Money Talks

Money talks, but do you know what it says about you?

Money is only about 4,500 years old. It’s not part of the natural world; doesn’t grow on trees or rain down from above – no matter what kids think. Instead, money was invented by us, to serve us – a convenience thing. Funny, a few thousand years later money has become our master.

Everything we do, admit it or not, has money at its center. In our world we can’t live without it, though there are some indigenous people deep in the rainforest who have survived for centuries without ever having money as part of their culture. While these people depend on each other and the rainforest to provide for their every need, we depend on money to supply us food, clothes, shelter, transportation, and to repair our leaky roofs. Where we live, the work we do, and our plans for the future, all center on money. We spend an enormous chunk of time wanting it, needing it, getting it, having it, keeping it, spending it, loving it, hating it, and denying we even care about it.

I came to this awakening via the book, The Soul of Money, written by Lynne Twist who, for 25 years, worked as the main fund raiser for The Hunger Project, a humanitarian effort dedicated to eliminating world hunger. In her position she had the unique opportunity of having intimate conversations about money with the world’s wealthiest individuals and the world’s most resource-poor, spanning all countries and cultures. It’s pretty amazing what she learned. There are, she says, three “toxic” myths that drive our relationship with money.

Myth #1 – there is not enough to go around. We learn this lesson early in life through a game called “musical chairs.” Somebody is going to get left out, let’s make sure it’s not us. Even the world’s wealthiest billionaires, Twist confides, fear they don’t have enough.

The myth of not enough applies to all things, not just money. Listen to our daily conversations. We don’t have enough time, sleep, resources, parking spaces, food, oil, trees, etc. To make matters worse, we internalize the myth so we are not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, tall enough, funny enough or you-fill-in-the-blank enough.

Myth #2 – more is better, part of our consumer culture (which, she notes, is not just an American thing, though we seem to have perfected it). If we watch television for just two hours a day we are bombarded with approximately 30,000 message (billboards, radio and other media included) telling us we need “more” in order to be complete. We need this cream, this toothpaste, this kitchen gadget, this car, this house, this job, this title, and this toilet paper to be whole and complete.

Myth #3 – that’s just the way it is. By far, this myth is the most destructive of the three because it holds the other two in place, and makes us helpless to change them.

But Twist proposes that the truth is radical and surprising: there is enough. There is enough in nature, human nature and in the relationships we share to have a prosperous, fulfilling life, no matter how much or how little money (or any other resource) we have. Even in the face of genuine scarcity of external resources like droughts, the desire and capacity for self-sufficiency are innate and enough to meet those challenges. The truth is we have an abundance of resources and strength within.

This is the principle of sufficiency – we are enough, and there is enough, and when we finally let go of trying to get more of what we don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what we do have. We re-frame our relationship with money, recognizing and appreciating what we do have – whether it comes to us like a raging river or a tiny trickle.

We can continue to earn, save, invest and provide for ourselves and for our families, but we use money in a conscious way with each financial choice we make. Money speaks with our voice. We express our integrity and what we stand for in the way we earn money, in the way we use money to provide food, clothing, shelter or education, in the way we support others in our community and beyond, in the products we buy, the companies and causes we support and by the others we inspire.

So, when your money talks, do you like what it says about you?

Author’s Note: This appeared in The Almanac of Arlington Heights.