Sunday, November 22, 2009

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: How much are you willing to pay for money?

  Disdain for money is a common theme among moralists and philosophers. But money’s not the problem. It’s what people do to get it and what they do with it when they get it.

  In "Fiddler on the Roof," a poor man sings of his daydreams of the wonderful life he’d have if he were a rich man. And surely it would be better. As someone once said, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.”

  Yet the Biblical warning that “love of money is the root of all evil” reminds us to be aware of the difference between need and greed.

  It’s one thing to make money a central goal to escape poverty and provide for basic necessities. It’s quite another when it becomes our primary motivation and measure of success or when we equate happiness or worthiness with wealth.

  The love of money can have a powerful narcotic effect on our values. It can push us toward or keep us in unhealthy relationships and unsatisfying careers. It can lead us to undervalue the importance of relationships and work. It can make us into workaholics who neglect family and friends. And it can spawn dishonorable conduct that pollutes our souls and makes us unworthy despite our net worth.

  According to an old Hasidic saying, “One who thinks money can do everything is likely to do anything to get it.”

  Perhaps Swiss philosopher Rousseau said it best: “The money you have can give you freedom, but the money you pursue enslaves you.”

  The challenge is to put the value of money in perspective. In the end, the question is: How much are you willing to pay to have money?

  This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is the founder of the Josephson Institute, a non-for-profit organization which develops and delivers services and materials to increase ethical commitment, competence, and practice in all segments of society.

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