The Contradiction of Doing Good and Making Money
Here’s the contradiction of human life. You’re naturally attracted to love, joy, peace and freedom. That feels pretty safe. They are intangible inner states. It may be hard to experience them, but there’s no question as to whether they’re good or not.
You’re also naturally attracted to abundance and thriving. That can feel much less safe because they involve material wealth as well as intangible inner states. There are many questions as to whether it’s good and moral to be wealthy enough to truly thrive.
The contradiction arises because many religious and spiritual traditions have taught us to reject material wealth and concentrate on inner wealth alone. But when you live in a body and have a family, you have a material life and material needs. You need food and shelter, education and health and many other material comforts to survive, let alone thrive.
If you’ve learned that it’s somehow immoral, evil, inferior or unspiritual to take care of your material requirements, it puts you in a horrible dilemma. You MUST take care of yourself and your family, so you MUST make money. But somewhere deep in your subconscious is the fear that if you’re greedy, rich or have more than you need, you may lose God’s favour, compromise your spiritual virtue or become a lesser human being.
What are you supposed to do with this fear?
- Take the Material Path
You could take the material path and pursue wealth so you can create a quality environment for your family. Many people who take this path have to bury a deep sense of shame or guilt for being richer than others. They seek money to make them feel secure, but they never experience security because they’re constantly worried about losing what they have. They wonder if it’s moral to have more than others and often get sucked into sacrificing their health, love, enjoyment and happiness, driven constantly by the need to make money and bury the fear that it might be immoral.
At the extreme, you may find yourself having to obliterate the discomfort by drinking more than you need to, eating too much, over-exercising or working like crazy. These are all ways to change your mood and give you some relaxation or a high. They are also ways to avoid pain and inner conflict, but they don’t resolve the underlying issue at all.
Another response is to procrastinate a lot, feel anxious or depressed and wait for retirement when it’s supposed to get better. But will it really be better just because you’re no longer making money?
- Take the Spiritual Path
An alternative is to take a spiritual path and focus on your inner state so you cultivate peace and happiness and become a more loving person. This way you can preserve your sense of morality. However, it becomes almost impossible to make enough money to move beyond survival in case you compromise your inner purity. Many people who take this path end up broke, disappointed in life and wondering what’s wrong with them. Spirituality was supposed to bring them everything they need and more, but it’s hard to experience joy and inner peace when you’re struggling to pay for decent food, health care and the needs of your children.
There’s an extreme version of the spiritual path where you deny your need to make money at all, believing that God/Life will take care of you. This is a good experiment for discovering how money and gifts show up in the most unlikely ways. The tricky thing is you rely on other people making money so they can give you that experience. They have to work hard and compromise their virtue to enable you to maintain your purity and be a recipient of their generosity.
I’m describing the extremes here to make a point because this fear around money is so deeply embedded in our society that it doesn’t matter whether you’re brought up religious or secular believer or atheist, you’re affected constantly by the mass consciousness of fear and confusion about the morality or otherwise of making money.
Reflect for a moment on these stereotypes.
- Money as the root of all evil
- The wandering monk with a begging bowl
- The challenge for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven
- The spiritual adept meditating in a cave for 30+ years
- Buddhist non-attachment to desire
They all have their place and point to some deeper truth, but they’ve become so badly misunderstood that it’s hard to know what’s right or wrong. Am I supposed to aspire to be like a monk? Should I give up my wish to make more money or experience abundance? Should I let go of all desire for anything? Am I really evil if I make money? What happens if I make too much money to be able to go to Heaven? And what happens if I don’t believe any of it and think it’s all rubbish?
It’s mostly too hard to answer these questions clearly so the easiest response is to close down, ignore the deeper doubts and get on with life. But then you have to harden your heart, suppress the underlying fear and pretend that everything is fine as it is. Only it isn’t fine.
This makes no sense
I can’t make head or tail of a world like this and I don’t believe life is supposed to be that kind of experience. The longer I live, the more I find that life can work much better than that. It’s not necessary for me to cut myself off from everything I believe in and long for in order to be a good person.
The thing that has made a lot of difference to me is realising that my desire to experience abundance and thriving comes from the exact same place as my desire for joy and freedom. All of it comes from somewhere deep inside me, which is natural, spontaneous and a part of my true self.
To try to cut off one part of it so I can grow the other part is like chopping off my leg and then telling myself to enjoy the experience. Self-inflicted pain is not enjoyable and it’s also not necessary.
When you finally see this contradiction clearly it begins to unravel. When you realize that abundance sits alongside joy and freedom as one of the great expressions of human potential, it’s not possible to hold them in conflict anymore.
This is the beginning of resolving your hidden fear and reconciling your natural desires so you can be a good person (as much as you’re capable) and create wealth and abundance (as much as you’re capable). And so you begin the search for a new understanding of doing good and making money that can bring them into a harmonious relationship which truly allows you and others to thrive.
Read other parts of the series here:
Part 1 – Doing Good and Making Money
Part 3 – The End of Fear and Conflict Around Making Money
Part 4 – What Do You Need to Learn to Do More Good and Make More Money?