Black Friday can provide an odd contrast both with the day before, Thanksgiving, and the forthcoming holiday to which it is directed — the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Capitalism may be the most efficient way to satisfy market needs while reducing prices and increasing efficiencies through competition. But if people don’t temper it with timeless virtues, the result can be devastating.
Think unbridled greed and corruption. Think about the Biblical grinding of the faces of the poor, to paraphrase Isaiah. Think about the opposite of the Christ child, who is the embodiment of selfless love and redemption.
Think of all those videos you’ve seen of people acting badly as they fight for items on sale.
With that in mind, here are five virtues to cultivate as you head to the stores, or even if you don’t.
“One way to be kind is to open your eyes and be active when you see people in need,” she said. “Do you notice when people could use a helping hand? A sense of community is created when people are kind to those who need help.”
This may be a good way to direct your holiday spending. Once you are more aware of people’s needs, you can provide gifts that are more meaningful and useful.
And, it should go without saying, a kind person would temper the urge to push and shove his or her way toward a coveted item available only on a Black Friday sale. Kindness shuns self-interest as it turns a person outward.
Thanksgiving is one of those rare holidays that can push people of sharply differing viewpoints together in a confined space. If the subject turns to politics, religion or any other hot-button topic, mutual respect is imperative, unless you want peace and tranquility to end up in the trash bin next to the turkey carcass.
But it’s important to carry this virtue with you on Black Friday, and through the rest of the year, as well.
Writing for Legacy Business Cultures, author Saad Ali Khan notes that humans tend to be more lenient toward people who share their views, while pushing back against those who don’t. We should consciously resist this.
“The word respect originally comes from ‘respectus’ which means ‘attention,’ consideration or regard,” he wrote. “It is an idea that alludes to the capacity to esteem and honor someone else, both their words and activities, regardless of whether we don’t endorse or share all that the person does.”
This is a virtue sorely lacking in the United States today, and it’s rarely fostered by social media or other popular avenues of human interaction. If you have it, respect will change how you view the holidays, as well as what you value and how you express it. You probably will treat people you encounter in stores differently, as well.
Advertising is geared subtly toward getting people to spend money. Certainly the Deseret News is no stranger to advertising; we count on it. Yet advertising sometimes goads people into spending more than they have, of making a bad decision, or in going beyond the spirit of the season. The website consumerdecisions.org says 78% of Black Friday shoppers will buy things for themselves, perhaps in addition to things for others. More disturbingly, creditcards.com found that 41% are fine going into debt to get their holiday shopping done, with half of those saying it will make either themselves or others happy.
That’s rarely true when the bills come due.
The virtue of thrift expresses itself in many ways. Not only does it keep spending within means, it leads people to prepare for emergencies. After more than a year and a half of shortages for items such as toilet paper and turkeys, the need for this should be obvious.
This may seem like an odd virtue to carry with you on Black Friday, but it’s essential for getting into the proper Christmas spirit. Author and humanities professor Paul Woodruff calls it a forgotten virtue, but says it is essential to keep things from falling apart.
“Without reverence, we cannot explain why we should treat the natural world with respect,” he said. “Without reverence, a house is not a home, a boss is not a leader, an instructor is not a teacher.”
We would add that without it, a shopper is not thrifty, respectful or kind.
This is, of course, the virtue that takes center stage at Thanksgiving. But it’s more than that. Three British psychologists — Alex Wood, Stephen Joseph and Alex Linley — paraphrase Cicero when they call it the “parent of all virtues” on the website of the British Psychological Society.
Plenty of research has connected the deliberate practice of gratitude to better health, both physically and mentally.
The three psychologists note that, “Almost all of the Biblical psalms focus on the expression of gratitude towards God, and a representative Islam saying is ‘the first who will be summoned to paradise are those who have praised God in every circumstance.’”
Grateful people also tend to be more satisfied with what they already have, which really tempers that desire to shop for yourself on Black Friday. Research shows they also tend to value the gifts they receive more, which brings joy to the giver.
These aren’t the only five virtues worth cultivating, of course. But think of them as keys that unlock the true spirit of the season. They may not completely obliterate the pull of Black Friday, Cyber Monday or other shopping extravaganzas, which aren’t inherently bad, but they will keep them in the proper context.