The Spiritual Meaning of Debt – Part 1 By Jenny Griffin
This is the first in a three-part series on debt. This article pinpoints the spiritual meaning of debt and asks you to examine and begin re-writing your debt story.
Anyone who has been faced with debt knows what a never-ending struggle it can be. Every spare bit of income seems to go towards paying down the towering debt. It’s too easy to get caught up in the worry of meeting your responsibilities and appeasing your creditors.
Once they’re paid, does it end there? Sometimes, but very often it leads to further indebtedness, to ‘catch up’ to what you might feel you missed out on while you were so busy paying your other debts.
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Where does this cycle spring from? What’s lacking in our inner Selves that crave to be filled by external possessions or gains? The spiritual meaning of debt is a desire to be closer to our perfect, abundant, authentic Self, but as we become disconnected from what exactly that means to each of us individually, we cast around for examples outside of ourselves.
We see our neighbors with a new car and think, ‘they seem happy, perhaps it’s the car.’ We see our friends moving into new jobs because they upgraded their education, and we think, ‘maybe that’s the answer.’ We desire equivalence with the people and situations around us, believing ourselves to be starting at some point other than where they are.
In truth, there’s no external thing that will make us equivalent, because we already are. Finding that truth within your heart will move you from straining to reach the next Shangri-la to being at peace with where you are.
Debt allows us to borrow against one of our thousands of potential futures, the main problem being, the future doesn’t exist in the present.
It is only a potential, and in our fairly limited minds we can only imagine a small number of the infinite possibilities that actually are.
So, ideally, we’re borrowing against a future in which we’re able to pay back the debt easily. If you’re in debt, chances are that hasn’t been the case. Instead, our present (which was one of the other future possibilities from then) is a different story.
Since then, our circumstances may have changed dramatically, our lives may have taken a turn that our limited minds hadn’t foreseen, and we sit facing what we owe, asking ourselves if this is how things will always be.
Debt has a way of multiplying because of the energy of debt itself. In borrowing to make yourself equivalent to something outside of yourself, you have accepted that you’re not. When you get the ‘thing’ that you borrowed the money for, does the feeling of being equivalent last?
If you continue to start with the same premise, of inequality, inferiority or lack, the satisfaction that you get from the having of your desire will be short-lived.
There will always be something new you want, because there is always something to trigger your back story, telling you you’re not enough, or not quite there yet, until and unless you make peace with the reason you’re there in the first place.
It is not the things we really want – the education, the car, the house, the clothes – it’s the feeling or attribute that we believe it will bestow on us through the having of it. Perhaps we want to appear or feel more intelligent or qualified, so we borrow money to take courses.
Are we actually any more intelligent or qualified, if inside we haven’t changed our attitudes towards our own worthiness or acceptance of ourselves as we are?
If we approach each new experience knowing that we’re enough, we’re whole without it, and we simply want to experience the thing for the sake of enjoyment, that brings a new perspective into the exchange.
Much debt springs from the need to soothe a part of ourselves, our wounded child who didn’t receive the feedback we so desired. And the ease and availability of so many, many things exacerbates these wounds. It’s too easy to get credit towards whatever your heart desires, some companies even offering ‘no payments for ___ months/years.’
We’re a society that hasn’t been taught the joy of gratification through saving for what you want. It’s not just practical in a fiscal sense, but also in the sense that it allows you time to really think through what it is you’re about to spend this money on. If, in the time it takes you to save what you need to acquire your desire, you decide you don’t need it after all, you’ve learned something along the way.
Your desire (or the emotion attached to the desiring of the thing) has been satisfied elsewhere, through some other channel, which allows you to gain perspective.
What’s your Debt Story? Knowing the story behind the behavior can give you the knowledge you need to move forward to a debt-free mindset. Examine your patterns, your choices, and the reasons behind them.
Ask yourself if all the things that you own were gone, or if you hadn’t got that post-secondary education, would you be a different person? Would you be able to feel successful, happy and at peace without all the things you have acquired?
Look beneath the debt to find the mindset that got you here. There may be more than one story running consecutively through your belief system, and many stem from the insecurity of not knowing your own worth.
There is no one debt story, each one of us is as different as snowflakes are to one another, so be sure that you’re telling yourself your own story. Don’t attach other people’s ideas about debt to your own innate sense of why you’re here.
For instance, if you’ve grown up believing debt is sinful and find yourself in debt, you are fighting against the deep belief that you are in some way sinful, on top of the other stuff that got you here.
