Everyone knows that there are many ways a conversation about money can go wrong. That’s especially true when talking about faith and money.
The most common way a conversation about money goes wrong is when people hear guilt and shame rather than grace and gratitude. Although shame is not a helpful emotion, like weeds in Spring, it usually emerges when talking about money, whether a person has significant wealth or a person has very little. More often than not, the consequence of shame is silence. This is why conversations about money are the most difficult of all conversations at home, in the workplace, and in faith communities.
Conventional wisdom suggests that sex is the most intimate of all conversations. Research indicates that, in fact, money is the most intimate. Why? Because when we talk about money it makes us vulnerable. (Again, this is true whether one is wealthy, poor, or of modest income.) The vulnerability exposes our money stories that often raise painful family histories, mismanagement, fear, and even survival. Shame is the emotion that seeks to stop the conversation and shut down vulnerability.
The antidote to shame is courage. Vulnerability is the pathway to courage, and courage is the pathway to a whole-hearted joyful life, filled with gratitude and generosity, that goes far beyond money [emphasis added]. This is what I have learned from renowned author, speaker and University of Houston Research Professor Dr. Brené Brown. Building capacity for courage is absolutely crucial to have honest and healthy conversations about money. I have learned this from work with congregations around the country and in my work as a pastor with a local congregation. As I become vulnerable to sharing my “money story” with congregations, it helps create a safe space for others to be open
about their struggles. This spiritual practice of open story-telling reduces shame and increases the capacity for courage in communities of faith.
I take a cue from Saint Paul when speaking about money. The apostle tells us that everything that is good in our lives springs from the well of grace–God’s undeserved and unmerited favor–and the only appropriate response to this grace is gratitude.
Begging to Give
Saint Paul is emphatic about God’s goodness toward us. Encouraging the churches in Corinth to give generously, Paul says, “God has given grace to the churches of Macedonia.” As a result of this grace, the churches were compelled to overflow with generosity toward others. Even though they were suffering what Paul described as “extreme poverty,” they were begging to give to others. Their generosity came from a deep well of joy. What is most remarkable is the utter absence of talk about how much money is available to give. That was beside the point. It’s beside the point for us, too. Paul is talking about a desire to give that comes from joy. Increase the joy of the Lord, and people beg to give. Joy is the opposite of shame.
Can you imagine people begging to give?
A poor Haitian farmer told me this proverb, “The one who never eats alone, will never go hungry.” It was his way of saying when you share what little you have, you will always have enough for yourself. Saint Paul is saying the same: when our hearts are rooted in God, trusting in God’s faithfulness, you will always have enough to share. And notice what happens when we share: everyone has enough; no one suffers (II Corinthians 8:15).
When you and I share what we have with others, it creates a groundswell of gratitude in the hearts of many, who in turn share what they have with others. Our sharing becomes part of a much larger work of God among people in the world.
Don’t you want to be part of such a movement of God? There is no shame in sharing. It’s not about the amount you have, it’s about the joy of giving.
-Rev. Roy Howard, Faith and Money Network
Rev. Roy Howard’s workshop on September 11, 2018, will enter the difficult conversation of money through the work of Dr. Brené Brown, Researcher, and Professor at the University of Houston, who has written extensively about vulnerability, shame and courage. Building capacity for courage to be vulnerable is what reduces shame and fear in discussions of money. This courage is absolutely crucial to have honest and healthy conversations. We will discuss how Brené Brown’s work applies to money, share our own money stories, and develop strategies for deepening the courage to be vulnerable. The purpose is to grow in gratitude and generosity in all areas of our lives and in particular the financial area.
Workshop Event: Vulnerability, Shame, and Courage – The Practice of Stewardship
September 11, 6:00-8:00 pm
Potter’s House in Washington, D.C.
Workshop Leader: Rev. Roy Howard