I had a fascinating conversation with a very close friend of mine recently about money. Yes, the green stuff. The stuff that can, indeed, turn some people green.. She admitted she felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities of managing her family’s finances and that she suspected she had a deep-rooted love of money. I was stunned, and slightly impressed, by her self-revelation.
She elaborated; for as long as she can remember she has saved her pennies, loved rummaging through the sales rails in the fashion stores, begrudged paying for over-priced services and would walk or drive further to save a matter of a few pounds at a certain supermarket. She is in no way stingy or ungenerous with those around her but admitted to craving the folding stuff… the ‘flutter-flutter’ as another pal gleefully refers to cash.
Our conversation soon turned to a more serious tone. ‘Love of money? Isn’t that the root of all evil?! Why do I never feel satisfied? Why do I never feel I have enough?!’ ‘ My poor exasperated friend looked part-bemused and part- frightened as she heard her own exclamations – it was as if she was mentally scanning her own appearance for signs of a forked tail or hooves..
I replied quietly; ‘I don’t see a love of money, I see a fear of money’. We live in a world of nasty surprises; mortgage meltdowns, redundancies, rumours of wars and echos of chaos.. it’s all in that there Bible you know. I felt strongly her fear was so closely glued to the appearance of being a lust for an assured wealth but was in actual fact a very honest, real and basic human trait – the need for security. Our conversation rambled on and my next few days I found given to pondering the relationship between fear and love.
Scripture tells us to Love God. It also tells us to Fear God. Is it therefore the case that we can both love and fear something at the same time?
I heard a reknowned scientist explain that love and fear are diametrically opposed. Physiologically our brains create memories and craft our behaviours stemming from one, or the other. Whilst fear creates toxic thoughts which chew away at our sense of peace and well-being (ok, that makes sense so far), love builds a strength and sense of security and ‘casts out’ fears. We can willfully replace fearful thoughts with love-based thoughts. As this scientist got deeper into ‘the science bit’ as L’Oreal used to say I got a bit fuzzy-headed and began to think about lunch – however, I caught the jist – love and fear are like repelling magnets which bounce away from one another, they cannot co-exist too closely together. They are fuelled by inherently different reactions and emotions and as a result; they create different outcomes and behaviours.
Hmmmmmmm…. yet, back to my financially-challenged friend. I see love AND fear mingling so tightly it got difficult to separate them. Her need for security evolved into a literally money-grabbing behaviour – her fear of personal destitution was driving her fondness for the Pound.
Another recent situation caught my imagination. A friend confessed that her recent squabbles with her other half were both tiring her out emotionally and causing her to question her future with him. I questioned her; ‘Do you love him?’ ‘YES!’ came the high-speed retort. I asked from a different angle ‘Do you fear being without him?’ ‘Yes.’ a more subdued reply came. ‘Do you actually fear being without him, or fear being alone, full stop?’ … A silence fell and her eyes glistened with tears.
For what it’s worth, her other half is unreliable, spectacularly lazy (by his own admission) and regularly takes full advantage of her submissive nature to allow him freedom to please himself. I don’t see a great deal of love in that situation but to see the proverbial penny drop was painful. Whitney Houston deserves a credit here for her line ‘ I’d rather be alone than unhappy’. Do you agree with that? My friend decided she did as she packed her bags (not for the first time).
What about the middle ground Whitters? What about compromise, communication, working it out together? Yeah, okay – that doesn’t fit too well in a good R&B tune.
I searched for the middle ground – the grey patch between love and fear- where, actually, many of us operate. The best and simplest word I found was this one; respect.
Cue Aretha…. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to me’ Whoa! Sing it!
Yes! Respect is the glue – it brings together the love; for people, money, anything and the fear of people, money, anything. If you love something, you will respect it. If you fear something, you will respect it.
Respect (or disrespect) is the outworked demonstration of our root emotions. I can love AND fear my God and the result is a respectful awe, a respectful obedience, a respectful enjoyment of His blessings and generous Grace towards me.
When I began to think more deeply about how fear makes people behave I thought of ASBO-clad youths huddled together in clunks of wasteful wrecklessness. I thought of disgraceful burglars flooding peoples’ homes, their sanctuaries with violation and distress. I thought of the unkind, destructive words we say behind peoples’ backs. I thought of the sickening ignorance of bias and prejudice against people we can’t understand or relate to. I thought of abusers hiding in the shadows, covering their shame with excuses and denials. And the more I applied this picture frame called fear, the more it all made sense.
Where there is hurt, abuse, theft, shame, ignorance and sin; there is fear right there at the grubby root. The very first ‘sin’ was fuelled by a fear of ‘missing out’! Incredible!
So I look at my own fears and what they may be steering my behaviour towards. Do I chose to love when fear is shoving me to chose angry bitterness? Do I chose to love when fear is goading me to be neglectful or disrespectful? Do I chose to love when fear is reminding me I feel rejected or ridiculed?
Love is a choice. God is love. When we chose to love, we chose God’s way and life works more than just a little bit better.