Tuesday, August 9, 2011

True riches

My older daughter and I were driving somewhere last week when we started discussing her future career choice. (I haven’t blogged about her career choice yet, but will shortly.) On the heels of that discussion we started talking about marriage, specifically how she might meet a young man (someday) who would be worthy of marrying her. Suffice it to say her career choice may throw her in the path of young men who will be rich.

And I warned her against it. Not to paint too broad a brush on ALL rich people, but I told her wealth can sometimes be incompatible with the family values we cherish. Not always, but often. (Okay, I’ll stop with the codicils now. I’m sure there are exceptions everywhere.)

Then I said something that just sort of popped out of my mouth but, upon reflection, I realize is dead-on accurate. I said, “Look at your father. He’s never been rich, but he’s always provided for us, and he's been the best husband a woman could ever ask for, and the best father you girls could ever want.”

I would never claim that riches are incompatible with family harmony (something we’ve always had in abundance) but I believe our LACK of riches has meant we have become immeasurably rich in everything else. We have the richness of love. We have the richness of domestic harmony. We have the richness of wonderful teens. We have the richness of lots of time together as a family. We have the richness of a lack of stress (most of the time). These are things, literally, that money cannot buy.

Rich men can either be rich through inheritance or through hard work. I don’t begrudge either. In fact, I applaud both. Except… I’m not sure riches could ever translate into a man worthy of my daughter, because I would question whether his interest lies with his wealth (maintaining it and/or building more) or his family.

Yeah yeah, I know every parent wants the highest ideals for a potential son-in-law. But under most circumstances, in a heartbeat I would choose a man of modest means to marry my daughter, over a rich man.

If I were to pull together a bucket list for a son-in-law, money would NOT be on it. But these qualities would:

• A strong work ethic. A man should have the will and the ability to provide for my daughter and their future children.

• Kindness. My future son-in-law will know how to be the kind and loving head of his family. He will not use anger or fear to control either my daughter or their children.

• Religious strength. A man should be able to guide his children’s religious upbringing and provide a godly example of manliness to his family.

• Morals. My son-in-law should be a moral man who knows (and sticks to) his convictions.

• Honorable. This term can encompass a lot of ground, including keeping his word.

• Practical knowledge. My son-in-law should know how to do make, fix, repair, create, and build. There are a million and one things my husband can turn his hand to that makes our lives easier. I would wish the same abilities in my son-in-law.

• Adoration. My son-in-law will adore my daughter. She in turn will adore him back. This respect and adoration helps carry any couples through hard times.

As you can see, riches aren’t listed anywhere. And riches may even interfere with many of these ideals.

Here is a wonderful letter to Dr. Laura that says a lot about how a woman should treat her husband which would add immeasurably to marital harmony.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Poor people don't make good wives/husbands just because they are poor. You are confusing correlation with causation.

  2. Husband of the BossAugust 9, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Brandy. Please note that there were a LOT more codicils and conditions in Patrice's posts than you seem to be implying in your response. And no where does she imply that simply being poor would qualify anyone as a good spouse.

    Might want to re-read it.

  3. I think this is a false choice Patrice.

    I have made a LOT of money yet, as a disabled Marine, VMI graduate, I have always put God, honor, duty and family first.

    Too often we make 'either OR' statements. I believe the operative word is 'AND'

    With the money I have made I funded 7 Boy Scout Troops, I have fed the poor, I have helped build churches, funded missions. I have always given anonymously.

    I have been able to take my family to the ledge of the Grand Canyon, to the battlefields of Gettysburg, to Monticello. We home school and what an amazing gift it is to SHOW your children where history happened.

    It has given me great pleasure to support my Mother (she is a widow from my Father being killed in Vietnam and receives a pittance). I have built three houses for her.

    My wife has not had to work outside the home.

    We have adopted three children - and never taken a cent of government money.

    So, Patrice, though I love your writings, deeply appreciate what you do (and you very kind comments on our son with Down Syndrome) I find your remarks here to be flat out wrong!

    Would you judge others by their skin? (no) eye color (no) Methodist vs Lutheran (no & no)

    Why judge others by the content of their wallet vs the content of the heart?!

    I urge you to reconsider, focus on character, on values.

    I have been poor! (when my Father was killed the Gov't said it was not in war so we received NO benefits for seven years). I have gone broke several times.

    And I worked my tail off, worked smart and made a lot of money.

