Tonight I heard a story about someone who has a lot of money – as in a LOT of money because of family connections – and hides that fact. Apparently because he has rather small town values, he is ashamed of having this big-city kind of money. Which got me thinking about how many of us allow money to control our self-image and how we live our lives. And apparently it’s no different for people who are ashamed of having too much than it is for people like me who are ashamed of not having enough.
Since I was a teenager I’ve felt ashamed of the fact that I didn’t have money. It seemed like some sort of moral failing – first on the part of my family and then, when I became an adult, on my own part. Surely if I were a better human being, I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I’d make better choices. I’d value who I am and what I do more highly. I’d have this all figured out.
And it feels doubly unfair because the issue isn’t that I’m an over-spender. I may indulge in a new sweater once in a while or get a couple goodies at the grocery store, but the real issue is that I’ve traditionally been an under-earner.
Recently I had a hard conversation with someone I love about the extent of my debt. I was absolutely terrified as I revealed “the number” – afraid that somehow he would see me as a lesser human being who obviously made faulty decisions and couldn’t be trusted.
But here’s the truth – that money saved my life. That is the money it cost to spend two years as a student at Inner Visions and I wouldn’t change that for any amount of money in the world. That is the money that helped me turn myself from someone who was suicidal to someone who has the skills and tools to help myself and others.
Is that something to be ashamed of? When put in that context, I have to say it’s not.
But as I revealed the number, I was still terrified that I was about to destroy a friendship. And you know what he said to me? “That money helped you become the beautiful person I care so much about today.”
That’s what I’m learning during this month of The Miracle Challenge to do for myself. The story I heard tonight about how rich people sometimes feel money shame too puts it in a whole new perspective for me.