Changing your inner climate

By Susan Taylor

Climate change: from scarcity to abundance

A little bit more. That’s how much most people say they need in order to feel financially secure. No matter how much we have, most of us think we need just a little bit more. This perception of scarcity—of never quite having enough—drives an economy that depends on consumption. It drives us to hoard resources for ever-darker potential emergencies. For example, does this sound familiar? “We have to make more money. What if we need a new car?” “What if we need a new car and one of us loses our job at the same time?” “What if we need a new car, one of us loses our job, AND your parents come to live with us?” “What if …?”

That perception of scarcity also drives our reluctance to share what we have. As my daughter launches off to college this fall and my small-business health insurance premiums leap toward my city’s median income, I’m losing sight of what “enough” even means. Is there any way to save enough? Not until my clone can pitch in. Waiting for that.

When my children were little, I received a catalog from a company called “Perfectly Safe.” “Really?” I laughed. “Perfect safety? If only I could buy that in a catalog.” But that’s what we’re saving for, isn’t it? Striving for, in the most painful sense of that word? A climate of perfect safety. What we need is climate change! No, not that kind of climate change. We need the kind Mary Cosby, a spiritual leader in Washington, DC, wrote about twenty years ago as she described several principles that were key to her, both personally and in the adventurous ministry of the Church of the Saviour, which Mary and her husband Gordon Cosby founded. The first of those principles was “the importance of climate.”

“By climate I mean a climate of scarcity or of abundance,” Mary wrote.  “It is the major thing that can defeat a family or person or certainly a church community if there is a climate of scarcity.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the real facts are; if the climate is of not having enough, one never does.” 

Of her own family, Mary wrote that despite times of financial hardship, their home’s climate was one of abundance.  “My mother had enough imagination to make it all work,” Mary recalled.  “For instance, when other children were getting doll houses, I never knew anything except that I thought mine was special.  My mother would build us doll houses out of orange crates and make cardboard doll furniture and then paint it with brown shellac.  It looked like mahogany.   My doll furniture was by far the prettiest.  But it was on a shoestring.  In fact I learned later that we really lived on a shoestring.”

“This is something you can do for your children,” Mary continued.  “No matter how little or much you have, NEVER let your children feel a money awareness of shortage.  The climate has to be of adequacy—that we have what we need.  Why?  Because I never give if I feel I must hold on to what I have, just in case.”

Abundance or scarcity.  Which climate were you brought up in? 

You can find some guidance in reflecting on that question in the Faith and Money Network money autobiography.  The money autobiography is a challenging and important tool to help you clarify your perceptions and feelings about money. The introduction is framed in a religious context, but the questions themselves apply to all of us who would like to better understand our feelings and behavior around money.

In exploring your personal history, for example, the money autobiography asks, “What is your happiest childhood memory in connection with money?” And, similarly, “What is your unhappiest childhood memory?”  It prompts you to reflect on your parents’ attitudes about money and your childhood perceptions: “Did you feel poor or rich? Did you worry about money?”  The money autobiography is available at faithandmoneynetwork.org.

Abundance or scarcity.  Which climate prevails in your current household?  In the organizations you participate in?  In your workplace?

Is it time for climate change?

The Faith and Money Network equips people to transform their relationship with money, to live with integrity and intentionality, and to participate in creating a more equitable world.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of the Natural Investing News

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Susan Taylor

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