I think that “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has been replaced as the American Ideal. I’m not saying that we don’t value these things anymore, I just think that we’ve superceded those older ideals with a newer one: “Get it now, spend the rest of your life paying it off.”
In many places in the world you can only get what you want after working in advance; cash or barter can be the only ways to receive goods or services. In America we have the privilege to borrow against time. People will give us what we want now if we are just willing to pay a little more for it over the long haul.
While this isn’t always a bad thing, it can become problematic when we decide we want an additional something before we’ve “paid off” the last thing we borrowed to get. In short, we begin stockpiling unaddressed debt over time.
I’m not speaking in merely financial terms either.
We stay up late,
…”morning” will suffer the consequences.
We agree to partnerships,
…before we know someone’s character.
We get married,
…hoping to fix relationship issues later.
We worry about our kids,
…but keep putting off hard conversations
The snowballing effect of “un-reconciled issues” can build to a fever pitch where we find ourselves paralyzed- unable to make any forward progress because of the weight of our baggage. It’s the sign of living beyond our means.
While we know what this looks like financially; the past 4 years have demonstrated that borrowing huge sums of money to be paid back over 30 years doesn’t actually put a family ahead but ties it down and strips it of vitality over time,
We are mostly clueless to what living above our means emotionally costs.
As un-reconciled personal conflicts stack up, we begin suffering from the anxious feelings that the lack of resolution brings. We continue to add new relationships and experiences to our lives in hopes that they’ll help us find satisfaction while “forgetting” our previous pains.
Unfortunately the anxiety of unresolved conflict doesn’t simply disappear from the psyche, it gets “filed away”, often losing definition until it becomes nebulous and nagging worry. Eventually these buried worries begin to surface, undermining the new relationships we undertake.
We begin living under clouds of stress and fear that paralyze us with haunting questions:
“Maybe this person will betray me too.”
“If dad didn’t love me, maybe no one will.”
“Loss is so hard, shouldn’t I just hold on to what I have?”
We become immobilized by the fear of losing what we’ve worked so hard to “achieve”, even when we’ve actually never paid the bills that cement ownership.
The convergence of living overextended financially AND emotionally is where many of us find ourselves today; dissatisfied and frustrated by our circumstances, but depressed and powerless to do anything about them.
Our problem is worse than we realize.
There is an unforeseen consequence to living a life of fiscal and emotional overextension, a compromise that crushes our ability to move forward. The true loss that we suffer in overextension is honesty.
Overextension leads us into circumstances and relationships we haven’t yet “purchased”, while asserting we can afford them. We begin living lies, lies that keeps us from being able to be honest.
Fear of loss is what drives adults to keep their mouths shut when they are presented with opportunities to be courageous. Specifically the fear of losing our precious accumulation of treasures.
It starts out simply; when someone asks us our honest opinion…
…do we risk losing their good favor?
Then it comes at us subtly; refusing to confront others…
…making unwise compromises while trying to “keep the peace”.
And then it owns us; We don’t speak up when we should…
…because we are trying to make unhappy people happy.
The best advice I ever received from an older pastor was “spend less than you make. Save your money and you won’t be tempted to compromise the truth to keep getting paid” He was telling me that if I overextended myself fiscally, I would also become compromised relationally, emotionally, and morally.
He was right.
Early in my ministry there were days I kept quiet because I didn’t think “I couldn’t afford” to speak up. Later I learned that speaking up was a demonstration that I believe that God provided for me, and not a job.
Things changed for me when I “paid my bills” and acknowledged my true employer.
Which of course brings me back to our new ideal, “Buy now and pay it back later”. Does living like this set us up to be truth speakers or people pleasers? Has our overextension into affluence compromised our ability to be honest?
Because fear of losing our things shouldn’t be the price of silence in: