A “sham,” according to Webster, is “a trick that deludes.”
A “scam” is “a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation.”
We usually think of shams or scams as some deliberate deceit by a crook or a con man. But today, the society we live in — the “norms” of the current culture that surrounds us — is shoving quite a lot of shams and scams in our direction. Let’s review a few of them:
• The sham of achievements being more important than relationships. Today’s society seems to give all its accolades for accomplishments in career and very few for relationships in family. The problem is that achievements are short-lived and slippery, and if we are operating in a paradigm designed to impress others, we may never actually be able to satisfy ourselves or develop the completely committed relationships that will last forever.
• The scam of measuring everything in economic terms rather than in moral terms. Our world seems oriented to the “bottom line” and determined to get us to measure ourselves by how big our home is or how fancy a car we drive rather than by how hard we try or how kind we are. The problem is that economics and numbers and dollars are a very shallow form of measurement, and they often don’t really tell us anything. Most of us agree that God’s measurement is likely to have very little to do with economics and everything to do with our hearts.
• The sham that children are incredibly expensive choices that rob us of our freedom and destroy our peace of mind. We all read those articles that keep coming out from time to time that tell us it will cost $300,000 or $400,000 to raise a child. The problem is that the calculations are simply not accurate because they make all kinds of wrong assumptions, including the assumption that children can’t earn or pay for anything themselves.
• The scam that the only way a family can make it is to have two full-time incomes. One income anymore, the standard line goes, can never provide us with everything we want, and it’s more important to have all those things than it is to have one parent staying at home with small children. The problem is that all the studies show otherwise and tell us that children form and develop most of their capacities in their first five years and a parent devoting herself or himself to them can make all the difference. And when it comes to income and materialism, maybe we all have to get over the tendency to confuse what we need with what we want.
• The sham that we are entitled to a whole range of things and that there is a big safety net and bailout that will take care of us from cradle to grave. The problem is that entitlement attitudes rob us of initiative and motivation and of our gratitude, and we tend to pass on the entitlement trap way of thinking to our kids.
• The scam that keeps telling us that it’s all about the individual and that individual rights and individual freedoms and individual lives are all that matter. “Being true to yourself” seems to be society’s mantra, even when some individual pursuit or obsession destroys a family or ends a marriage. The problem is that constant focus on self and on the individual can take the focus off families and commitments and relationships. When we come to choices between what is good for the individual and what is good for the family, we had better choose the family.
• The sham that you can’t be really successful in your career and also completely devoted to your family. And the sham that it is particularly foolish to start a family before you are well-established in your career. If we measure ourselves by our professional achievements, we will prioritize career and just do family as well as we can with our leftover time. The problem is that family has far more to do with our long-term happiness, and work and career are best viewed as things that support family.
Don’t get shammed and don’t get scammed, particularly by something as messed up as our modern culture!
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."