Friday, January 8, 2016

Ownership: Are We Not All Debtors?

Going into debt has a bad wrap because so many people abuse it or take it in vain. Its real purpose is to allow us to obtain the things that we need to live  that are expensive and beyond our present capacity to pay in full up front, such as a house. Most of us haven’t saved up that much money before we get married and start a family of our own. Instead of having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars up front, we can make a smaller down payment and then commit to making more affordable monthly payments over a given period of time after we move in.

Perspective and Attitude Make All the Difference
Some people see the subsequent long term commitment that going into debt requires as a ball and chain. Bondage. They focus only on the responsibilities and forget the privileges they are continuously receiving. They see their creditor as a jailer, adversary, someone who is taking advantage of them. Others see it as a total blessing! These focus more on the privileges they are granted up front without having to pay the whole thing at once and let that gratitude motivate them to keep their commitments. They see their creditor as a savior, friend, someone who is taking a hit for them.

Credit Abuse
Abusing credit is about going into too much debt—debt that doesn’t fit into our financial budget so that we are powerless to make even the merciful monthly payments. We have x amount of incoming dollars each month and x amount going out. When we go into debt for something we need to be willing and able to make the monthly payments out of our incoming funds without exceeding the outgoing. If we can’t make the payments because we over-commit ourselves in our purchases, we abuse the merciful practice of buying on credit. We are communicating that we want the privilege but not the responsibility.  Abusing credit is the same thing as abusing Mercy.

Abusing credit is also about Survival of the Fittest creditors. These types of creditors increase the interest rate to such high levels that they basically keep us paying off the debt forever or at least make it a very bad financial decision to have ever gotten into. These creditors are in the business deal for themselves, not to help people get a start on life. 

In the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life” we are able to see the different results of two very different creditors. Our main character, George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart, is in the building and loan business to help people. He helps them get out of the slums and into nicer, cleaner, safer neighborhoods even at the expense of putting off the fulfillment of his own dreams. The antagonist, Mr. Potter played by Lionel Barrymore, entraps people who are going through hard times into his loans and slums, making himself the richest man in town, seemingly with the most power. 
In the end we see how rich an honest Paradoxical creditor really is, having developed for years loving lasting relationships with family, friends, and God (#AngelClarence).

“And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” ~Luke 16:9  
(Be forgiving and merciful to the mammon of unrighteousness--those who are overly focused on temporal needs out of fear instead of having faith in Christ that when we keep his commandments, all things will work out for our good.  Consider the lilies of the field...)

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ~Matthew 6:14-15 

Listen:  Love Of Another Kind by Amy Grant

Refusing Mercy
Abusing credit seems to be pretty common. But how often do we consider the practice of avoiding debt even with good creditors. Some people avoid it altogether because of the fear of Survival of the Fittest creditors. Instead of receiving the mercy of purchasing by credit that lightens burdens considerably and makes the adversity we bear much more bearable, we refuse to enter into any type of covenant relationship. Because we won’t receive the merciful help from someone who is more than willing to give it to us, we may then be unable to develop our own abilities to help others. If we’re more than trustworthy in regards to paying people back and the creditor is more than fair in his terms of the loan, both parties are not abusing the relationship. Rather we are building a relationship of trust, which enables us to develop other relationships of trust.

“And I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also.” ~Mosiah 4:29

Parable of the Talents

Listen:  Come Unto Jesus by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir 

Privileges and Responsibilities
Even if we pay in full for something, if we want to continue receiving the quality of privileges we did at the beginning, we need to maintain it. Our house, even after we pay off the loan, will continue to need maintenance work throughout the entire time we own it. Otherwise it will fall into disrepair. Thus paying off the builder or the bank who owns the house is not the only responsibility we have. Part of being an owner of anything is to take care of it, maintain it, repair it, upkeep it. And most of us want to make it even better.

Owning Our 2015 New Year's Resolutions
For the past year and 28 blog posts I have been writing about Goal Achievement based on our New Year's Resolutions made in January of 2015 (see blog post The Value of Valuing). So now that it’s January 2016 and we’re exploring our New Year's Resolutions again, it’s probably a good idea for each of us to first look at this past year’s results. Did we actually obtain what we set out to obtain? Did we achieve our goal? If so, what are we doing to maintain it? Once we achieve any goal, we need to remember it, take care of it, repair it, upkeep it, just as we would a house we have purchased. We do this in order to maintain the achievement. 
We don’t want to put in all the work we have this past year and then let it slip away because we’ve moved onto different goals. We can "ring out the old and ring in the new" while still holding onto the valuable things we have received and accomplished.  Our 2016 New Year's Resolutions can build on 2015’s. Some of this year’s goals can be to maintain last year’s achievements and maybe even make them better.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred Lord Tennyson

Are We Not All Debtors?
We all entered this life on credit. We were debtors from the beginning. That's not a bad thing!  It means we're beneficiaries, heirs, recipients.  This world and our bodies were created for us.

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? ...And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.” ~Mosiah 4:19, 21

Additionally, before we were able to work or pay for anything, we were taken care throughout babyhood and childhood. Even though this life is accompanied by adversity, it is still life. We live and have a level of Sustainable Joy. This earth is a huge ecosystem within an uninhabitable universe. It is a place where adversity is considerably minimized so that we can live. The sun provides us with continuous vital energy. Our bodies are like an ecosystem as well.  They house our spirits. They are remarkable creations.

