamed of that part of my life when I look and see how much I always had to meet my actual needs. Even a Christmas with no money was so joyeous with a surprise hamper from people who decided they didn’t need it after all and a visit from the Pilgrim Virgin Statue.


#13

Ya it’s time to start concentrating on school again and worry about all this stuff later. It really is about what you do with your life. The problem that happened to me and I assume many others is when everything is given to you you are kind of desensitized to the real world and the way things work and naturally no matter how people are there is jealousy and comparing over who gets what. My grandpa and dad have both tried to equalize though all the kids in both generations think they get screwed and that the other ones get more. Just the way it works. Like I make sure to remind my dad that my sister is going to a more expensive undergrad college and therefore he needs to equalize and help me pay back some of my loans after I graduate law school. Law school is expensive enough where even with my dad’s income my dad should not pay for all of it upfront nor would I expect him to.


#14

If your dad offers, great. But a parent should NEVER feel obligated to pay a single dime toward anything after high scool, let alone anything beyond a BS or BA. It is your dad’s money that he earned, not your money. And frankly, shame on you to expect it for law school. My dad has enough money to buy me a house, but it is HIS money that HE earned and I wouldn’t even dare ask him for a $10000 gift to help with a downpayment because HE is not responsible for my adult life and my adult responsibilities.


#15

Agreed. It’s a GIFT if a parent chooses to help his or her adult child with higher education. It is not a right. It is the parents’ choice to use their money as they see fit, not as the child demands. My parents were among those who DID help me with undergrad (and it was a big sacrifice, as they are not educated themselves and my dad is a blue-collar worker), but I would never even think of asking them for help with grad school if I didn’t have a full scholarship. They’ve done what was required of them and then some.

Maybe some of the unhappiness in wealthy families comes from the sense of entitlement instilled in the kids after a lifetime of having material goods handed to them without having to earn any of them.


#16

Maybe some of the unhappiness in wealthy families comes from the sense of entitlement instilled in the kids after a lifetime of having material goods handed to them without having to earn any of them.

wjp, SeekerJen may be on to something here.

In peace and goodwill: your expectations seem to defy humility and gratitude. especially when you describe the imposition of ‘equalization.’ remember the parable of the day laborers? they received fair wages. that someone else got those wages for doing less was none of their business.

what your father gives to your sister is none of your business.

you might really benefit from a year of intense service to people who might otherwise make you feel uncomfortable-- the poor, the sick, the aged, the mentally retarded.

especially with the mentally retarded, wjp, you would learn joy.


#17

Well, you could always take some time off school, get a job, move out and live on your own. Learn to manage your money and time. Then consider financing your own education. It will be very hard, but you will never regret it. It will make you a better, less selfish person, and you will also learn not to spoil your own children.

After I pulled the financial security out from under my daughter’s feet because she was wasting time at the University and I was paying for it, she grew up fast. Went to work, attended school part-time, got student loans, and ended up with a Master’s degree–all by herself (I did help her some with a few living expenses, and I would never have let her starve), but basically she was on her own. She has two children now, and I guarantee they will not be spoiled. The six year old already saves her money and makes decisions on what to buy.


#18

For grad school I have taken out loans and will pay my own way through. However, my dad still pays for my rent and food and what I was saying is that my dad believes in equalizing everything so if my sister gets more now then my dad has to continue giving me money and eventually help me pay back my loans in order to equalize. Thanks for all the comments but as I said I’m not upset over it anymore and its time to concentrate on school again now and not worry about this stuff. About the devotions and going to daily mass more often and adoration, I’ll definitely try to do more of that. I’ll also take the other comments into consideration. I don’t really know where God is calling me exactly but I do know that law is interesting and I hope I end up doing something good with it rather than being concerned with what will allow me to continue my lifestyle and somewhat selfish way of thinking that is not necessarily my ideal lifestlye. I probably will lurk around here somewhat still but just like last semester I probably will limit how much I post on here.


#19

then be blessed, do well and offer all for the glory of God!


#20

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.