16 Things Money Can’t Buy You (That Can All Be Had For Free)

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It’s a safe bet that most of us have had the “If I had enough money” daydream of personal fulfillment.

As a social construct, money can do wonderful things: it lets you buy movie tickets with friends; facilitates dates; allows for the purchase of ingredients to make homemade soup.

But let’s never pretend we can’t, and don’t, enjoy the company of friends without it, foster intimacy and love in its absence, or achieve perfect bliss in finding the ingredients for various types of dishes in the wild.

Despite humanity’s worldwide fixation on money, there are things no amount of it can buy.

1. Contentment

Money never buys contentment. Time and again we’ve seen the opposite action holding true: the more one possesses, the more one wants.

The need for more becomes a strange addiction to dissatisfaction, rather than the search for contentment.

2. Happiness

No matter how many material possessions, if your life lacks equilibrium and balance, money doesn’t stabilize things. If anything, it sends it spinning off in some wild, unexpected tangent.

Over and over again, we see examples of the wealthy being utterly miserable. They’re not happy in their love lives, family lives, or even their careers. So clearly, money does not buy happiness.

3. Love

In the thousands of years of human history, money successfully purchasing a sense of true love sits solidly at zero occurrences.

Love is transactional only via the deeper connections forged of trust, openness, communion, and compassion. There’s no coin on this planet that comes close to that grace.

4. Spirituality

No matter how much we tithe; no matter the alms to the poor, or vacation trips to remote temples, spirituality requires a deeper connection to the All than writing our name on a check or swiping a credit card.

Thinking money aids in that connection is an automatic go-back-to-start move in the game of life.

5. Family Harmony

What amount of money would make Uncle Joe respect Aunt Mary? Or cause dad to be less reticent to accept; mom to honestly care?

There’s always a temptation to think that if we could only give enough to this person to eliminate their stresses, some to that person, or maybe just have enough to simply put respectable distance between ourselves and the rest of the family, it would bring about the positive familial transformation we always desired.

Nope. It never works.

6. Self-Worth

Count the number of times people with expensive watches feel the need to check the time when around others. Then look at the person who thrusts their huge engagement ring in others’ faces at the slightest provocation

Common thread: they are their possessions. Their sense of self-worth is so fragile they need to bolster it with trendy, expensive, conspicuous things people can’t fail to notice. Sadly, when the things are gone, and the people are gone, so is the worth.

7. Respect

The rich blowhard crowing to fawning crowds about the greatness he’s achieved is such a cliché it should be gilt-edged and filigreed.

Respect doesn’t fit in a wallet, trust fund, inheritance, or hedge account. Respect is too grand a notion for those small things.

If anything, money often causes people to behave in ways that diminish what little respect they might have gained attempting to be decent human beings.

8. Gratitude

Generosity is great except when performed with the expectation that those receiving the boon will kneel, but there are many who have precisely that attitude: I gave, now please shower me with gratitude.

True gratitude never comes with a price tag, and, when true, is always freely given.

9. Friends

This one could be written on a chalkboard a thousand times and still need repetition: Money doesn’t buy friends.

A wallet as a gravitational center is going to attract the nearest bits of humanoid rubble and flotsam, not the stellar bodies abounding.

Rubble and flotsam exist to take advantage of others, to build themselves up at others’ expense. That is by no stretch of the imagination anyone’s definition of a tried and true friend.

10. Forgiveness

Sometimes we mess up. Know what money can’t buy? Money can’t buy our way out of that inescapable fact of life. Not the purchase of a diamond, a bouquet, a suit, or a toy box full of Christmas gifts.

Yet who hasn’t thought, “If I could only find the right thing, I could make it all better?” Forgiveness comes from laying oneself before others, not by proxy or bauble.

11. Truth

The amount of money spent on political campaigns could likely wipe out a social ill today before lunch, yet we all know how much truth is contained in those pandering cesspools of marketing. A big budget is never an alternative to facts.

12. Compassion

Even atrocious people can throw money at charities. Yet money can’t buy a compassionate heart where there’s lack of one. It can’t make us care, empathize, or seek to solve.

At best, money can alleviate certain ills (the ills which our systems of economics themselves create), but compassion is the act of dismantling the barriers between perception and the sufferings of others, not shifting cash allotments.

13. Connection

Money can certainly guarantee a gaggle of people around you, but not a single one of that gaggle is actually with you.

Money can keep you on the go and zipping to-and-fro, but how often will you feel that you’re actually there?

A sense of connection comes from the inner life, which is free of charge, saying hello to the inner lives of others. It requires honesty, time, and an interest in the world not found on the rate of your savings account.

14. Loyalty

Loyalty is a result of respect of character, not financial transaction. Money can buy sycophants, toadies, and foot soldiers… who will all turn the moment a better offer appears from elsewhere.

15. Safety

Money might buy a weapon, which is a guarantee of danger. Money might place you in an affluent neighborhood, which is essentially a ticking timebomb. Money will never, however, provide a permanent force field protecting anyone from the crimes of humanity.

16. Purpose

We can see why the singing group Crash Test Dummies made their signature hit “Superman’s Song,” featuring this poignant refrain:

Superman never made any money
Saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair
The world will never see another man like him…

Money has its uses, and is a fabulous distraction, but the things that can’t be bought tend to be the things we, as a planetary community, eternally need.

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