We’ve got everything we need to live and the potential to be happy, given our choices. Our creditor is God. And that means we are in debt to him. We have the opportunity to use what he has given us to make “monthly payments” to him. Payment comes in different forms, not just money. We “pay it forward” via our sacrifice, our service to others, our kind deeds, our choice to use Paradoxical Strategies to obtain our goals and resolve our conflicts. We serve and sacrifice for others within our capacity to do so. When we have our own children and care for them throughout their babyhood and childhood, we can sense that we are fulfilling our commitment to pay forward what was done for us. It’s not that we are forced to do so. The hope is that we will do so out of love. God would have us sacrifice voluntarily out of gratitude for what he sacrificed for us first.

Being Grateful for Our Responsibilities
When we receive someone else’s continuous sacrifice, we experience Peace.  That is an amazing blessing.  It is a privilege much like owning a house.  But receiving too much for how little we give via our own responsibilities makes us bored, apathetic, depressed, and stagnant.  It spoils us.  In order to have Joy we need to pass on that Peace to others. We need to share our own gifts. And that's why our responsibilities to our creditors are such a blessing!  When we sacrifice for others Paradoxically, energy flows out of us so that we balance that Peace that we're continuously receiving. When we keep our commitments we experience feelings of excitement, exhilaration, and motivation that cannot be had in ANY OTHER WAY.  This movement of Energy-in (receive Peace) and Energy-out (give Peace) is Joy. Thus without responsibilities--paying our creditor, maintaining the things we own, continuously using and improving our achievements, paying it forward--we could never have joy!  And we should always be aware that because our Savior was steadfast and true to his word through his sacrifice, his Peace is always there for us when we sacrifice in his name.

Listen:  Hallelujah (From 'The Messiah') by Mannheim Steamroller

Motivation For Denying the Creator
If the truth--God is our creator and therefore our Paradoxical creditor--were generally understood and accepted, more people would be obeying the commandments of God out of gratitude and thus living in Sustainable Joy to the level of their satisfaction. But our adversary (#Satan) has been attacking this truth from the beginning. Why? Because if we don’t believe God created us and the earth and we don’t focus on the privileges we are continuously receiving, then we have no creditor. If this gigantic ecosystem we call earth and the spectacular machine we call the body were created by random events, we don’t owe anyone anything. We have no reason to be good. We have no reason to use Paradoxical Strategies to obtain our goals and resolve our conflicts. It’s just a free-for-all. And when that’s the framework we’re working from, we see Survival of the Fittest Strategies as the logical way to get what we want. Those who are stronger, smarter, richer, or more advanced in any way take advantage of those who are presently weaker, ignorant, poorer, or less advanced in any way. That means adults abuse and neglect children to obtain their desires. That’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. Kind of ungrateful don’t you think?  No joy can be had if we implement this Survival model. 

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” ~Mosiah 13:15

“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” ~D&C 59:21

Note:  Because many of us have been raised by Survival of the Fittest Creditors in our own families or even in the society in which we live, we are given time to come to know our original Creditor.  Once we know him and develop a covenant relationship with him, his love enables us to overcome our Survival tendencies.  He knows we can't be expected to pay forward what was not done to us until he actually does it unto us himself.  He redeems us.  He recompenses us.  He saves us.  That's the amazing beauty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see blog post Paradoxical vs. Survival Parenting

Listen:  Born Again by Newsboys

We're All Both Creditors and Debtors
Generally speaking, adults are stronger and children are weaker. That changes over time. Children grow up to become adults. We also grow up spiritually from Debtor to Creditor via the atonement of Jesus Christ and his team members. Yet it is also true that even as adults we may be stronger (Creditor) or weaker (Debtor) in specific talents, skills, resources, strengths, gifts, abilities. Some of us are very talented at building houses. Others are not. Some of us are very talented in art or music. Others are not. So we may be a Creditor in one specific talent and a Debtor in another. We will always be Debtors in some areas. That means all of us will always have a need for someone else to care for us in some way as well as the ability to care for someone else in another way.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” ~Ether 12:27

Thus the Debtor/Creditor relationship takes on a different arrangement. We actually trade our talents for the talents of others. Because we have weaknesses or needs, we establish and build relationships with those who are strong and have the need to share their talents. Why would we need each other at all if none of us had any weaknesses? Weaknesses are a blessing and the means by which Joy can continue flowing through all of us. Strengths and weaknesses, Creditors and Debtors create prime conditions for Sustainable Joy to be developed.

Adversity Creates the Opportunity to form Debtor/Creditor Relationships
Before we came to this earth we lived in heaven (see "Recognizing and Developing Talents and Abilities"). That’s a place where adversity was minimal somewhat like the Garden of Eden. Coming here to earth created a threshold of adversity we would all have to bear together, which would expose our weaknesses, enable us to develop relationships, and enable us to develop strengths out of weaknesses. Without adversity, what value would anyone’s strengths or sacrifices be? If we had everything we could want, we wouldn’t need anyone or their sacrifice. There would be no heroes or saviors. There would be no success and no failure. There would be no gratitude and no empathy. There would be no love.

What value would the light bulb be if there were never any darkness?

What value would a house be if the weather were always temperate and there were no bugs or Survival of the Fittest Causes?

What value would a fire be if it never got cold?

Without adversity it would be impossible to see anyone’s true value. Adversity creates Debtors out of us and the need for a Creditor.  It creates the opportunity to establish covenant relationships. Debt, when viewed in gratitude, creates the motivation to sacrifice—to become Creditors ourselves.  It binds us together in covenant relationships.

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” ~John 12:32

“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil— And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.” ~3 Nephi 27:14-15

“We love him, because he first loved us.” ~1 John 4:19 

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” ~John 14:27