Go easy on yourself, and allow yourself some leeway for feeling emotional, frightened and uncertain. Gently pick apart all the threads of your story so that you have a clear idea of why you’re in debt, and let’s go from there.
This is the second in a three-part series on debt . This article focuses on your relationship with money itself, and as in the first part, asks you to examine the story behind your beliefs.
How is your relationship with money? While tied into your Debt Story, it is not one and the same. Do you respect money? Hate it? Feel that it is the root of all evil? Believe it will solve all your problems? Do you, like ABBA, wonder about all the things you could do (if you had a little money), and lament that ‘it’s a rich man’s world?’
Do you lust after it, feeling that it will bestow on you some magical power and charisma, and open doors that until now had been closed?
Money is, at its most basic, a concept. It is a recognized means of exchange that has become something of an obsession in our world; the attainment of it, the hoarding of it, the using of it as a means to oppress and control others, the using of it as a tool to demonstrate our philanthropic natures (or ‘our inherent goodness’), wars have been fought over it, people have been imprisoned and killed to defend it, people have been purchased by it, it has been cited as the ruin of some people and the savior of others.
But it is a concept. It exists in the physical world as one expression of the concept of exchange. Value for perceived value.
There are many societies that still prefer the barter system, and many groups of people around the world who have decided to live ‘money-free’ by offering their services in exchange for food, shelter, medical care, etc.
You might be amazed by how many people are willing to work on a system that honors exchanges other than money.
So why do we all value it so highly? Why is it a tool used to marginalize some and give preference to others? And why do we continue to believe that it simply is the way it is?
Money is not equivalent to power. It’s not equivalent to love. It’s not equivalent to charisma, charm, goodness, kindness, value or any other concept. In the same way, money is not equivalent to evil.
It’s not equivalent to terror or despotism or hatred. It has been used as a tool in the pursuit of some horrific activities, but it is not the problem. It’s by attaching this inert concept to specific characteristics that it takes on a life of its own.
What if there were enough for everyone on the planet to thrive, enough of everything that we truly needed to be happy, fulfilled and vibrant?
Not the stuff we’re told we need, like a house with seventeen bathrooms and a new car every 2.5 years and security systems to make sure nobody else tries to take all the stuff we’re told we need… but enough food, enough love, enough inspiration, passion, work, water, and air that we could all live long and healthy lives unimpeded by the need to compete for the dwindling resources that we’re told are on the brink of exhaustion.
Poverty is rampant, but what is poverty? If you’ve ever spent any time living below the ‘poverty line,’ you’ll understand what I mean when I say that the idea of a line is a randomly designated figure placed by someone whose concept of poverty comes nowhere close to the truth. And it certainly doesn’t mean there is no happiness, no fulfillment to be found there.
If what you find in poverty is that the things you value most in life don’t have a price tag, then you may be richer than some of the wealthiest people on the planet.
Think about how you feel about money, and if you need to, change your story. Try writing a story in which money is simply a tool to help you provide even more value in the world, and which helps you to spread the word of what it is you are providing.
Or how about a story in which everyone in the world is equivalent, one in which we all have equal value simply by virtue of the fact that we exist; you, me, Mother Theresa, an ant, a serial killer.
Who makes the rules as to your worth and why do you allow ‘them’ to?
Ask yourself whether you find money hard to come by, whether you believe you deserve to feel abundant, ask yourself if the idea of ‘dollars for hours’ has been so engrained in your mindset that it’s the only exchange you can imagine.
Ask yourself if you believe that your worth can only be contained within the context of monetary worth, and whether you feel that the things you own, acquire and yearn for are true and honest reckonings of your worth on this planet.
All of these questions are simply designed to get you thinking about where your current attitudes towards value, money, debt and self-worth spring from, and beginning to change the soundtrack in your head.
Asking questions is a good way to start making changes. It allows you to get a sense of where exactly something isn’t sitting right, and from there you can look for a means to make it feel better
This is the third and final part of this series on debt (Please see Part 1 and Part 2). This article asks questions about what you value to determine whether what you are giving aligns with your deepest value systems.
Let’s return to the spiritual meaning of debt as the desire to be closer to your perfect, abundant, authentic Self, and think about the best way to get there. So often people feel they are giving and giving, and debt can act as a reward, or a way of taking something in return for all the giving they’ve done.
While it may be true that you have been a giver all your life, let’s start with some important questions about that.
