I’d like to change, but how?

In Wisdom & Money right now, I am working to articulate our theory of change. Theory of change for me is a jargon word but at its heart, I think it is what type of fertilizer do we put into people’s soil in order to cultivate the type of growth we believe needs to happen in the world. 

How does one change her way of being? While not directly in the CST principles this week, I am leaning on two core teachings of Jesus and many other religious teachers: repentance and conversion. Repent comes from the latin penitere which means to think; repentance very simply means to rethink, to change one’s mind. Usually this word for me is full of abstract religious baggage. This week, however, my dearest teacher, my older brother invoked them both as I confided in him my latest struggle. I was supposed to arrive in Minneapolis this weekend. I’m in the middle of moving from Boston to Minneapolis and I have been staying with a friend in South Carolina. I changed my mind about my arrival date to my new home. I had new information and I made a different plant than I originally expected. 

This week, I felt waves of anxiety. I felt overwhelming uncertainty. I did not and do not like veering off course. It threatens the part of my ego that really wants to be principled and predictable. My ego says “I want to be known as someone who follows through. I want to be known as someone who does what they say they will do.” Of course, I am okay. I am safe and sound and there are very few consequences to slowing my journey north. And yet, I do not feel okay. I am fighting all the unkind voices and conditioning within me that say “you are not supposed to change plans. What will your new community think of you if you do not follow through light you said you would? You aren’t doing this move good enough.” It gets louder. “You are not enough. You are going to fail if you don’t follow through. You are a failure.” I write these voices down to show you just how much something so little can bring up in me when I push against an internal norm or principle. (Yes, like many in this work, I am a One on the enneagram.) My move in date was February 15, 2021 and I am not going to move into my new home that day. It feels awful at some level to acknowledge that. On another level, it makes total sense for so many reasons that matter. 

So what is Wisdom & Money’s theory of change? I shared this raw moment of my transition to illustrate what work I am doing in this organization right now at the personal level. Our mission is to support people to engage with money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. As an organization we are not organizers, or activists, or changemakers working for a specific set of outcomes. We are not aiming to get our constituents to move their money in a specific way according to certain values or benchmarks. Instead, we are an organization who approaches this mission with the audacious faith that if we welcome and walk with each individual who comes to us, together we will discover what is theirs to do with the resources that they have. This work of transformation does not happen alone; almost all of our work happens in circles–groups of 7-12  self identified “people of wealth.” If you want to be transformed in your relationship with money, join a circle for seven years, we joke, when people come wanting both and radical change. You’ll never be the same. 

We take this circle approach to transformation because we recognize the costs of true change. In a culture that demands that we know many things before we know and shames us if we do not, in a world that knows how to cancel instead of how to repair;  a world where we are taught to build up boundaries and compartmentalize in the face of difficulty rather than open up the difficulty and integrate, Wisdom & Money creates circles of accompaniment and spiritual practice. We recognize that to change one’s mind at all requires deep support and great courage. It also demands we listen deeply to our own voices that are much quieter than the status quo.  Our circles protect the solitude of every individual in faith that as each person listens to themselves in community, spirit will reveal what is theirs to do, one step at a time. 

So what does this have to do with investing in a liveable future? When I think about basic investing principles, two come to mind: (1) the purpose of money is to make more money and (2) never spend the principal. From these two assumptions, I can understand how we have gotten to this moment in the United States. More wealth than we have ever had and more inequality than we have ever had. The metaphorical storehouses of the rich are bulging. Food is rotting away while the poor hunger without enough to eat. 

Repent, for the kin-dom of God is near. I hear Jesus saying.

I interpret that to mean, “change your basic investing logic and heaven will be here, now. All of you can have all you need. The kin-dom where everyone belongs to each other is so close. Heaven is near if only you can change your mind. If you can change your assumptions.” 

I changed my moving plan. I am not yet on my way to Minneapolis and it was hard. The uncertainty still overwhelms me. My own inner demons still tell me I should not have gone off course. It is hard in the normal kind of way and yet even change this small comes with so much resistance. 

Wisdom & Money community and my beloved friends have been quick to tell me that I am going to be okay when I get to the other side of this change. That I am okay right now even though I do not feel okay. Without our spiritual practices, I would not have the ability to hear the voice inside me that said “Don’t go quite yet.” Without their reassurance, I would not have the ability to repent, to change my mind and live through the consequences. I would be stuck following a plan that was not going to honor my needs at this moment simply because that is what I said I would do. 

Our theory of change is rooted in the faith that God has unique gifts to reveal through each of us as we work with money and unique gifts to reveal through groups of us and Spirit will reveal those to us if we tune into that voice. Once we hear what is ours to do, we receive loving support to let go of all the ways we thought our lives and our money were supposed to go, and to become that which we only we can become. Our circles and spiritual practices are the fertilizer for true repentance to happen. 

2 thoughts on “I’d like to change, but how?

  1. I appreciate your vulnerability and am a firm believer that things work out how they should, so I’m sure your decision to stay put for a while is the right one. Regarding the two principles of money – I had an interesting conversation with a colleague/friend who is part of the high-level workshop about this idea of spending down principal. She grew up in Croatia, part of the former Yugoslavia, where they practiced a slightly different form of communism than the Soviet Union (interesting she told me instead of govnt owning businesses, the people did – will be great to hear her thoughts in the broader group). Alas, she made a good point that the reason why she as a Croatians (or any Europeans, or people living in countries with better social safety nets) may be more willing to spend down more principal, or donate more, or save less is because they have less uncertainty/fear that their future needs will be met. I do think much of the tenets of finance you mentioned stem from fear/uncertainty about the future. Thus, I ask myself how can we overcome these fears when we do (at least us Americans) live in a society where our basic needs may not always be met. What is the right balance between worry about the future vs. sharing wealth today?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also appreciate your vulnerability and applaud the personal journey you are taking. I had never heard of enneagram and had to look up what Type 1 meant. I fully admit that it was hard for me to leave the site to come back and finish this post.

    It’s interesting that you mention not spending the principal as a key investing principle. In my work with operating nonprofits inspired by Islam, the idea of using endowments and even mini-endowments to build local assets was viewed positively. In moving to the Catholic world, I had several interesting conversations about endowments violating CST. I was told that if there is money available that it should be spent as soon as possible to the benefit of the most poor and vulnerable. While it was alright to have a reserve in case of natural or man-made disaster, operating off of interest did not fit with Catholic values. I still haven’t figured out exactly why, and we know that many Catholic universities use endowments. Which makes me wonder what your thoughts might be on this question.

    Personally, I struggle with the idea of having assets that I could put to use now but am holding onto for retirement. Yes, I can say that they are invested according to my own values, but I agree with the comment above that holding onto these assets comes from a place of fear. We know that God will provide, so why am I holding onto my savings? At the same time, what role does personal and institutional sustainability play in our spiritual lives? Am I doing more good than harm or vice versa by saving in our current economic system, and what would a system look like where funds could be used more immediately for those that need them, while still embracing subsidiarity? So many questions…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: