I’ve been sorting out what money means to me and the answer is this:
mostly, not much.
This might explain why I’m not rolling in filthy lucre.
I’ve written about it before: money isn’t really my currency.
When I think about the money part of my business, I get bored.
When I think about the things I ought to do with my money – buy a house, buy a better car, save for vacations and retirement (ha! as if I’ll retire from writing!) – I get even more bored.
Because I’m disenchanted with those conventional ends, the means (money) don’t mean much.
But when I started thinking about what having more money means I can do for other people, or how I could use money to serve Life As A Grand Adventure rather than a mortgage (french: mort = death), I realize,
Money is commitment.
(thunderclap! lightning bolt! gregorian chants!)
There’s a reason we say “put your money where your mouth is.” Where we put our resources – time, love, cash – on a daily basis creates, demonstrates and confirms our commitments.
I put most of my money into providing a stable, suburban infrastructure for my children. Because I’m unwaveringly committed to them.
(And legally and morally obliged. But mostly because I love them and so I don’t mind giving them all my money. It’s a privilege.)
(And by this measure, my next most committed relationship is with Starbucks.)
But committed, and commitment, is not the same thing as sacrifice – although lots of relationship experts, money gurus and spiritual leaders tell us otherwise.
We’re often encouraged to “sacrifice” for the long game, the portfolio of riches, or to get to heaven.
Sacrifice spending now so that you can save for later. Sacrifice dating and independence for marriage. Sacrifice TV time for blogging. Sacrifice a tidy house for a generative creative life. Sacrifice freedom for a day job. Sacrifice a day job to be an entrepreneur. Sacrifice your time to run errands for a lover who’s swamped.
And all of these things are valuable and necessary to accomplish your goals and support your loved ones.
But they aren’t sacrifice.
Sacrifice is when you trade something dearly attractive for something unattractive.
Get under your desk. The world is upside down. I’m about to quote Ayn Rand.
“Sacrifice” does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. “Sacrifice” does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. “Sacrifice” is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.
If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor’s child and let your own die, it is.
If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you can afford, it is not a sacrifice; if you give him money at the cost of your own discomfort…if you give him money at the cost of disaster to yourself—that is…sacrifice in full.
…A sacrifice is the surrender of a value.
So, then, according to Rand (seriously, I cannot believe I’m doing this!), sacrifice is the surrender of value, and specifically of a higher value to a lower one.
- When we forgo going out at night to work on a project for school or work, we’re not sacrificing.
- When, instead of buying hot and unnecessary new shoes for ourselves we buy our children new coats and rainboots, we’re not sacrificing.
- When we do not put that trip on the credit card and instead take a debt-free tour of a national park, we’re not sacrificing.
- When we decide to ignore the crumbs on the floor so we can knock out an extraordinary essay/painting/consultation, we’re not sacrificing.
We’re delaying gratification.
We’re trading the things that are low in value for things that are high in value.
We’re INVESTING – in ourselves, our loved ones, our dreams, our reality.
And that’s commitment.
Commitment is not sacrifice.
Commitment is trading the things that don’t mean much for the things that do.
Commitment is putting your money where your heart is.
think about money ‘n commitment, and tell us in the comments:
what does the way you spend your money say about your commitments?
does the way you earn your money line up with your commitments?