The Barna Group just put out the results of a survey of Americans asking about their ideal life. According to the findings, over 75% of us view the following things as “very important” parts of our ideal life:
Have good health (85%)
Living with a high degree of integrity (85%)
Having one marriage partner for life (80%)
Having a clear purpose for living (77%)
Having a close relationship with God (75%)
Having close personal friends (74%)
More than half of Americans also listed “having a comfortable lifestyle (mentioned by 70%), having a satisfying sex life with their marriage partner (66%), having children (66%), living close to family and relatives(63%), being deeply committed to the Christian faith (59%), and making a difference in the world (56%).” At the bottom of the list were achieving fame or public recognition (7%), owning the latest household technology/electronics (11%), owning a large home (18%), working in a high paying job (28%), traveling the world for pleasure (28%).
I can’t help but think when I see something like this that there is a large gap between what people say they want and what they are actually doing with their lives. On one hand, it could be that it’s so easy to say the “right” things to a poll taker. OTOH, I wonder if a big part of the problem is that while people want the right things, they do not have the tools or know-how needed to actually live them out. This is my personal theory.
It reminds me of a question I asked a bunch of people I know a couple of months back: “Do you think that most people want to be good people and are willing to put in the work it would take for them to be good people?” my husband told me that he thinks most people just want others to view them as good people, but don’t really care if they actually are good or not. Others told me that most people want to be good people and have deluded themselves into thinking that they actually are good people. One of my sisters told me that she thinks most people want to be good people as long as it doesn’t require too much from them.
I think that the results of this survey would support the idea that most people want to be good people, have some idea of what it would take to be a good person, yet are probably not able/willing to put in the work it would take to achieve their vision.
It is kind of comforting to see, however, that people have hung on to such traditional views of an ideal life despite all of the upheavals we have experienced in the last couple of generations. I think that the problem is that it does require so much effort to live in virtuous ways today than it did in the past. It probably wasn’t too hard to resist porn when you had to trek over to the seedy part of town and risk embarrassment to obtain it. It takes a good deal more virtue to resist turning the computer in your private home office into a “naked lady machine” or worse. Then again, is virtue really virtue if it is never tested?
HT: Jesus Creed