Over a decade ago, I called my first workshop I ever taught on money, “Love Your Money, Love Yourself.” It was an all-woman workshop and we gathered in my living room for 13 Tuesdays until all of us had experienced some profound shifts.
I named it “Love Your Money” in part because the contrarian in me loved the idea of exploring the idea of loving one’s money as a potentially positive thing, rather than the root of all evil. While greed and materialism can have be negative forces, my belief is that most of us don’t value our money enough.
We don’t want to be greedy people. Although we may like our “stuff,” most people don’t want to be perceived as overly materialistic. And nobody wants to be a slave to the Almighty Dollar. But to avoid materialism and greed, some have gone in the opposite direction. There can be a backlash, a shunning of money.
I learned about money types years ago at a Peak Potentials event. One type was the Money Avoidant who would just rather not deal with money in order to avoid feelings of overwhelm or the necessity of taking responsibility. Another type was the Money Monk, who avoids money from a belief that it is a corrupting influence and they should be “above” money. Money Monks would just as soon take a vow of poverty and have someone else put food on the table.
I had been both an avoidant and a monk. A religion major in college, also a musician, that was two strikes against me when it came to money. I thought of myself as non-materialistic and also bought into the “starving artist” perception.
Mindset is powerful. At the time, my beliefs about money could be summed up in one short phrase:
“Money isn’t important.”
I carried around “Money isn’t important” in my belief knapsack, which was stuffed with a good bit of self-righteousness as well. It relieved me of a whole lot of responsibility… also from any ability to contribute meaningfully.
“Money isn’t important” was a story that kept me stuck, making just enough to pay my bills and take an occasional budget vacation, but deprived me of any real freedom. It was a story that “worked” for me, more or less, until I didn’t have any.
Then, in the midst of a failing business and a divorce, when I didn’t know how I was going to afford to keep on my lights, pay my mortgage, or become self-supporting, all of the sudden, money became very, very important.
I never want to be a slave to money, but who is more free – the person who struggles constantly to make ends meet, or the person who has savings, investments, and an emergency fund? I found out the hard way. Being addicted to poverty or worse — self-righteousness about poverty — does not make anyone free.
I’ve heard it said that you can never be poor enough to help someone who is poor any more than you can be sick enough to help someone who is sick. I realized that my “Money isn’t important” story had only left me trapped and powerless.
Freedom comes from choice.
Freedom comes from detachment, and from being able to choose freely between camping and a luxury hotel without any need to keep up w the Joneses. But we don’t have freedom when we’re stuck in scarcity.
Abundance comes from the ability to both give and receive. And if we are avoiding money or believe ourselves to be above it, we’re not open to receiving.
In our desire for true freedom, perhaps we have confused materialism w money itself.
I used to think that money was unimportant at best, downright dangerous at worse. But the real problem is materialism, not money itself. Materialism is defined as “a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.”
By fearing money, I was actually giving money too much power, while reinforcing my own experience of scarcity in the process.
Money is neither good nor bad. It is merely a medium of exchange, like the gold coins and pelts and shells and other mediums of exchange that came before it.
If it has a power, its power is that it has the ability to magnify our intentions. If you are a kind and generous person, money will expand your ability to live well and give more. If you are a greedy psychopath, money will likely expand your ability to be that in the world.
Can we love money too much, or love it inappropriately?
Absolutely! We can make it our god, suffer to acquire it, place it above relationships and our own well-being.
On the other hand, we can also suffer from not loving money enough. I’ve seen this happen to myself, to friends, to acquaintances and to clients.
I’m sure you’ve seen people who
- waste money it as if it has no value;
- gamble it away at a casino or on high-risk investments;
- consistently under-earn due to lack of confidence or negotation;
- spend money on emotional wants while neglecting needs;
- fail to save any for the future, a rainy day, or those who depend on them, even justifying financial irresponsibility with self-righteous logic or by convincing themselves they are nothing more than victims of circumstance.
Should we love our money?
We should not worship it, compromise ourselves for it, sacrifice our values and relationships for it. But we should value money for what it is and respect its role. We should love the good that we can do with it. We should appreciate it and be grateful for it.
We should love money enough to keep it around. To not trade it all away for every experience, online sale, technology trend or culinary delight that comes our way. We spend it only on what we truly value.
We should treat money well and think of it always with gratitude. Most importantly, we have to love ourselves enough to invest in our own future. To save, to invest, to be disciplined with however much money we do have.
Loving our money is a way of loving ourselves.
You’ve probably heard of saving described as “Paying yourself first,” and that is enlightening. By learning to love, respect, and value money, we learn to love, respect and value ourselves.
If we treat money as if it is unimportant, we are also treating our future needs and desires as unimportant.
Our treatment of money reflects how we treat ourselves. Are we loving and valuing ourselves through caring for our cash, or are we leaving our future selves to be dependent on the government, our relatives, or the mercy of others? Are we loving and valuing the dreams that money can help us realize, by treating it with respect and responsibility?
Money is, in many ways, a mirror that reflects our internal world. Are we practicing financial self-care, or putting ourselves in situations where we need to bailed out? Do sabotage our true desires by spending our money as if it isn’t important, on things that do not matter to us?
With all due respect to the wisdom of the Bible, many of us could stand to love our money more.
Love Your Money, Love Yourself
Value money, respect it, appreciate it, be grateful for it. Spend it wisely on what matters. Love the person you are becoming – your future self – by loving money enough to keep some of it around, to grow it, to allow it to serve and sustain you.
Money itself, as represented by paper and coins, has little inherent value. But the peace of mind, the freedom of choice, the essential self-care, the soul-expanding experiences and the generous difference it can allow you to make can be literally… priceless.
When money serves your highest purposes and allows you to fulfill your mission in the world, it is worth loving. Just never above all else. Learn to use money to love yourself and others and you’ll have it in the proper perspective.
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