The Cost of Affluence

In this week’s Torah Portion (Eikev), the Jewish people are informed of the great wealth, ease of life, and health they will attain upon entering Israel and following G-d’s commandments. They are beseeched to not let this “good life” lead them astray in following the ways of the Torah, rationalizing “my strength and power created this great wealth”. They are to remember that G-d gave them the strength to amass this wealth.


My strength and power created this wealth

The reality is that when people are down in the dumps, they are quick to look to G-d for salvation. However, when their fortunes turn around they credit themselves for this reversal. This leads to long and stressful working hours in attempts to maintain and multiply their wealth. Suniya Luthar, a psychologist, has found this phenomenon to be even worse with children born into affluence. These children, beginning in elementary school, put tremendous pressure on themselves for perfect academic and extracurricular achievements to replicate their parent’s fortunes. They fail to recognize the external factors contributing to success or lack thereof and develop perfectionistic personalities, with no room for error. The result is increased rates of substance use, anxiety disorders, depression, and even suicide compared to their non affluent peers.


Do your best and appreciate what you have

The lesson is clear. When we attribute success solely to our abilities and hard work we are setting our children up for increased hardships. They are more likely to have less satisfying lives and to develop mental illness. It is important to use our abilities to earn a livelihood. However, we must realize that with just a few turn of events, it can all be taken away. Conversely, as recent history has shown, many people who dropped out of college have gone on to have some of the most successful and societal changing careers. Appreciate and be thankful for what you have, but imbue in your children the fact that success is not solely dependent on their personal skills and accomplishments. If you can do this, you will have healthier, more relaxed, happier and likely more successful children.

Ariel Mintz, MD
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