Freedom from “Chains” We Forge – Financial and Otherwise

Last Monday, I read a post from Mackenzie at The Random Path, and it got me thinking. The title, “Living the Fullest Life”, touches upon why most – if not all – of us want to get out of debt and reach a state of financial independence. The scenes of freedom Mackenzie describes in her post resonated with me – from the simple “times the wind whipped through my hair” to the grander “walk beneath the Eiffel Tower.”


My favourite Christmas movie is the 1951 version of Scrooge, based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ve watched it ever since I was a little girl, when I was very frightened by all of its ghosts and spirits. Marley, Scrooge’s old partner in business – and dead for seven years – makes a ghostly appearance to get the plot rolling. Scrooge, terrified, notices a chain wrapped around Marley, and he asks the apparition why it is there. “‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will, I wore it.'”

Marley’s sad lament rings true for the debtor: “I bought on credit and created my debt – purchase by purchase – of my own free will.” Many of us have visions of what debt-freedom and financial freedom look like, and I would bet the one thing they all have in common is found in that word “freedom”. Freedom from the chains of worry and obligation. Freedom to kick back, to volunteer, to pursue talents and interests, to travel . . .

“It’s not about money.”

“As you work to pay off your debt, you’ll realize that it’s not about money.” That concept from Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover really annoyed me when I first read it. Of course it’s about money!  I thought at the time. But more and more, I’m realizing that it isn’t. As I face down our debt, I face down my own character flaws (like impatience) as well as unhealthy patterns in relationships (like avoiding confrontation) and knee-jerk compulsions (like marking every occasion and expressing every sentiment with a purchase of food). Once I’ve overcome these things, I believe our finances will come into alignment more naturally – less willpower required.

But I haven’t overcome them yet.

A personal stumbling block: anger & avoidance of confrontation

When I read Mackenzie’s post, I was angry with someone. I won’t give the context – extended family, friends, work, neighbourhood, church – it could have been any one of these – but I will say that if you knew the whole story, you would empathize, “I would be angry too!” That’s not the point though. We all have reason to get angry on occasion. The point is, I don’t deal with anger well. That bit about “unhealthy patterns in relationships (like avoiding confrontation)” comes into play, and I either bottle it all up or whine. “You need to vent. That’s OK,” people say, but when you’re venting to one pair of ears after another, it’s not “venting” anymore. It’s gossip. It’s backstabbing. “I would much rather have someone tell me directly if I’ve made them angry,” I’ve said before. So why wouldn’t I do the same for someone else? Why is it so difficult for me to go up to a person and say, “I need to talk with you about something . . .”? Why is it more comfortable for me to be bottled up or to engage in serial “venting”? Because, although it IS an “unhealthy pattern in relationship”, it’s what I’m used to. It’s more familiar than the relatively unpracticed experience of healthy, honest confrontation.

I knew all this last week. I knew it as I read Mackenzie’s post. And I found myself thinking that maybe I pin too much expectation on financial freedom. Don’t get me wrong! I plan to keep making my way to  financial freedom, but it won’t be a freedom worth attaining if I continue to make other chains, “link by link”. There is no freedom in stifled emotion. There is no freedom in gossip. No matter how healthy your finances are.

So later in the week, I took that uncomfortable step. “I need to talk with you about something . . .” I won’t say how it went other than to say it fell far short of ideal – because of the way it was received – or wasn’t received. But I’ll also say that it had a liberating effect almost immediately. I had been so worried about how the other person would respond, but in the end, what mattered most was that I had done my part. My anger, that no amount of “venting” would satisfy, was decimated. My fear surrounding the confrontation vanished. Immediately, I had more confidence, more peace, more joy. More freedom.

Freedom as a state of mind

“I want to remember all the times the wind whipped through my hair . . .” says Mackenzie. For me, those words conjure up the image of a summer day at the beach. But in fact, the wind whipped through my hair this morning as I crossed the parking lot from my car to the door at work. I’m sure we’ve all had an experience that in one context is the essence of freedom, and in another gets lost in the fog of preoccupation. So much depends upon your state of mind, your character, your patterns of relationship. If you’ve got anger bottled up, it will still weigh you down at the beach – no matter how much wind is whipping through your hair. But if you’ve dealt with that anger, the wind feels pretty liberating even in the parking lot at work.

Do you find, as you figure things out at a surface level financially, that deeper things surface? Character flaws, unhealthy patterns, compulsions? I think there is something to be said for paying attention to both ends of that spectrum. Keep up with the budgets, the tracking, the sales at the grocery store . . . And at the same time, challenge your flaws and compulsions; carve out new patterns. Although they might not seem to be connected, I believe they are. They all have to do with un-linking the chains that bind – with attaining more freedom – with “Living the Fullest Life.”

What seemingly “unrelated” issues have surfaced for you as you’ve focused on your financial health? Do you see freedom as more than just financial? Your comments are welcome.

*Photo courtesy of t4nsu on Deviant Art

21 comments on “Freedom from “Chains” We Forge – Financial and Otherwise

  1. A great post Ruth thanks for sharing. I’m not sure if we had any unrelated issue surface since focusing our of finances. I’m sure there have been some, but the tools we have learned have given us a road map for dealing for such things. Having a plan, communication, having less overall stress, etc. I feel like we are better prepared for when things occur.

    I wonder if the feeling of anger & avoidance of confrontation have always been there for you, but now you just have better ways to deal with them and are not afraid to take them on.

    1. They have definitely been there for me all along, Brian – and although it’s not an obvious connection, they’ve played into our finances. Part of the reason I kept my head in the sand financially for so long was to avoid conflict. My husband and I have had plenty of “healthy confrontation” since we started our journey out of debt : ) And it’s been a good thing. Also, I think that emotional spending results from things like unresolved anger. I’m surprised to hear you say that you’ve encountered no unrelated issue. If it’s been a straightforward thing for you to tackle your debts, more power to you!

