It has struck me recently how many of the marketing messages that we receive tell us we can have it all. They boldly claim that their product allows us to have the best of both worlds. For example, a car company will say, “You can be safe and also be sporty.” Or a company selling junk food will say, “It tastes good and is good for you as well.”
We love these messages because it means that there is no need to sacrifice. We can have the pleasure and discipline all at once. We can be responsible and at the same time enjoy life. What we don’t realize is that most of these marketing statements are spin. While some of these benefits are possible, they have conveniently left out many other detractors. So the choices we make still have consequences – both good and bad.
Another area of life that also focuses on this inaccurate idea is commerce. In business we talk about a “win-win” proposition. It is a partnership or deal where both parties come out ahead. Again, this can be true in some ways, but usually if you look deeper there are sacrifices being made by both parties.
Whether it is in our consumer behavior or in our work, we have to realize that in most scenarios of life we will not be able to have it all. And if we value living life generously, we need to see that we will have to make significant sacrifices in order to benefit others.
A little boy once said to his sister while giving her a Christmas present that, “I wasted all my money on you!” He understood that to give to his sister meant that he didn’t have something for himself. When we are generous with our money, we are left with fewer resources to spend on Latte’s or, in some cases, to pay bills. When we are generous with an idea, we lose the right to keep its potential profits to ourselves. When we are generous with our time, we have less of it to spend on another activity that we enjoy.
But all of those sacrifices are worth it if we believe that a life of generosity is one that God rewards and that makes a real difference in the lives of others. The key is for us to actively fight against the idea that we can have it all. In the end we need to be okay with the fact that we have chosen not to have everything for ourselves.