This week my wife asked me if I wanted a “vanity plate” for my car. Intrigued, having never had one before, I asked for details. We quickly learned that to receive a custom plate in the state of Georgia, you must pay a $90 initial fee plus an additional $50 per year. We opted for the standard plates. Vanity, it seems, is expensive!
This is true not only of license plates, but of vanity in all its forms. Vanity, self-importance, and conceit (three close cousins of costliness) will cause us to spend loads of money, time, and energy. When we value ourselves as “worthy” or “deserving,” we feel compelled to demonstrate our position of importance – not just once, but often! Like an insatiable beast, vanity is never satisfied. Over time, it will require ever increasing expenditures, such as:
Beyond the financial cost, think of the time and energy that is required to maintain an “elevated existence.” We work tirelessly to create results and appearances, then tell stories of adventure and accomplishment to all who will listen. We post, tweet, and share the proof with an ever-expanding (yet declining, in true connectedness) network of friends.
The reason vanity requires such costly and frequent expenditures to survive: it doesn’t truly exist. Thinking that you are “all that” is an exercise in self-delusion. You aren’t all that, and neither am I. We are just people – real, flawed, fragile, emotional, quirky human beings.
We try to recreate ourselves in new, expensive, and more glorious images. Yet, none of it is real. Inevitably, our vanity, conceit, and self-importance, like a house-of-cards, will come crashing to the ground. We will all suffer hardships, joys, victories, defeats, sickness, and, ultimately, death.
Regardless what you pay, vanity, in the end, is not a smart investment. It serves no worthwhile purpose. And while it may provide a temporary satisfaction (or delusion), it may also prevent you from experiencing self-honesty and meaningful connections with those you love and encounter.
I like nice things. I enjoy “voting” with my dollars to invest in the products, services or companies that I view as valuable, high quality, and purposeful. However, when my motives for purchasing something are to elevate me, I sense a collision course with vanity.
I don’t think we ever completely rid ourselves of vanity. Part of our “humanness” is the fact that we defend and protect our own perspective as “right,” or “better.” But when you consciously decline feeding vanity, it will remain a small factor in your life. And, in turn, you will be able to invest your energy, time, and money in a far more lucrative strategy.
For those who exalts themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12
Humility pays big dividends. When you seek to lower yourself, instead of elevating your position, you will experience huge payoffs, including:
I’m not suggesting that we should all take a vow of poverty. I believe that we should pursue excellence, success, wealth, and health. We should live a life that is abundant! The trick is to, in the midst of abundance, stay connected to the reality that we are no better than others. I believe it is a spiritual issue – realizing that what you have is not ultimately yours, but a gift that flows through you. With that perspective, it becomes easier to stay connected to what matters most, and invest time, energy, and money in ways that pay real returns.