Lesson from a Millionaire
If you could spare your kids something you went through, what would it be?
For one, I don’t want my kids to have a lot of orthodontic or dental work. I had some painful oral surgery, and equally painful braces for a couple of years, my metal mouth compounding a time of deep insecurity in high school. My kids would probably have a completely different experience with braces, but with my own memories, I’ve prayed more than once that they would be spared that particular trial.
And it extends to other areas, too. I’ve hoped my kids will be more socially savvy than I was, and that my daughter might have a body type more pleasing to the eye than mine.
But I’ve begun to rethink my perspective. In the book The Millionaire Next Door, which explores the habits of American millionaires, the authors relate the difficulties of some self-made millionaires to teach their techniques of acquiring and maintaining wealth to their children. These millionaires, the book reports, may live quiet working-class lifestyles, scrimping and saving diligently for decades without the pressure to invest in the “image” of having other, more successful-looking jobs: cars, houses, activities, vacations, and clothes that peers in those jobs expect, for example.
But like any loving parents, they’d like to give their kids the best—better than what they had. Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous Millionaire may invest in an expensive education for their kids, for example, so that they can have more “successful” jobs … jobs which require the “image” investments the millionaires themselves have avoided. The parents might bestow expensive gifts—but by doing so they forfeit their children’s learning the self-discipline and other character needed to purchase those gifts. Other millionaires might help their kids avoid the difficulties of constantly saving and delaying gratification. And because those children haven’t had to go through those trials their parents endured to obtain their wealth, it’s difficult for their children to keep it.
So that got me thinking. What has God used my trials or suffering to create in me? What rich parts of my character has He formed through fire?
With the exception of suffering caused by my sin or poor choices, I need to think twice about to what extent I should constantly insulate my kids from hardship. Should I protect them from the consequences of their actions and choices? Help them escape from a bad teacher? Buy something for them that they should have saved for? Make sure that they look perfect or popular?
Or will the lack of exercising their “character” muscles lead them to weak, flabby souls? In 2 Corinthians 4:17, I am reminded that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” Will my kids be ready for the eternal weight of glory? Or will they be happy … and weak?