Wealth Failed to Make Me Happy
ALTHOUGH you probably don’t know me personally, it is possible that you have been a guest in my parents’ home. That is, if you are part of those audiences that have visited here by television. The home has been used in filming movies and TV programs, including one that recently won several Emmy Awards.
The film companies usually pay between $1,500 and $2,500 a day rental. The house, constructed around the turn of the century, and located in southern California, contains approximately fifty rooms. To build it today would likely cost between one and two million dollars.
It certainly is a showpiece of elegance in every sense of the word—filled with priceless antiques and Oriental rugs, many rooms beautifully paneled with mahogany, some overlaid with pure gold. It has a seventy-five-foot-long formal ballroom, an inside swimming pool and many bedrooms. Outside are the formal gardens and a private tennis court.
A Favored Early Life
From my childhood to manhood my parents were always very generous with me; I had more materially than I really needed. They bought me beautiful automobiles and paid for an extensive education, including a complete law-school education. They were equally generous with my younger brother. He owned twenty automobiles before he was old enough to drive!
My father worked very hard in his earlier years to provide for us what he considered “the finer things of life.” He taught me all about investments, wishing that I would become a millionaire. So that was my goal, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would eventually reach it.
We were a very close family and did many things together. Often we would spend weekends on one of our family yachts. But my parents were also interested in my receiving religious training. So I was sent to the Lutheran church on Sundays.
With all this material wealth surrounding me, you may think that I must have been very happy. Actually, just the opposite was true.
Sources of Unhappiness
One thing that bothered me was that many of my friends admired me for what I had materially, and some sought my association merely for that reason. Although I enjoyed the recognition that came with being a rich man’s son, I never became interested in the “social world.” I hated the snobbishness of so many of these people.
Having a terrible inferiority complex, I had trouble relating to people. To help to overcome this, I became very interested in physical activity. Later I competed successfully in wrestling and other sports. Eventually I entered physique contests and was used as a model for art classes. I enjoyed all the recognition that I was receiving.
In time my inferiority complex came to be replaced by conceit and arrogance. Girls I regarded merely as objects to be used for my own selfish pleasure and this companionship involved immoral living.
Disillusioned with the world, I lost all trust in people outside my own family. I felt that I needed something that I was not receiving, although I didn’t know what it was. More and more I realized how great the gulf was between “pleasure” and “happiness.” People might think how “lucky” I was, and how they would gladly “trade shoes with me,” but I couldn’t imagine anyone’s being more unhappy than I was.
As a result, for a time my mind became preoccupied by thoughts of suicide. In a remote room of the mansion I would cry and pray to God to help me to find what I needed most. I had a good education, good physical health and offers for high-paying jobs. I had the “keys” to open many doors materially, but the one “key” that I lacked was the “key to happiness.”
Religion an Answer?’
I had given up on organized religion as the means for finding happiness, since I could see through their hypocrisy. For years it had been apparent to me that the churches had been keeping people in ignorance so as to take from them what they could materially. I also felt that many things the churches were doing were contrary to the Bible. For example, once I attended a nude wedding that was presided over by a nude minister! I thought to myself, “This man is a bigger hypocrite than even I am.”
Nevertheless, I had great interest in the Bible and often read it privately. One day a young boy came to my home with the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. I accepted them, and later he sent back two women to talk with me. I invited them in with the intention of exposing their foolish beliefs. Instead, we had an enjoyable discussion. At the close of it, they asked if they could send a young man about my age to visit me, a proposal that I welcomed.
On the evening of our appointment the young man arrived and was directed to wait for me in the upstairs library. I had studied books against Jehovah’s Witnesses and felt that I was well prepared to expose his religion. However, after speaking to him for about thirty minutes, I was amazed at how much he knew about the Bible. He spoke with authority and yet with unusual humility and concern for me. Although not having the formal education that I had, he explained the superior educational program that he was enjoying through his religion. This impressed me very much, and my respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses grew.
He quickly confirmed my own thought that the Bible was indeed divinely inspired, and later helped me to understand many Scriptural teachings. Due to my previous training in the Lutheran Church, I believed that the Bible taught a Trinity—that Almighty God consisted of three persons in one God. I also believed that humans had an immortal soul. Every week for about three months the young man and I discussed all the scriptures from the Bible that I felt supported these teachings.
After a careful comparison I was convinced that I had been a victim of false teaching in my former church. Another point that I had difficulty in accepting was that a Christian’s responsibility is to remain politically neutral. (John 17:16; 18:36) I felt that citizens of a country should defend their flag to the point of being willing to die for it. But in this respect I had actually been a hypocrite, since I personally had no desire to be involved in the military and was willing to do whatever I could to avoid it.
Indecision, Then Change
Although I studied the Bible for some time and could see how reasonable its teachings were, I hesitated to do anything about it. To do so would require giving up my immoral life. So, a battle was going on inside me.
Meanwhile I met a beautiful girl with whom I fell in love. Unlike me, she was shy and considerate and she was very good to me. On the other hand, I treated her poorly and told her I would marry her only if she wouldn’t object to my other female interests. In spite of that, we got married and went to Europe on our honeymoon.
My wife was from a very religious family and we continuously had discussions dealing with what I had been learning. She began to see that my interest in the Bible was not just a casual one, since I was absorbed in studying it several hours a day. I slowly started making changes, trying to live a morally clean life and endeavoring to control my temper. You might naturally expect that these changes would bring the approval of my wife and family. But just the opposite was the case.
As my interest in Jehovah’s Witnesses grew, my wife for the first time expressed sorrow at having married me. Even my own family sided with her, and it seemed that we were heading for a broken marriage. My father told me that if I did this to my wife—meaning if I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses—he would cut me off without a cent.
I was determined, however, to hold on to the Biblical wisdom I was gaining, which was the most valuable possession I had ever acquired. For once in my life, I was beginning to become truly happy. Over and over I would read Proverbs 3:13-15, which states: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it.”
Realizing True Happiness
In time my wife decided to study the Bible with me, and she began to accept and apply the things she was learning. Happily, we both were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses on November 21, 1970, thus symbolizing our dedication to Jehovah God. My wife soon entered the full-time witnessing work. About a year later I decided to do the same, rather than begin full-time work in a law office.
Since my parents were opposed to my decision, I decided that it would be better to leave the mansion and move into a small apartment. With such a drastic change in our way of life, we had to lower our personal standard of living. I sold my auto collection, and we bought one economical car and a bicycle.
Time often softens even the greatest disappointments. Eventually my family could see that my wife and I were truly happy and our Witness friends seemed to be decent, moral people concerned with helping others. It was evident that, being stable people, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not suffer from alcoholism, which is common among the rich.
After some time my parents both agreed to study the Bible with me, and occasionally, when I have the privilege of performing a wedding or delivering a public Bible talk, they even come to a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Also, I have been able to conduct Bible studies with a number of maids who have worked in their home. The eighty-nine-year-old caretaker of the estate now regularly attends Christian meetings. This makes me very happy, since he has been like a grandfather to me.
Both my wife and I have learned to be content with little materially, just as we now could be content with an abundance, since we have found the “key to happiness.” “Doors” now are opened to us that never were before. We have peace of mind and friends who love us as if we were members of their own family. But most importantly, we are content knowing that we have a good relationship with our Creator.—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 22]
“The one ‘key’ that I lacked was the ‘key to happiness.’”
[Blurb on page 23]
“It seemed that we were heading for a broken marriage.”