Children and Over Indulgence

Most of our children today are over privileged. They are constantly being given the latest electronic games, clothes, computers, phones, etc. without the basic understanding of what it takes to earn the money, to budget, to plan to obtain such items. We overindulge our children who are growing up thinking that life owes something to them, and that their over privileged status gives them more value as a human being as opposed to those who are not as privileged.

Many of today’s children are not expected to do chores, and yet are given money and material things in abundance. We as parents are not doing a good job of raising our children. Due to the extreme spoiling, they are not developing good character or good morals. The behavior of parents in focusing too much on material things and relating their own status and value to the level of wealth or power they have achieved is creating self centered children. Furthermore, many parents in higher socio-economic levels don’t even allow their children to play or interact with children not of their own or higher level of wealth. And, either overtly or subtly are giving their children the message that people who are poorer don’t have the same level of value, while stigmatizing the poor. The stereotype of poor people not being honest, unclean, and possibly lazy is very prevalent in our society.

Additionally, this type of stereotyping is even active and accepted among our worship communities. Think about the little Muslim boy who goes to the poorer Mosque in the neighborhood across town. His parents struggle to make ends meet, so they understand much better the value of the little amount of material things they own. They are much more likely to give thanks to Allah for meeting their needs than are the wealthy. They take their son to volunteer at a local soup kitchen to serve those in poverty. Because of the deeper understanding of what it means to struggle, they serve those at the soup kitchen with no judgement, and in fact the opposite — they serve love and joy to those who are poverty stricken, and not just food.

Their son is given a small allowance for the chores he is responsible for, and if there is an item he desires that is a want and not a need, he is expected to save his allowance to purchase the item. He is taught the importance of compassion and love towards others. His parents model the core truths of their religion. But this is the child you won’t let your children play with because he is poorer. Let’s look at their futures. The little boy that you looked down upon has become a beloved Imam over a spiritually active Mosque that is doing immense outreach in the community around them. Meanwhile, most of your grown children have obtained high paying jobs, and are just as into material things as you are — but their spiritual level is low, and they have very little understanding of the Qur’an and its important truths. They too believe their value is based upon looks, status and wealth.

Allah’s Kingdom is the opposite of the material world. To those with no understanding, it is an upside down world where everything you think is valuable has no value in the kingdom. For you see, everything that is given for the Kingdom of Allah is valuable treasure stored up within His loving heart. It is those who walk humbly before their Lord with thankfulness in their hearts, who know that everything they have really belongs to Allah, who praise Him in all their ways, who work towards sharing their material blessings with those not as fortunate — those are the people who have the highest value to Allah. Those who raised themselves up and taught their children to do the same, will be last in line in the hierarchy of Allah. While that little poor boy with the tender, merciful heart, will be in front because he led the way of piety by his actions.

We can’t teach our children love and compassion when we are too focused on material things, nor by giving our children whatever they ask for — they grow up self centered, and subsequently place themselves in the center of their little worlds and push Allah out. This is neglect. Neglect isn’t just the parent who doesn’t provide for their children to the best of their ability, but it is also the parent who over-provides thereby not attending to their children’s souls, character, or morals. As the Qur’an states, the best among us is the most pious. Our value as humans has nothing to do with wealth or status, but with the condition of our hearts. When we judge others through the filter of the world’s value system, we are revealing the dirty condition of our own hearts. That which is bad for our souls becomes good in our perceptions, and that which is good for our souls becomes unimportant when we are over focused on material things. It is the ego that will seek the things of the world to make the self feel more important. However, it is a delusion that will slowly turn the soul away from the Straight Path.

I humbly write this as I have seen the rotten fruit of over abundance take over my own child’s heart. Even though I raised her in a spiritual community, and actively modeled compassion and love to the poor, while attempting to teach her morality by my own honest behavior, and by encouraging her to dress modestly, while providing firm boundaries regarding her activities I am not seeing the fruit of my labors as of yet. She displays self-centeredness, and the beautiful empathic behavior she displayed toward everyone as a younger child doesn’t seem to be evident now as a teen. Did we give her too much? — definitely. All I can do as a parent is pray and put her in Allah’s hands. She may have to be brought to a place of suffering to learn, but that is much better than sacrificing one’s soul for the material world. Even though suffering is painful, it is oftentimes for our good. That is the way Allah teaches us, and is a pattern seen and taught in the Qur’an and other monotheistic religion’s scripture as well.

Living in the place of abundance has the greatest spiritual risk because we become too comfortable and too apathetic. We no longer see the suffering of others, or even feel we need to respond to it because our hearts have grown calloused. This can even cause denial which leads to thinking that if one only adheres to the outer aspects of our respective religions then we are still spiritually safe. And of course, denial leads to deception, because oftentimes we still know at some level we are sinning, but by outwardly showing a degree of religiosity we can hide the sin underneath and still maintain high respect from others in our religious communities — ego manipulation at work to disguise the the true natures of our hearts.

It is suffering that shoots streams of creativity out of my heart, and the brokenness of life that explodes my heart into its soul.