The Joy of Not Wanting Things


The story is told of a man named Arenius who lived in the fifth century. Determined to live a holy life, he abandoned the modern comforts of Egyptian society choosing instead to follow a simple, solemn lifestyle in the desert.

Yet, whenever he visited the great city of Alexandria, he would spend time wandering through its bazaars and markets. When asked why, he explained, “My heart rejoices at the sight of all the things I do not need.”

I first heard that story over ten years ago and have both repeated it and thought about it repeatedly since then.

Consider the meaning and opportunity behind that final sentence: My heart rejoices at the sight of all the things I do not need.

When was the last time you considered the joy of not wanting things?

It is, an amazing way to live!

Just picture the freedom that would come with not wanting to buy stuff and being content with what you have. So much so, that you would find joy in noticing all the things you didn’t want.

Imagine being freed of the desire to keep up with the ever-changing trends, gadgets, and fashions that surround us constantly. That freedom would allow us to spend our money more intentionally. It would allow us to spend our resources on those things we truly value. Imagine the joy we would feel knowing our money is not being wasted on things that don’t matter.

Even more, visualize the joy that would accompany finally redefining the word success in your life. While almost none of us would define success purely in terms of acquiring more and more possessions, we often do in our actions and checkbooks. But reaching the point of truly “not wanting stuff” would change all that. Success could be defined, fully, on our own terms. How amazing would that be?

There is an unmistakable joy found in living an intentional life. The relentless pursuit of “more” can be exhausting. Stepping off that consumer treadmill would do more than liberate us from the pressure to hurry and chase every new fad. It would empower us to make choices each day that align with our deepest selves.

Not wanting things would allow our aspirations to evolve. We would begin dreaming bigger dreams for our lives than physical possessions. We would see our one life as more valuable, with more opportunity. Our ambitions could fully center on creating a positive impact rather than a shopping cart. This would enrich both our lives and the lives of others.

As a result, our lives would feel genuinely fulfilling and purposeful. Doesn’t that sound worthy of rejoicing and celebration?

And, of course, contentment with what we have doesn’t mean stagnation in life. Contentment leads to more and greater ambition.

If that’s not enough, there is even greater joy to found in this. Freeing ourselves from the desire to buy ends the constant comparison with others that so often crushes our soul and joy. And the less we are swayed by comparison to others, the more we are able to appreciate our unique journey, our unique life, and the unique role we are able to play in the world (at least in terms of the things we buy).

There is an unmistakable joy to be found in not wanting to buy and accumulate more things. No wonder, as the old story goes: His heart rejoiced at the sight of all the things he did not need.

Imagine it, picture it, and then go realize it for yourself.

This joy is accessible to all of us. It begins with seeing the emptiness of pursuing things we don’t need, finding a greater purpose for our lives than simply being a consumer, practicing gratitude for what we have, focusing our resources on what truly matters, and then finding satisfaction in those decisions.

And we can all do that today.

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