This article is written by Consumerism Commentary’s columnist, Ellen Cooper-Davis. Ellen’s column will look at the role of spirituality within the context of personal finance. For an introduction to this column, see Ellen’s first article, The Pastor and the Purse. Your feedback is welcome.
In the Jewish tradition, we are in the midst of the season known as the High Holy Days, in which people engage in deep introspection and self-reflection in preparation for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.
First, there is teshuvah, usually translated as repentance or turning. But Hebrew words are delightfully nuanced–this can be thought of as stopping in your tracks and turning around. Jewish tradition teaches that we need not be identified by our habits–they can be changed. I need not feel shame and guilt about a particular spending habit. I can choose to change it. I need not think of myself as “bad with money” because I have not yet learned to manage it well. I can choose to educate myself. The invitation in this turning is to reflect on where we have not lived up to being our best selves (is my spending in line with my values?), and make a commitment to more integrity.
There is also tefilah, or prayer. In my own Unitarian Universalist tradition, not all people believe in God. So we understand prayer or meditation to be an intentional time of reconnection between the individual, and that which is greater than the self. That can be a Higher Power, God, the Universe, or humanity. When we reaffirm our fundamental connectedness, we can make choices reflective of the reality of how interconnected we all are. We might explore socially responsible investing, or fair trade products, or participate in microlending, or support local business first. When we remember our connectedness, we more easily shift from thinking of “me” to thinking of “we.”
Finally, there is tzedakah, or good deeds, most especially, charity. In economic times like this, we might feel the impulse to reduce our generosity and giving, to hoard, to give in to a mentality of scarcity. But if we are relatively comfortable in our lives, then giving to those who are truly struggling is even more necessary. There is a growing body of research that links financial generosity and giving to an increase in happiness in the giver’s life, as well. When we are kind to others, we also benefit.
You may not be Jewish, or even religious. In my tradition, we understand all the world’s faiths to contain wisdom that can help us be compassionate, wise, loving, moral people. As we enter autumn, a season of change, I invite you to reflect on your spending and saving habits. Where we see things we wish to change, we can know that we have the ability to move toward being the people we wish to be.
Where is your money life not as in line with your values as it could be? What change might you invite? How does your use of money reflect your sense of connection to that which is larger than the self? What stands between you and greater generosity?
Editor’s note: See the “About the Author” section below to learn more about the author, Ellen Cooper-Davis. Ellen’s column appears about monthly on Consumerism Commentary.