    Money is a 'means' Patrice - what people do with it is a choice. Advise your daughter to choose wisely.

    warmest regards


  4. Hi Patrice! I love your blog!

    Here is an additional question to ask your daughter.
    If her husband met all of the requirements on your bucket list but also happend to be wealthy, how would she expect him to handle his money?
    My father-in-law is a very weathly Christian man. He believes that God has made him a wealthy "money manager" in order to help others and so he gives 80% of his income per year away to good causes and people in need. Now, he does have a nice house and nice cars but he makes it a priority to help others first. He fits every criteria on your bucket list but he is also wealthy.
    So, if your daughter's future husband was wealthy, would he help others with his money or would he be buying vacation homes and private planes?
    Wealth can be a blessing if a person does God's will with it.

  5. I've been rich, and I've been poor, and it's brought me to one conclusion: I'm still the same me either way, but rich is better. :)

    I don't buy into the notion that having money would interfere with _any_ of the above-listed attributes necessary for a good marriage. And I do concur that they're all critically important, and having boatloads of money isn't.

    What money _does_ do that's potentially harmful, however, is confuse a lot of people about their motives. It is, in my experience and from a lot of observation on both sides of the economic fence, a _lot_ harder to form genuinely good relationships (whether romantic ones or ordinary friendships) when there's a lot of money lying around. I have never seen money turn a good person into a bad person, but I regularly see how much it can disproportionately attract the attention of bad people.

    Of course, poor people can have destructive "friends" too...but they tend to be rather more obvious about their pathologies.

  6. Patrice,
    What does your daughter want in a husband?

    I have to agree with A in Texas.
    I married to a wonderful man that fills your bucket list for your daughter, because it was also pretty close to my own prayers.

    My answer from God came in a man with wealth as well. The greater part of our income helps
    others. We live a simple, uncomplicated by wealth, happy life, because that is what we both agreed to before we married.

  7. As a Christian, a man's duty should FIRST be to God, His Son and His Holy Spirit. I realize that's not what our military teach young men (and women), but the Bible does! Next comes his wife, then his children, and then honor. Once a Christian man told me when he died, he wanted to be remembered as a Marine above all else. I'm sorry, but that sounded like brainwashing to me. I told him I wanted to be remembered as a Christian and a man who dearly loved his wife. He just stared at me.

    From reading the responses to your "True Riches," I see over and over how so many people have a mindset about something to the point that it blinds them to the opinions of others. In other words, they see what they want to see! Yes, everyone might want to go back and reread this again. You are so right, Patrice. Your hubby is one in a million. Not on your side just because you're his wife, but because you're right! He sees what many others do not. You lucky, lucky, BLESSED girl!

  8. Patrice -

    In Robert A. Heinlein's novel "Stranger in a Strange Land" the character Jubal Harshaw tries to convince Captain van Tromp to be happy he is not wealthy. (Note that both characters are at least upper middle class, and Harshaw is what many would call wealthy.) Here are some quotes from that passage:

    "Captain, real wealth, on the scale that calls for a battery of finaglers to hold down taxes, would ground you as certainly as resigning would."

    "great wealth is a curse - unless you enjoy money-making for its own sake."

    "Its owner is beset on every side, like beggars in Bombay, each demanding that he invest or give away part of his wealth. He becomes suspicious - honest friendship is rarely offered him; those who could have been friends are too fastidious to be jostled by beggars, too proud to risk being mistaken for one.

    "Worse yet, his family is always in danger."

    There is more, but that summarizes the case against real wealth.

    By way of contrast, read "Mover of Men and Mountains" by R. G. LaTourneau. LaTourneau invented most of the heavy earth moving equipment in use today, starting with the bull-dozer back when he was a young man. He invented stock car racing, and the ocean-going oil drilling platform. His motto was "there is no such thing as a big job, only a small machine." LaTourneau was a Christian. He made and lost fortunes. Once he decided to always tithe his finances turned around. He did not start rich, but he wound up there. He gave 90% of the stock in his company to the Christian College he founded. Of the income from the 10% he kept, he tithed 90%. LaTourneau was a wealthy man I truly respect.

    Wealth is a matter of perspective. The "poor" in the USA would be considered unbelievably wealthy in most parts of the world.

    I started life in a lower middle class family, and now am firmly in the middle of the middle class. I have a great wife, 4 married sons who have great wives, grandchildren, a job I like, and a mortgage. I will probably never be able to afford to retire, but I consider myself wealthy. Not the sort of wealthy Jubal Harshaw was warning against, but wealthy in what counts.

    Blessings on your family!

  9. Wow. Pandora's box. I happen to agree with Patrice. As a father of six daughters, I have to figure these things out. My oldest is 13 so I have very little time...or so it seems. Lacking a decent role model, I often turn to other's who lead by example and incorporate or emmulate their actions and behaviors. That is the reason I subscribe to this blog. The Lewis family has figured many things out in this confusing world and I learn a lot from their actions and posts. Thank you for posting this subject. I rank it right up there with the day you posted about preparing for your death and taking care of loose ends so loved ones weren't left unprepared at one of life's most difficult moments.

