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Consumption - The Irresponsibility of Excess

Core Values

Consumption - The Irresponsibility of Excess

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One factor contributing to a misalignment in today’s social values can be attributed to irresponsible human consumption. We are all labeled consumers, and as shared by economists, the health of our economy is directly related to how, what, where and the amount each of us consume. What does it mean to irresponsibly consume, and what are the ramifications? Moral decay, economic instability, environmental destruction, political corruption, deterioration of family values, and a mutually disrespectful society are all consequences. Each day individuals strive to consume, but to what end? Do you consume to have more stuff, to feel more important, to escape from responsibilities, to ease emotional pain, to find happiness, or get immediate gratification?

Consume is defined as, “to destroy or expend by use; use up, to eat or drink up; devour, to destroy as by decomposing or burning, to spend wastefully, to absorb; engross.” As the British Economist E.F. Schumacher said, “Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.” Reflecting on my childhood I can recall having been told that there were those who passed away from consumption. An older medical term used my physicians to avoid the taboo of being specific in regard to describing the wasting away of a body of an individual who had tuberculosis. I can also remember the word being used to describe those who drank, smoked, drugged, or ate themselves to death from the resulting diseases associated with those behaviors. On many social levels consumption has become an obsession related to excess, rather than understanding that there are social responsibilities attached with that behavior. To believe you live to eat, rather than eat healthy and reasonably to live will lead to the health consequences that follow. To believe you need more things to validate your self-worth will lead to the financial and emotional struggles that follow. To abuse the environment and the natural resources associated with it will lead to the environmental and energy challenges that follow.

Responsible consumption aligned with healthy and ethically based core values contributes to the achievement of a well-balanced life. Strong core values suppress the need for excess. It provides you an element of checks and balances in regard to how you live your life, and therefore how you consume. Those values also provide reflection on what is truly important in regard to a fulfilling and ultimately content life.

From an emotional perspective, excess consumption is commonly used as a deterrent from having to take personal responsibility for one’s failures, insecurities and dysfunctions. For some, it can be easier to excessively eat, drink, smoke, abuse drugs, play video games, etc. and become a consumption addict then to cope with the reality of having to be personally responsible. Many use excess consumption as an excuse, and who suffers the most? The people closest to us are always the ones that bear the biggest burden of our irresponsible behaviors. Excess equals self-centeredness, which ultimately equals personal and professional misery. The gratification that comes with being self-centered is short lived, and lacks any long-term depth of character.

How would you evaluate your consumption? Is it excessive, or within the limits of a proper physical and emotionally balanced life? To consume in order to avoid having to deal with a personal or professional issue never solves the issue at hand, nor fills the possible emotional emptiness created by that issue. It is a temporary fix for long-term insecurities. To satiate, “is to supply with anything in excess, so as to disgust, weary.” That is not a behavior anyone would wish to exemplify. As Martin H. Fischer stated, “A machine has value only as it produces more than it consumes – so check your value to the community.” To realize excess is not only detrimental to oneself, but more importantly is at the expense of others, is the key to being more frugal in all you do. To appreciate living without enhances the appreciation to live within. It is never the stuff that ultimately satisfies, but rather a respectful sense of self that brings wholeness to living a meaningful and satisfied life. It will be, and always has been, creation rather than consumption that has most benefitted the world.


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