Do you find yourself saying, “I’m not a money person”? If so, you belong to a very diverse group.
Maybe you are simply indifferent about money. If it’s there, you spend it (responsibly, of course). If it’s getting low, tighten up. In some cases, there is a person in your life who is handling the money stuff, likely a spouse or partner.
Others are non-conformists. You have a bent toward activism, advocating for justice, deconstructing structures and refusing to participate in systems of injustice. Underneath it all may reside an unexamined belief that money is evil—or at least, not good.
Maybe you are like the millions who avoid numbers, statements, and data to avoid knowing certain parts of our financial lives. You simply don’t talk, think, or read about money (even reading this short blog is a stretch).
As it turns out, there are many ways to not be “a money person.” I understand. But let’s talk more about you.
A few years ago, I facilitated a group, and to stir the pot I floated the notion that before anything else, money is emotional. A pastor in the group responded, “Money is NOT emotional.” He continued, “You make it. You give it. You spend it. You save it. Case closed.”
I offered a healthy pause. Tension is the facilitator’s friend, so I let our friend sit with us for a minute.
Later in the session I asked the group, “What’s your earliest memory of money?”
A few minutes later we came around to this pastor. He had tears in his eyes. As the oldest child growing up, it fell on him to do the family’s grocery shopping. To reduce social embarrassment, he said, “I would hide in the back and wait for the line to the cashier to be as short as possible. I didn’t want anyone to see that my family was on food stamps.” This was the first time he had shared this.
Can focus groups be healing? They can.
This pastor isn’t alone. One survey found that 7 in 10 Americans have cried over money.
In the must-read book, Happy Money, Ken Honda says, “If you want to be free of money worries, you may need to dig into your past relationship with money and examine what your early traumas were.”
If you don’t carve out the time to consciously think about how you are experiencing the emotional world of money, you are placing limits on your life experience and how God wants to bring peace to your relationship with money.
Honda later says, “If you don’t gain an awareness about the extent to which money is influencing and controlling your current lifestyle and decisions, it’s impossible to break free from money’s grip over you.”
There is tremendous power in discovering the root causes under our behaviors. As Cynthia, who completed the Six Weeks on Money course at Uptown Church, said: “I’m working on feeling pain and anxiety rather than numbing it by spending money.” This is the result of her willingness to go deeper in her questions about her relationship with money.
Our family histories are just the beginning. Our relationship with money shows up in how we contribute to our global community - as well as our local city and how we are each nestled in professional and social networks.
And before all that, it has a lot to say about our relationship with ourselves. Money is spiritual because of the questions it forces each of us us to ask:
But one question seems to emerge over and over again.
Start with the ironclad conviction that financial freedom is based on enough, not more. Getting caught in the never-ending cycles of always striving for more is not a freeing human experience.
Then, refuse to let money speak into your identity. You can do this by naming your core values and recalibrating your lives around the things that matter most.
When thinking about the future, refuse to let any uncertainty of the future take away your daily, moment-by-moment experience of gratitude and joy.
Focus on strengthening relationships. It’s a good place to be when regardless of how much or how little you have, you are free and secure in the key relationships in your life.
Lastly, own your history. When you embark on the emotional labor of integrating your family history and cultural heritage, you are making a healthy declaration that you deserve the opportunity to reflect, reconcile, and own it so that you can embrace gratitude, simplicity, and freedom.
There are many ways to not be a “money person,” but everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy an emotionally and spiritually healthy relationship with money.
Tim Schuster is the Creator of Six Weeks on Money, a digital course and small group experience that churches offer to their congregations. He is also the Founder and CEO of Popup Think Tank. He is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he lives with his wife, Kelsey, and their two daughters. They belong to Uptown Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church