If you want to live well, it’s beneficial to cultivate a debt free life. Debt happens in a few ways.
- You arrange to accept something now in exchange for repayment later – usually at a higher price.
- Someone gives you something of value, and you have not given something in exchange. This may not be a formal arrangement. However social conventions dictate that if someone gives you something, something is returned. This could be a favor, invitation, kindness, or a gift at your birthday.
- You bind yourself to some idea.
Let’s look at why debt can lead to unhappiness.
It’s not been that long ago that being in financial debt was shameful. I remember my great grandmother saying with pride that she never had a credit card and never owed anyone anything. In some countries, this is still true. This is why some people don’t marry until they are much older than they are here. A man can’t marry unless he can provide his wife and children-to-be with a home. When there is no credit, he has to save cash for this.
When you have to budget and choose what to spend your time and money on, values play a much bigger part in your choices. You are forced to think about the present moment, near future, and far future. You tend to value what you have, your trade, and the product of your work a lot more. This can lead to gratitude. It can also lead to self esteem. It takes discipline to save enough for a car, pay your way through college, or even buy your first pair of pants by yourself! Through this, you start to ask yourself things like, “How many hours do I have to work to buy this iPhone? How much will I have to pay for my education? How much money can I expect earn starting out in this field? Do I really need a new car now? Do I want quality or quantity? Is it better for me to be trendy or classy? Do I want a nice house and great school district or a modest house and a lot more leisure and pleasure time?
Being financially debt free releases you from financial bondage. From here you can live your life, not live to pay off your debts. While your life may be smaller, your potential for joy, self esteem, and fulfillment is much larger.
As I said before, there is an unwritten rule of reciprocity that makes the world go around. If you don’t participate, you create an energy loss. For example, if I am friendly to you and you don’t reciprocate, my friendliness goes into a black hole instead of cycling back around to someone else. If I take you into my home, feed you, and entertain you, and you don’t say thank you or offer me any hospitality in return, my energy has gone in a black hole. It’s now a dead end. Energy in motion tends to stay in motion, so this is not great for you, me, the community, or the universe.
Now, this isn’t to say that you have to smile at everyone who smiles at you. Sometimes you just don’t feel like smiling. So, I am speaking more in generalities. It’s not a tit for tat arrangement. Nor is it meant to be an obligation. It’s more about sharing of your heart. If your heart is not open, it becomes hard to know and love you. it’s hard for you to feel loved.
This makes some people really uncomfortable so they deal with this discomfort by making giving and receiving a financially arrangement. For example, we set up a family tradition that “gifts at Christmas are only given to one person whose name is chosen from a hat. The value of the gift is between $X and $Y. If you get them exactly what they ask for, you’re flawless.” This is not gift. This is an obligation. There is no exchange of feeling here.
If I get my sex needs met through a prostitute, this can help me avoid any emotional entanglements, but there is no emotional exchange. While most people don’t go this far, modern dating is quite similar. Some people don’t date anymore. They just hook up. There is no expectation of feeling and no emotional exchange. There may not even be much conversation. Bodies are just the means to indulge a need, so no wonder it feels empty, lonely and unsatisfying.
A more healthy way to live is to give. Receive. Give without any expectation of any return. If you want to receive what is being offered, receive with all your heart. Be aware that not all gifts are worth receiving. Sometimes people offer things to manipulate and create obligations. Feel free to refuse these.
We all have dreams, goals, thoughts, and ideals. When we bind ourself to one of these, it takes away our freedom to be fully who we are, where we are, how we are. For example, if I say, “I will love you forever” or “I am a loser,” we create a debt that we must live up to. We all are compelled to fulfill our conscious and unconscious vows to stay congruent with our self concept. This puts us in debt until they are fulfilled.
However, they are not always useful, wise, or realist vows. If your partner doesn’t love you or isn’t alive or isn’t your partner anymore, vowing to keep that love alive is wasted energy. It can’t be returned. In the case of “I am a loser,” it’s based on a fallacy.
The good thing about self created debt is that you can simply release yourself from the debt. For “I will always love you” just let that go. This will free you to love others and be fully present in a new relationships. For “I am a loser,” perhaps this was a self proclamation made after a mistake. Making amends for the error is a more practical way to deal with this issue.
The thing about debt is, it’s gets heavier the longer you carry it. When you travel through life light, you have more flexibility and freedom. So take some time to lighten the load today. Ponder the true cost of things before you take them on. Weigh their value. If someone offers you something, check your heart to see if it’s something that you want. If so, accept whole heartedly. Feel free to decline if you don’t want it. What you pick up is as important as what you put down.