I don’t know if it is just how my brain works, but I am constantly seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated things. Perhaps that is one way that God is helping me to process my issues on a deeper level. Perhaps it is just the teacher in me, looking to find ways to promote critical thinking.
In either case, here are my top ten reasons for believing that over-spending and over-eating are cut from the same cloth.
- I have to eat and I have to spend money. Clearly, there are significant variations and proportions but my life requires both actions for survival. So, unlike other addictions or issues, total “cold-turkey” avoidance is an impossibility. I do have to confront both things daily.
- Healthy eaters and spenders have plans and they stick to them. (I prefer to call them plans as opposed to diets or budgets so that they sound less punitive.)
- When I overdo it, I feel guilty, truly guilty. It is not the elusive false guilt where there is a looming sense of doing something wrong; rather, I can pin point a specific action that is contrary to what is right and I have to acknowledge that fact before I can move on. I guess this is essentially, the way over-eaters and over-spenders “fall off the wagon”.
- Both involve numbers but aren’t really about them. It’s not what the scale or the MasterCard bill says that is the problem; the issue is what they reveal about my unhealthy choices and patterns. In that sense, focusing on the numbers is not a complete solution (they are merely a way of tangibly measuring change).
- Both over-indulgences bring short term pleasure but long term pain (classic theology about sin). Unhealthy bodies and unhealthy finances will lead to all kinds of difficulties: stress, physical ailments, discouragement, relational strife, loss of freedoms, and umpteen other consequences.
- If I make poor choices, I will eventually lose my freedom to choose. At some point, I have to face the reality of what has been overdone and when that happens (my health is compromised, I am drowning in debt) I no longer have a choice about my own eating and spending; essentially, the doctor or the bank decides for me.
- Both are challenges in determining wants and needs and there are no clear cut definitions for these terms. Perhaps I can rule out the glaringly obvious poor choices (eating a whole bag of Lays dill pickle chips by myself), but most consumption and spending choices cannot be deemed distinctly right or wrong. I am trying to see my choices within a healthy and principled framework where there are parameters and logical reasons for each choice. As a side note, comparing myself to others when it comes to eating or spending is a slippery slope. It is one thing to solicit advice and helpful strategies but I must work through my own set of principles and avoid measuring my success according to someone else’s convictions (see 1 Corinthians 10:23*).
- Retail Therapy and Comfort Food are idols: inadequate substitutes for the only thing that really satisfies. They are both temporary escapes from deeper struggles that are only suppressed for the moment. They are distractions at best and they will never lose their power over me unless the root causes are addressed.
- Lack of contentment is often the motivation behind patterns of over-indulgence. The concept of “enough” is elusive, especially in this part of the world. My behaviour often promotes the myth that more is better. I am learning that less is more, if I want a truly fulfilling life.
- Both issues cannot be tackled with willpower alone. They are spiritual problems and they require supernatural solutions. Frequently soliciting God’s help through prayer and the support of other journeyers is the only hope for establishing long term change.
In what ways do you see similarities between these issues?
*1 Corinthians 10:23 (MSG)
Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.