By Elizabeth Browne
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Recently, it occurred to me that money is the thing I trust most. I’m not exactly proud of this fact, and I want to change it. But acknowledgement is the first step.
When I say that money is the thing I trust most, I don’t mean that I have faith that I will always have enough money to provide for myself and my family. In fact, I constantly worry about money. I mean that money makes me feel more secure than anything else in the world, even more than my Christian faith or my trust that God will provide.
It’s easy to see how I became so preoccupied with money. We all need money to survive. But money doesn’t grow on trees. And this is a stressful thing.
We devote our professional lives to making money. It isn’t enough to work for fun. It isn’t enough to work for passion. It isn’t even enough to work because that fits your ethic. No, we must work for money. Some people might be in a comfortable enough financial position to truly volunteer their time, but in most situations there always seems to be at least one person somewhere along the line that is concerned with money and the bottom line.
Even though I trust in money, I can’t say I love it or even enjoy it. I find that money really rots my heart. It is my security, but there is something sinister about it. And, even when I have it, it never makes me entirely comfortable. If my annual income is not what I feel it should be, I tend to flail at work. I believe that I’m worth more. Conversely, when I have a job where I am earning a lot more money than I imagine I am worth, it places me in a web of confusion where I think that I’m not worth it. I start to feel anxious and the fatigue of imposter syndrome sets in. With money, it’s always too much or not enough.
Worrying over money often makes me ungenerous to my family. I get frustrated at my daughter for wasting food not because of any environmental or health reasons, but simply because it had cost me money. I get angry at my husband for buying something frivolous over eBay, when if he found it on the side of the road, I would be proudly holding it in the trophy cabinet of my home.
Worrying over money often makes me petty and even melodramatic. When I feel the slightest absence of money, I become worried that I’ll fall into the hell of what it’s like without any money at all. And most of the time I am not even thinking about necessities like healthcare. More often I’m worried that if I have less money I might have to settle for being a one car family. How inconvenient would that be?
Money — or how we use it — can give a facade that things are okay. We can try to project some sort of image with the fruits of our money. I feel good about myself when the clothes I wear reflect an image. That image is that I am financially secure to dress how I want. I don’t have to settle for looking daggy.
I find that the passing of money from generation to generation tends to create a fracture in familial relationships. We come to expect some sort of inheritance, more than a legacy of good character. And yet, if someone is lucky enough to get an inheritance before it’s due, they can find themselves forever indebted, believing they should spend it in a way reflective in their mind that it is well spent.
Of course, money can do good. Money can help provide cures or better situations for people.
I recently read a couple of books written by Peter Singer that highlight the problem of extreme poverty and what we can do about it. Whilst we can point the finger at larger corporations or at big businessmen, and criticize them for not doing more to help end extreme poverty, we also own this problem. We are the businessmen of our own lives. I get to choose how I spend my money. I get to budget. What a blessing! Yet I see it as such a curse.
Businesses certainly have the means to do good for people in extreme poverty and set an example, but so do I. As someone who lives every day in excess, always having more than I need, I also have the opportunity and freedom to give away some of that excess to people who could do more with it for their basic needs.
These facts are often so clear to me right after I read Singer’s work and think about those living in extreme poverty. But I lose sight of them over time. Each passing day gives me time to forget about people living in extreme poverty. And my own anxieties about money creep back in. I get worried that I won’t have enough, yet that has never been the case. In the times of COVID, we are told to only go out for essentials. For me, this is a joke. What I go out for, which I consider essential, is luxury to the unseen people overseas.
It is time to reconnect with the thoughts that stirred my heart weeks ago. Something must be done for change to happen. Change can start with anyone. Yes, even me. I can change today. Why wait until tomorrow?
Money is not necessarily the problem. If we cut it out there would be other associated problems. But my understanding of money and my attitude towards those in extreme poverty should change, thus changing my behaviours.
I’m writing this not as a guilt to anyone reading this, but as a reminder to myself of the convictions I have had. There’s a chance for me to look money squarely in the face and think of it as nothing more than a ticket. That ticket can be for my benefit and luxury. It can also be for others to survive. It can be for others not to die tragically without. There is so much pain in this world. Some pain is caused by the anxieties of having too much, and then some by a deeper pain of not having enough. What if I helped balance the scales with my money? It would give me the opportunity to look at life differently, to live with less. Maybe that is all I need.
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