I think of the old story about a fellow who, as a young
man, was eager to "change the world." As he got a little
older, he began to realize that if he could just change
his country, he'd be doing pretty well. As he got older
still, he started to think that if he could just change
his town, he'd be happy. And further down the road, he figured
that if he could just change his own family, he would have
accomplished something great. Finally, near the end of his
life, he realized that if he could just change himself,
he'd be lucky.
old enough, you already know how hard it can be to change
yourself, let alone other people or the world. And if you've
had enough experience with money, you know that sometimes
it produces stunningly positive changes-in individual lives
and in the world-and sometimes it does not.
what does money change and what doesn't it change? And why
does it even matter?
Extraordinary Power of Money
discovered the power of money as a tool for personal change
when I served on the financial stewardship committee of
a meditation group to which I belong. Our committee's sole
assignment was to invite people to try giving money away
as a spiritual practice, to see what kinds of transformations
it brought into their lives-and to assist people as they
did this. There was no expectation attached-no specified
amount people were expected to give, no timetable for giving.
It was even okay if people chose not to give at all. We
simply offered an invitation, provided giving opportunities,
and arranged forums for discussing the questions that arose
as people began to give their money away.
experience changed my life. When I started giving money
systematically, for specific purposes, while carefully noticing
how I felt about it, the conflicts it brought up for me,
and the blessings it seemed to open up in my life, I began
to think of money entirely differently than I had before.
I began to realize that it holds extraordinary power.
I can't say I understand this power-either what it is exactly
or how it works. But one thing I know: it's worth trying
to understand more, because if I can understand the power
money holds for personal change, maybe I can use it more
effectively in my own life and for others.
Canfield (p. 12) and Mark M. (p. 10) both point out that
money has the mysterious capacity to magnify hidden tendencies
within us, so that they become large enough for us to see
more clearly and we can then do something about them. That's
what happened for me when I started paying attention to
what happened inside myself when I donated money. I noticed
when I was generous and when I was stingy; when I was cautious
and mistrustful and when I was bold and unafraid; when I
felt shame or guilt; what my beliefs were about scarcity
and abundance or about justice and equality; how much I
was (or wasn't) attached to the results of my giving; how
much I was (or wasn't) able to receive the fruits of my
giving. Noticing the feelings and beliefs about money that
giving stimulated in me allowed me to see my own hidden
tendencies, and then decide whether I wanted to change them
or not. Sometimes these tendencies just changed on their
own, once I could see them.
noticed how good it feels to give, especially when I love
where my money is going. And I began to seriously examine
how change actually works, so that if I want to create change
in the world with my money, I can direct it where I believe
it will have its most potent effects.
journal issue presents voices of people examining how their
own lives have been transformed-or how they are transforming
the world-through the power of money. Some talk about the
positive changes money has brought to their lives, some
talk about the negatives. Some talk about what money has
not changed for them. Others talk about what they have been
doing with their money to bring about change. Some talk
about how we can think about money differently and use it
to create exciting new possibilities in the world.
More Than Money Journal
is full of seemingly
opposing ideas, both of which may be true at the same time,
neither of which may be true at a given time, and some of
which may be true sometimes, but not all the time. Any discussion
of the transformative power of money is complicated, because
money and change are both hard to talk about.
we don't talk much about money and what it changes in our
lives. As a result, few of us really know how the presence
(or absence) of money affects the people we know and love.
And we're not clear about how it has affected our own lives,
either, unless we've spent a long time considering the question.
as a Key to Power
about what money changes and what it doesn't, what it can
do and what it can't, and what we want to accomplish with
it are important because they are precursors to harnessing
its power. Without such clarity, we may lend money to a
friend because we can't say no to someone we love, even
when we know this is not the best use of our money. We may
give money to a particular charity out of a feeling of pity
or guilt, when our deepest values would call us to donate
to another cause more aligned with our values. We might
invest in a company because it offers a high rate of return,
even though we suspect it uses questionable business practices.
Such actions lack their full power. As a teacher of mine
once said, "Until your thoughts, words, and actions are
a single, integrated unit, you have no power in your life."
of us have contradictory impulses about money and the changes
it brings to our lives. As Anne Slepian, co-founder of More
Than Money, says, "When it comes to our personal lives,
it seems most of us wistfully hope that money will change
some aspects and leave others untouched." Acknowledging
the realities of our lives, as well as our conflicting desires
for the changes that money brings, is a step toward resolving
our own conflicts about money and its impact on our lives.
frank discussions inside these pages are meant to help us
align our thoughts, words, and actions, and thus gain greater
power in our lives. They are also meant to trigger ideas
and inspire us toward new directions. Most importantly,
they are meant to assist us in what Pamela York Klainer
calls "making money ordinary." We need to make money ordinary
enough to talk about, she says, "because if we can't talk
about it, we can't learn from it." (p. 18) The more easily
and clearly we can talk about money's power to transform
us, individually and collectively, the more effectively
we can harness its power as a tool for change.
Gerloff is editor of More Than Money Journal. She is founder
of Compelling Vision and the
New Education Network
and holds a doctorate in human development from Harvard University.
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