1. How have you felt about what you’ve been giving?
2. Have you been giving resignedly, with the mindset that it is just who you are, or ‘the way things are,’ and/or no one else will do whatever it is you do, so you just keep on doing it?
3. Have you been giving out of obligation or duty, feeling that you owe this to life in some way?
4. Have you been giving your time and energy to things you dislike, to simply survive or pay the bills, all the while feeling more and more disconnected from where you feel you really want to be?
5. Has giving made you feel that you are owed by life for all the giving you’ve been doing, so that you’re willing to accept debt as a way of rewarding yourself and reaching for things that might otherwise be unavailable at the present?
6. When you think about giving value, what does it mean to you?
7. Where does your current value system stem from?
8. Do you feel that you give people and situations something of yourself of value that they can take with them and enjoy?
9. Do you love knowing that someone has received huge value from the work you’ve done, and do you feel that on a regular basis?
There is a fairly large gap between giving, and giving value, yet it’s a subtle difference and can be the key to understanding how to move out of the debt mindset. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘dollars for hours’ mindset and valuation of our skills and experience as a monetary figure, but there’s so much more to true value.
There are things we all come here with that are unique to us, and that no other being in all of creation can do in quite the same way, and it’s these things that provide the most value for other people. It so often happens that what we believe we value is based on someone else’s interpretation.
Let me try to clarify further by using an example from my experience. I worked in customer service for many years, and in my ‘home life’ gave emotional and physical support to my family. I felt like I was giving non-stop, but what I was giving did not feel valuable to me, as I believed I had no choice but to give.
No one else would give this support to my family (so I thought) and I worked the jobs I believed I was suited to (from my Debt Story). I was barely making ends meet, but my credit rating was okay, and I was able to take out student loans for University, which made me feel like I was finally getting somewhere.
I kept on giving, working full-time while full-time at school, still offering support to my family, all the while feeling more and more like there had to be something else; there must be another way! I hadn’t really thought about why I gave so much, I just ‘knew’ that it was my duty.
Between my first and second master’s degree, I fell apart, completely. I let go of years (maybe lifetimes) worth of old, old ‘stuff’ that I began to realize had been keeping me in this pattern of giving and not feeling valued in return.
As I worked through all this, I started to notice that I wanted to give less of the everyday stuff that I didn’t really feel was valuable to people (‘thank you for buying this ____, Sir, see you again’), and instead give of myself, given to people things that would really help them.
I started to connect with the things that I found valuable about my life and my own experience, and realized that those things could also be of value to others. A-ha.
This value component is key in moving forward from the debt mindset. It’s not just important to shift your focus from an external to an internal definition of value, but also to shift your focus from giving indiscriminately to providing real value with everything you give.
It is possible to move ahead in the world by simply churning out the work that needs doing, but isn’t it also true that anyone can do that?
Customer service jobs in particular have very high turnover rates, because so often the employees are undervalued and considered easily replaceable.
If a company truly values the work their employees do, they’ll offer rewards that are not connected to salary and day-to-day living that they’re contractually bound to provide.
How does this tie in with debt? It goes hand-in-hand with the idea that when you give half-heartedly, feeling resentful or overburdened by giving, you’ll receive in the same way (and feel the need to borrow to obtain that equivalence… and so on…).
If you continue to give something that your value system tells you has no value, you’ll receive in return those things that reflect what you’ve offered.
You’re not being punished; it’s simply that you’re not valuing what you’re giving, so others (including the Universe) will reflect back to you that same attitude.
If you can begin to value what you give (and give what you value), you’ll feel a shift towards joyfulness and abundance as you realize someone else has found what you offer incredibly worthwhile.
You can hear the delight in their voice, or see the delight on their face as they connect with what you’re offering, and it fires you up in return.
You begin to give so fiercely and so passionately that you don’t even care if you get anything in return, just because it feels so good to give.
The paradox is, you begin to see more returns than you have before, because you’re not giving in order to get, but in order to provide value.
You’re giving something you hold so dear, so close to your heart that others connect with that energy and feel it’s worth in their own heart
Jenny Griffin, also known as ‘The Catharsis Coach,’ Jenny loves exploring life’s twists and turns through the lens of transformation. Her own journey through catharsis, a deep, deep letting go of ingrained patterns and beliefs, resulted in a feeling of connectedness, with the world around her and with that wise and wonderful voice within. Jenny has learned to engage with her life and experiences in a way that allows her to use the knowledge gained through them to serve others. When she’s not writing, she’s coming up with new ways to help people move through change with grace and ease.
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