Knowing how to live in a world mobilised by money whilst honouring God can be a minefield.
But what if our financial activity is a sign of more than just a struggle to negotiate the numerous passages of scripture that deal with money? What if our spending habits reveal a deeper, darker emotional struggle?
I am talking about a spending addiction. That is, the unhealthy cycle of endlessly buying stuff – clothes, makeup, products – in order to feel whole and complete.
We’re wired to find beautiful things attractive. It also seems fairly innate for us, particularly as women, to want to be beautiful. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting this, with buying a new lipstick or splashing out on a lovely haircut. The problem arises when this initial excitement becomes a need. A need becomes consuming and leads to a compulsion to buy new things all the time in order to relive the high and feel good again. And as with many addictions, the ‘good’ feeling is very short lived and leaves us feeling empty and ashamed.
The source of this addiction is emotional insecurity: a hugely complex issue that can be the result of any number of experiences over any number of years. The outward working of negative opinions we hold of ourselves can manifest itself as a shopping addiction, as we try to fill the gaps that have been left, or the holes that have been made, by the people we care about. It’s those same people, whose opinion we value so highly, that we are desperately trying to please.
Abigail* is a beautiful twenty-five year old whose shopping addiction led her to spend a £20,000 inheritance in a year. Having supported her family through a period of chaos, she developed a serious case of anxiety. This was exacerbated by hurtful behaviour from family members and quickly escalated into a spending problem.
‘I bought things to make myself feel better. In the same way that pornography might be a temporary fix for a guy, shopping made me feel good for a while. But like with porn, that feeling is temporary and leaves behind it a complete emptiness. I would feel sick. I wouldn’t let myself sleep because I was so upset and angry.’
Fortunately, Abigail gained control of her problem before it led her into debt, but this isn’t the case for everyone. And even if our addiction to buying things is financially sustainable, the negative emotional baggage that has left our self-esteem in tatters severs us from the freedom in which God made us to live.
‘It wasn’t until I found my own identity, rooted in Jesus, that I was able to stop. I would say to myself, “You are enough, you are enough”, and repeat it throughout the day, aware that though I didn’t always feel it, I had chosen to believe it.’
It can be so hard to tell someone that you have a problem, especially if your desire for approval is the real reason for all your spending. The fear of what they might think, whether they will be able to accept you, forgive you, love you, can be crippling. But saying things out loud is immeasurably powerful. And those who love you now will continue to love you once you tell them, and may even trust you more because of your honesty.
As you may have already found, money can build barriers in relationships, especially if we start hiding our spending habits from our loved ones. Secrecy fosters shame and shame is never God’s plan for us. Instead, opening up lets in the light; and by hanging onto your credit card or changing your online shopping passwords, for example, your loved ones can have the opportunity to support you practically, as well as emotionally.
Abigail had struggled to pray about the problem because of her shame; she didn’t feel able to go to God with something that caused her so much guilt, despite it being the time she needed God’s support and healing most. But in the end, as Abigail found, real security comes from wholly grasping that God is enough for you – and you are enough just as you are.
If you’re concerned about your finances or you want to improve your money management, check out capmoneycourse.org where you can get booked onto a course near you. To find out more information, or if you’re interested in running a course, give the CAP Money team a ring on 01274760567.
By Kate Martin
CAP has also launched CAP Release Groups, which equip members to break free from life controlling habits and dependencies – offering support for when you want to stop. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about specific groups.
Bio: Kate Martin is the PR and Grants Support Officer at Christians Against Poverty. Last year, she finished a degree in History of Art at the University of Leeds, having harboured many an academic crush on her female tutors. She is passionately believes that God has called her to defend those living in poverty and injustice, but is convinced that a violent, oppositional approach is not the way. Aside from that minor undertaking, she enjoys walking, dancing, painting and eating.
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