        1. When people say they never have disagreements with their spouse, I figure there’s something seriously wrong. Sounds like you’re handling yours with grace : )

  2. Thanks for sharing what seems like a very personal story and chain of thoughts. I think it’s true that ‘getting out of debt’ is about so much more than just making the payments. It’s about changing behaviors so that you can stop adding to your debt, it’s about making changes in your lifestyle to make the payoff a priority. It’s about sticking with it over the long term. It’s about making the changes permanent so that even after you pay it off, you ensure that you don’t get right back into debt again. This leads to so many more emotions and things along the way that I think people often overlook. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Mr. MB. It IS pretty personal – hopefully not tmi! ” It’s about making the changes permanent” – I think the key to permanence lies in the recognition of the underlying flaws that often lead to debt. If the focus is just on the money, those old fears or patterns won’t be addressed, and they might just kick in again to bring on another wave of debt.

  3. Thanks for sharing my post while interpolating your own thoughts and words 🙂 I always look forward to your posts here on Fruclassity because they always give me food for thought. Cheers to all of us on our goals of Living the Fullest Life possible! 🙂

    1. I will join you in that toast, Mackenzie! I’m so glad you get food for thought here at Fruclassity. Clearly, you’ve provided lots of food for thought for me too – since your post inspired this one. (And I like the new look of your site!)

  4. Wow … that was amazing. I’m in awe of your insights Ruth. I’ve always realized that while I can be in touch with my emotions, I can rarely express them well. You remind me of my son. He can express the most fleeting thoughts and feelings too. I wish I could give you a standing ovation. Well, I can, but you can’t see me, so just to let you know. I am! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Kay! Your comments are so encouraging. And you make me laugh! (I think I actually CAN see you standing there by your laptop, clapping : ) Ideally, I believe we can all get to the point where we express all emotions in an honest, constructive way.

  5. I agree totally, Ruth. As we’ve worked to pay off debt, we’ve uncovered so many other issues that contributed to the debt in the first place. And it’s been wonderfully freeing to be healed from the issues, many of which we didn’t even realize existed. We started asking ourselves the “whys” behind the over-spending and got some very revealing answers.

    1. A friend of mine wants to tackle her debts, but she thinks she needs to know the root causes of her poor money management before she begins. “Start with tracking,” I advised. “The root causes will become apparent with time.” After reading your comment, I feel more confident that I told her the right thing. Thanks, Laurie : )

  6. “Do you see freedom as more than just financial?” Indeed. For me, total freedom and well-being means being in control and properly managing my financial, mental, spiritual and physical well-being. With that being said, while all areas are important, my experience has been that once you attain financial freedom, it is easier to get, and maintain, control of the others.

    1. I believe that I do know people who are excellent with money, but who lack freedom in other areas – like emotional and/or physical health. But once you start really working on any single area – financial, mental, spiritual, physical, emotional – there can be a positive ripple effects in other areas too. I’m glad your positive experience with finances has paved the way for freedom in other areas too, James : )

  7. I think that I had a similar realization as you, but with a different personal weakness. I love to be in control, and when I first started taking stock of our financial situation it was a power trip. It took quite a while to realized that practicing self-control is a good and healthy thing, but trying to control all of life is impossible.

    In fact, if we had a movie that played out our whole life in front of us before we lived it (everything that we want to know), we probably wouldn’t sign up for the life God gives us. It seems to me, that improving financial health has freed me up to take steps of faith, but its also so easy to trust in money that it can be a double edged sword.

    1. I think you can trust in good money management without compromising your faith. There is so much in the Bible supporting financial wisdom. You are managing your “talents” well, and I have no doubt you’ll be trusted with more and more. Good to be wary as you are, I’m sure, but if your focus is on the management rather than the money itself, I think you’re on the right track in every sense. Thank you, Hannah – mother of two : ) It’s nice to have you back in the comments section. Are you writing your own posts again? Well, there’s one way to find out : )

  8. Wonderful, thoughtful post, Ruth. I agree that it’s important to pursue growing character as we also aim for financial goals, and that the two can be very much related. For me, being a naturally frugal person is also tied to having a controlling personality. This comes out with money as well as my closest relationships, sometimes as anxiety or anger. It’s definitely worth dealing with, even if it can sometimes help us save money, it could also lead to a lot of unnecessary worry.

    1. Your comment echoes what Hannah said. I really respect your humility in recognizing a character flaw – even one with the side-benefit of good finances. I think that the best thing that controlling people can do – if they recognize that changing would be a good thing – is to listen to others’ responses to them, and to accept those responses instead of shutting them down. I strongly suspect that you are doing this already, so that you’ll reap the benefits of your personality without allowing its flawed aspects to sabotage what is important to you. Thank you, Kalie : )

  9. Avoidance of confrontation is my middle name! In part, I think that has helped contribute to the state of our finances because I’ve avoided talking to my husband about them. My head was never in the sand about the escalating debt, but it’s something my husband and I have to work on together, and letting him stay ignorant of the reality, made things worse. We finally had the big talk a few weeks ago, and while it wasn’t pretty, it was very liberating and enlightening.

    Oh, and I’m guilty of celebrating with food, too. This is especially dangerous now that we’re entering ice cream season…

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Amy. It might take your husband a while to get on the same page as you, but it will be worth every “big talk” you have to have to get there. Learning not to avoid confrontation but to take it on as a constructive move forward is so tough for peace keepers like us! In the end though, it creates more peace. All the best with this. (And feel free to celebrate every step forward with ice cream : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *