Before we lead an all-out assault on debt and get on track financially, we’ve got to destroy some heavily fortified walls in our thought life. Overspending, living above our means, and a lack of adequate savings are all external issues. I’m going to shine a light on the internal issues that cause those habits. Carlos Whittaker has a book called “Kill The Spider.” In the book he likens our outwardly expressed problems like drug and alcohol abuse to cobwebs. But what makes a cobweb? A spider. I think what Carlos is getting at is for us to attack a problem at its root, not merely treat the symptoms. Without further ado, let’s break down the deeply entrenched walls that hold us back financially.
Wall 1: Fear
Okay soldier. Time to do some mission briefing. The first wall that we must destroy is the Wall of Fear. If you think about a city shaped like a block, this wall is at the front or North Gate. Fear cripples you and prevents you from making wise decisions. It is the beginning of our false rationalizations with money. We often fear what we do not know, especially when it comes to being fiscally responsible. There is evidence to support this. 51% of people worry about maintaining their current standard of living (Gallup, 2016). This stress from a lack of planning carries into the workplace. Seven out of every ten people worry about money while on the job multiple times per week (Gallup, 2016). There is a lot of fear and worry in our world today. We cannot hide behind the fear of the unknown anymore. We’ve got to take ownership when it comes to our money. As our old cartoon action heroes from G.I. Joe would say, “Knowing is half the battle.” This brings us to the second wall we need to overcome.
Wall 2: Ignorance
The right hand man of fear, or East Gate, is the Wall of Ignorance. Ignorance is lack of knowledge or information. The Bible says in Hosea 4:6 that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can have serious consequences. Two-thirds of Americans do not budget their money or plan for their long-term financial future (Gallup 2013), leaving them and their families in dire straits when emergencies occur or even when they retire. Without getting into culture, politics, or socioeconomics, let’s step back and examine the two kinds of ignorance. The first kind is what I call “pure ignorance.” People simply don’t know certain kinds of information if they aren’t exposed or taught. I’m not shaming this kind because it happens to all of us. I would, however, challenge people to take a cue from the Japanese and consider a “kaizen” approach to life. The Japanese word “kaizen” means “continuous improvement.” If you’re consistently trying to better yourself and expose yourself to new things, you’ll find wisdom and insight. The Bible says in Proverbs 1:20 that “Wisdom cries aloud in the street.” The second and most dangerous kind of ignorance is what I refer to as “willful ignorance.” If pure ignorance says “I don’t know,” then willful ignorance says “I don’t want to know.” This is an utterly dangerous and toxic mindset to have towards your finances, or worse, in life. Willful ignorance, deciding not to know, has its roots into a deeper problem—pride. If pride is a parent, the next wall we’re going to explore is it’s offspring.
Wall 3: Entitlement
To the west of Fear and Ignorance, we have the “spawn of pride” known as the Wall of Entitlement. The dictionary defines entitlement as the belief that someone is inherently deserving of privileges or has a right to special treatment. The mentality of entitlement says “I deserve this.” With entitlement, personal effort or inheritance (neither is an evil concept) gets blinded by one’s ingrained sense of selfishness. This thinking denotes a “me first” attitude, therefore, destructively influencing decision making and relational interactions. Entitlement fails to account for what a blessing is and who it comes from. The Bible says in Psalms 24:1 that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Even if you aren’t a person of faith, a fundamental understanding of economics and scarcity shows you that one neither owns nor is entitled to everything. Fear opens the floodgates for ignorance, which gives place to entitlement. You’re probably wondering what entitlement leads to. Entitlement is the breeding ground for worrying about what other people have. This idea introduces us to the fourth and final wall we need to lead an assault on.
Wall 4: Comparison
Soldiers. We’ve come to the final target. It’s best explained by an old quote that your parents or grandparents used…”Keeping up with the Jones’.” The Fourth and final enemy, the Wall of Comparison, is the South Gate which brings up the rear of the city. You might be asking why this wall rounds out the rest. It’s because comparison impedes your focus and hatches materialistic insecurities. The destructive nature of comparison thrives off of facades or appearances of perfection. Newsflash: nobody is perfect. We know that in thought, but not in our actions. Take social media for instance. I’ve never seen so many “pictures of perfection” in my entire life. Facebook posts of the “ideal house.” Instagram stories of a “fabulous trip to Cabo.” #Blessed tagged on a photo of a “gorgeous engagement ring.” Now there’s nothing wrong with social media, but society (parts of it at least) has rallied around it in a way that promotes materialism and elitism. If we’re not careful, comparison will destroy our ability to be authentic and transparent with each other.
Men and women of the Jericho Force: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to annihilate these four walls. What walls are you committed to tearing down in your life?