Excerpt from Chapter 6: Character and Integrity

Your Net Worth — November 2007

I've had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with money my entire life. Like most people, I want to have enough money—which begs the age-old question, 'How much is enough?'

Most people seem to find that what they need is always slightly more than whatever they have at the moment. But I've never really aspired to more—and have, in fact, been quite uncomfortable with any dealings related to money. This has led me to give away a lot of my time and energy and in turn to find myself without the kind of security that money is supposed to provide.

Fortunately, many years ago, I addressed the 'security issue' by identifying with a quote I read saying, "Security is having more—or needing less!" So my tendency is to find ways to need less rather than to have more.

I think some of the reason for my feelings about money relate to the way I grew up, with very little in the way of monetary comforts.

Daddy was the oldest boy in a family of nine and had to drop out of school to help support his family of origin. Daddy worked very hard his entire life, spending many years working in a stave mill and finally getting a service station when I was 16 years old. As a consequence of my upbringing, one of my strongest values in life is to work hard and to be self-sufficient.

Another influence was the way Daddy was so generous with what he had, leading me to be more compassionate toward those who have very little. Unfortunately, I tend to be much less so toward those who have a lot in terms of 'things.'

I'm not proud of this bias, so I work to overcome it by reminding myself that all people face difficulties in life, regardless of their financial status. I'm convinced that if we could know the full life circumstances of those who appear to 'have it all,' we'd find that they also deal with many difficult challenges and deserve our compassion and understanding.

I share this as a way of pointing out how easy it is to judge people by outward signs (like money) while failing to see the person behind the image. It's important to avoid making a judgment about others on any standard other than their humanity. As the main song from the enormously popular "High School Musical" says, 'We're all in this together.'

This is particularly true when it comes to recognizing the temporary nature of not only our financial station in life—but life itself. We might be well served to keep in mind that when we come to the end of our life the final determination of our net worth will not be based on our finances. What will count is not how much money we had, but who we were and how many people's lives we touched. In that way, everyone has the opportunity of having a significant 'net worth.'

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