Posted in Money on March 1st, 2017
One of my favorite holiday seasons in the year – Lent – celebrates the value of discipline, repentance, reflection. Each Lent, I deny myself of something that I have, use or do during the season of Lent. As we mention on this site, and will continue mentioning, one of the lessons and practices learned during Lent is discipline – the greatest form of wealth.
I hope you are recovering nicely from any celebratory drinks yesterday. Although this holiday season is rooted in religious context of Passover and Easter, it is marked by celebration of “Fat Tuesday.” I am not knocking down on celebrating. I always enjoy a good celebration among friends and family. Although the meaning have changed over the years, I am reminded what is really important in my life. I believe having or doing things in excess blurs what is important. Let’s remove distractions and work towards lasting wealth.
As we’ve covered on this site, becoming a disciple of discipline will eliminate the power of greed in our lives as well as help us overcome fear. Discipline cannot be taxed, confiscated, or restricted by capital controls – discipline is wealth in every age. Reflection requires discipline. Sacrifice requires discipline. Repentance requires discipline. Humility requires discipline. And every vice in existence is crushed by discipline.
Lent celebrates many of these virtues, like humility, reflection, etc, and one common practice is giving up something valuable. If you’re new to the concept of giving up something you value for over 40 days, you might want to start small rather than choose something big. Discipline is a skill that must be trained and self-denial is a form of discipline. My preference is to give something up I value and add something else in its place that involves mastering another virtue, whether that virtue is patience, reflection, kindness, etc.
During and after the season ends, I like to reflect over the value of the item or action I sacrificed. The main purpose here is to avoid going to extremes in either direction and placing the item or action in its proper place. As we wrote in 3 Personal Finance Lessons From Fight Club:
Like rampant materialism, the anti-materialists go too far as well. In hating materialism, they try to destroy everything – “we’ll have a world with nothing!” Is that better than rampant materialism? No. I’ve observed in studying people that they’ll often pick the opposite extreme of a view when they discover it’s wrong than they will pick a more moderate stance. For example, I would agree that rampant materialism is destructive and wasteful, but hating everything that exists is the exact same problem. Why can’t people be pragmatically materialistic – owning things that serve a purpose rather than owning stuff for the sake of owning stuff? Tyler never addresses this much more moderate view – the possessions that we own which serve a purpose in our life do not own us, rather they do work for us and we are their master. No one needs to be a genius to see how Tyler misses this point. A beautiful scene at the end of the movie is when Jack finally realizes this – and he shoots himself, killing Tyler who we learn is really Jack’s alter ego (Jack does not die, rather Tyler does).
Jack realizes that he needs to learn self-discipline and self-honesty; do our possession serve us, or do they make us slaves? Our we spending out of control, or are we disciplined in our spending? As Juvenal from the Roman Empire writes, “A man should know and study his own measure in great things and small alike: even when buying fish don’t go hankering after a salmon on an income only suited to catfish.” If we never learn self-honesty and self-discipline, we’ll be constantly pulled to extremes because extremes attract people without both; we can’t look and we what we’ve become and we can’t control what we become.
It is a absolute delight to experience missing something for a season and another delight to experience the joy of it returning.
This is a great opportunity to learn something about ourselves. It is another opportunity to grow in a short period of time. For many, it may be a time to experiment on a goal. One thing I really “enjoy” is fasting. Fasting has become popular in secular circles. I hear more discussions in the media about the health benefits of fasting. I tend to not fast longer than a day. This is a very difficult thing to do, considering the body urges us to eat every day. Sometimes every other hour! But, after a period of time, the hunger goes away. It also reminds me of the less fortunate around the world. Like meditation, sometimes it is hard. If I break fast early, then I try again later. I do not beat myself up because I “failed.” Whether you celebrate Lent or not, let us take steps toward lasting wealth.