It’s common that people with left wing or progressive values, people in the helping professions, and people involved in personal/spiritual development feel suspicious about money. At one level this makes sense: Capitalism is damaging the world in such horrific ways and generates huge inequalities. And many of our internal obstacles to growth and fulfillment come from pressures to “fit in” to a soulless commercial culture.
But is this really a problem with money? William Bloom, a Fellow of the Findhorn Foundation, points out that money is just a thing in the world. It doesn’t have a morality in itself. It’s neither good nor bad – it simply exists. What connects money with “evil” is what we do with it, and especially our attitudes to money.
Western culture contains a profound split in attitudes to money. On the one hand, money is morally dangerous: “the root of all evil”. The biblical question “do you serve God or Mammon?” clearly implies that it is impossible to serve both – it’s impossible to be spiritual and be financial. On the other hand money is a primary theme in the news, government, and politics, and is often the main measure of how we are going as a society or a nation. And for many people money is so important that they feel they must compromise their values in order to get it.
William Bloom contends that this is nothing to do with money itself. Rather, what we are looking at here are the cultural attitudes we bring to money. We believe that money is dangerous or sinful. At the same time we believe money is more important than anything else. Is it any wonder, then, that most of us have “stuff” around money!
Increasingly in progressive circles, however, this split is no longer passively accepted. More and more of us are refusing to go along with the either/or attitude to spirituality and money. There’s increasing recognition that it’s crucially important to link money and one’s income to one’s passions, values and path. This is often a tough call, as it’s common that what one is passionate about is something which doesn’t yet exist – and so it’s inherently difficult to ‘monetize’ it.
Widespread negative attitudes about money mean that many people have not learnt the skills of handling money or finance, doing the accounts or reading financial reports. But strip away the negative attitudes, and money and finance are just skills – a combination of knowledge and practices that are learnable and teachable.
Of course not everyone wants to learn these things – not everyone has the interest or the time. Luckily, there are accountants. But even when you use an accountant it’s incredibly helpful to understand the difference between money itself, the cultural attitudes in which we live, and the attitudes you personally carry and operate within. In fact it’s more than incredibly helpful; it’s empowering.
Money isn’t dangerous or scary. It’s not inherently anti-spiritual. Money isn’t vital to our wellbeing. It just feels that way because of how we are culturally supported to approach it. Making the distinction between money itself and our feelings about it means that when we have these feelings or perceptions about money we can make internal shifts within ourselves, rather than simply acting out in relation to money itself – avoiding money, grasping for it, worrying about it, and so on.
We might still have the same feelings, but being empowered means we also have space alongside those feelings to take new and positive life-affirming actions. And then everything feels alright!