Respect is one of those values which often feels lacking in our society. There is too little respect for human life, and there’s also not enough for the non-human lives lost due to human needs. Respect for the environment — whether untouched wilderness, urban streetscape, or anything in between — also frequently falls short of the mark. Self-respect, for many of us, is completely out of the question. Some people have no respect for education, or the experience of others; some withdraw it wholesale from entire swaths of people: the young, the old, women, those with too much melanin, those with disabilities, those who can’t speak the local language without a strong accent. It’s no wonder that respect for unseen spirits and beings without a voice is hard to muster among many populations, given the number of people who struggle with giving it to other human beings.
I cannot solve the problem of respect overall. Each of us must begin by cultivating it within ourselves, for ourselves. The tide will turn if and only if we choose to turn it.
What I would like to have, on the other hand, is a conversation about respect for money. How we value money and how we value ourselves are related, but that relationship can vary. For most people on the planet, it’s extremely difficult to have no relationship with money at all, but how emotionally invested an individual is in currency depends on eir experience and values. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that money, once it touches a life, rarely leaves it unchanged.
Many people loathe money, or fear it, or crave it, or would do terrible things to obtain it. Sounds a whole lot like alcohol or heroin to me, and the problem is the same: a lack of respect for the relevant spirit, often due to a lack of understanding. Indeed, addiction can be one of the ways an unhealthy relationship with money manifests, just as it’s how it can manifest with the spirits of those powerful drugs. On the other hand, complete avoidance without reason might result in benefits being missed out on, just as a teetotaler won’t gain the benefits to heart health of drinking the occasional glass of red wine.
The comparison is by no means perfect: a gambling or shopping addict likely cannot practice the complete avoidance that an alcoholic should for booze; in that sense it’s more like a compulsive eater’s inability to swear off food entirely. I do not know if it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with opiates any more than it is to have a healthy one with poison ivy. Some spirits are just so strong that they lay waste to humans. There is certainly an argument to be made that money is one of those spirits, but I’m still in the camp that we can find a healthy way to relate to money.
Lack of respect for money in part comes from the assumption that it’s actually a human invention. That’s true in one sense, just as it’s true that the barometer is a human invention, but I don’t think anyone has made the logical leap of concluding that just because we can measure air pressure means we invented weather. Money is a construct, but as such it manifests spirits which existed before humans were ever aware of them. Belief that we invented money is part and parcel with the lack of respect with which we provide it.
To the extent that it is a human invention, what does our use of it say about us? Are you giving money to people to get them to debase themselves, whether it’s shoving it into a g-string or demanding superior table service for your meal? Do you ever give money to a beggar on the street? Whether or not you chose to, how did you feel in that moment? Have you ever stolen money? Have you ever had money stolen from you, by force, stealth, or trickery? How does being a victim feel? If you’ve been a thief, what’s it like to help create those feelings in other people? Do you save for retirement, or instead just hope for the best? Do you know how much much you’ve got in the bank? Do you know how much you make in a month, or how much you must spend on expenses?
Whether drowning in money or stripped of it completely, we all have a relationship with the stuff in this society, and how we relate to money is in part a reflection of how we relate to ourselves. Taking steps to mend that relationship may, in time, make changing the answers to those introspective questions easier.
How to show respect for money:
- keep paper currency neat and orderly. Smooth out the wrinkles. If a bill is torn, tape it. Bank face the money to make it easy to find the right denomination (unless you have a sight impairment that requires a different strategy).
- don’t walk by coins on the ground. Show them respect by picking them up; even the lowly penny has value. I consider all found money to be a blessing and reserve it for special purchases. There’s no shortage of pithy sayings about those coins; “money on the floor, money at my door” is one that I was taught by an extremely non-spiritual person. In some traditions, it’s believed that discarded money could be carrying with it a malevolent spirit. In my experience, the spirit of money itself washes away that history.
- one small change might be to respect one’s small change. That includes found money, but also those coins which end up kicking around the floor or piled in the console of the car or otherwise treated like so much garbage. Stop doing that. Value what you’ve got.
- look at your money, whether it’s in physical form or electronic. Be aware of what you own and owe. You might be in dire financial health, but looking away accomplishes nothing good, heaping on stress about the unknown. We can neither accept nor reshape a situation which we ignore. Look also at how you spend it, and what values are represented in those decisions. Not judgment; awareness.
- keep a shrine to money. This is a good idea whether you desire more abundance, wish to give some away, or believe you have just enough for your wants and needs. A money shrine allows space to express gratitude for the money that is in one’s life, no matter if it’s enough, too much, or insufficient. I’ve used mine to save money, for everything from addressing household needs to building up a sum to give to a complete stranger. Put your money in a place of honor in your home, and money might honor you in turn.
- don’t assume money is a whore. Yes, money can be used to make more money, but don’t treat its spirit like something to be used and tossed away after the money shot. All those spells that use money to draw more money make about as much sense as using sex magic to improve one’s chances of getting laid. Money is not your bitch. Recall that the Hellenic god of prosperity, Ploutos, is blind; when you’re not being watched, how do you treat money? How does that reflect on you?
The question remains: why respect money? The answer turns it about: why respect anything? Respect is one of those acts which reflects upon the actor; giving respect garners respect, although not necessarily in the way one might presume. Treating others with respect — including non-human persons — gets one in the habit of self-respect.
Showing respect for money is not a get-rich-quick scheme, any more than showing respect for one’s sexual partner is a surefire way to get laid. I don’t show respect for money spirits because I expect them to put out, and while I am not living in a mansion and wearing a monocle, and find myself regularly thanking them for allowing me to have enough in my life to stave off poverty. What more does anyone really need?