  10. (ahem) Mr Anon

    Marines are not brain washed. We stand at the worlds ends so that you and others have freedom - one of those freedoms being to criticize us. Most, not all, but most Marines are men and women of God.

    God speed to you Sir.

    And God Bless Patrice and her wonderful family.

  11. Also I would add that for my own children "Religious Strength" and "Morals" are way too open. I will not approve of any spouse for my children who are not specifically Christian (and preferably Lutheran!) Yes - it is that important!

  12. I believe it was Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof that said, "It's no shame being poor, but it's no great honour either."

    Your daughter will make her own mind on it. Why poison her against potential wonderful relationships simply because of financial status? What if it were turned around and someone else would disregard your daughter simply because she is from modest means?

    People don't choose the status they're born into, and in a lot of cases don't choose the status they live as adults either. You and I will never be billionaires. Tech billionaires' children will never know a struggle or a tight month. But what on earth could that say about the characters of either?

    Poverty or modest livings and good character (by anyone's definition) are no more mutually exclusive than wealth and rotten character are.

    I feel sorry for anyone who would base their friendships and potential partnerships on something as shallow as money.

  13. As the mother of two adult daughers and three sons and grandmom of soon to be 10, I am still mulling this over. One thing I have learned, no matter what I think might be "on the list", it is still their choice. I was treated very poorly by my first mother-in-law because I was a convert from catholicism to their protestant church(before I met and married her son.) What should have been a real red flag for me was the way in which my husband and his mother interacted and therfore became a warning to my daughters-make sure your future husband loves and honors his parents. It will be a true reflection on how he really respects and honors you once the glow of new loves wears off. I think rather than the issue of wealth in general, I would encourage any young couple to evaluate how each felt about money and debt. Unfortunately college education debt is becoming a real albatross and when choosing a "career" in today's world I would be inclined to encourage a young person to look at educational choices that won't leave them burdened with debt for many years. There is so much growth and many changes that happen in your 20-30 decade that if I had a "do over" I woul have seriously waited till my mid 30's to marry.. The upside though is that I am "young enough" to have fun and do crazy things with my grands. As always Patrice, you have given us "food for thought."

  14. Patrice, I understand your thoughts - had those when my daughter was single - but I have found that money or the lack thereof has absolutely nothing to do with what kind of husband a young man might be. I have found that his understanding of who he is in the Lord is the single, most important aspect of any young man's eligibility as a family man. Money is not the issue. His view of that money is the issue. If he sees it as his accomplishment that is his to continue accumulating, he does not understand that it is God who blesses with wealth for the purpose of establishing His glory. This is true of any potential wife as well. All of the "values" in the world that we would like for a young person to have can't be attained if there is no understanding of who Christ is and if Christ is not the center of life for them.

    God blessed Solomon with more money than any of us can imagine, but only after Solomon sought God and His wisdom. If your daughter waits in Godly patience and then meets and falls in love with a young man of Godly wisdom, I promise, it won't matter how rich or poor he is, he will be the one and only whom God has chosen for her. As parents, we have to ask ourselves, "How much do I trust God?" If we really do, we will step back and trust Him with the choice of our children's spouses even if the choice doesn't fit our vision. I had to do that and ended up with such a blessing. Our son-in-law is like a son and the two of them are now giving us our first grandbaby!!! God is so good. :-)

  15. I am not wealthy, nor have I ever been wealthy by US standards. But, I am wealthy beyond measure in other less tangible things. So, I do understand what you are trying to say. Unfortunately, I think it comes off as sounding a bit like sour grapes.

    We also need to remember there are people around us who may be wealthier than we could ever imagine, but because they don't flaunt their wealth - no one knows. I guess what I am saying is that wealth in and of itself is not a problem, but when people must "flash" their wealth to feel improtant.... well, they may be lacking in other areas.

    Anyway, I do enjoy your blog.

  16. Jake,

    There is a line from A Few Good Men that I love. Kevin Pollack says "Why do you like them so much?" and Demi Moore responds "Because they stand upon a wall and say Nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch." My heart melts every time I hear it.

    Thank you for serving our country.

    Ouida Gabriel

  17. Thank You Ouida

    'we few, we proud ...'

  18. you sons and daughters, who make us so proud...

  19. I agree with the others above - wealth on its own should not be a deciding factor in whether or not to marry someone - how they handle the money God has given them should be a deciding factor.
    College isn't for everyone, but it is for some (many?) depending on their abilities. When looking for colleges, remember that cost often does NOT correlate with quality.
    Of course, I could be biased as I am a young mechanical engineer blessed with a well paying job, because of a college education, and no student loans.
    I certainly hope that the woman I seek to marry would not think less of me because I have been blessed with a well paying job and the sense to be careful with what God has blessed me with.