Breaking out of the pauper mentality

I’ve known a lot of wealthy people in my life. From what I’ve witnessed, money does not always make people happy. Money in and of itself is neither good nor evil. It does not have the power to make people happy or good. It also doesn’t have the power to make them greedy or bad.

Some of the people I’ve known who could have been living quite comfortably and enjoying a life without financial worry have been the most emotionally unhealthy people I’ve ever met. Some would sit on millions of dollars and squeeze every penny until it screamed. No matter how fat their bank account grew, it was never big enough to end their obsession with getting more. In the end, they died and left their wealth for someone else and deprived themselves of creature comforts, travels, etc. while they were busy stashing it away. I suppose the joy of looking at their bank account numbers counted for something, but to me it seems tragic when a person dies and leaves a fortune behind that they never got the good of.

On the other hand, I’ve know people who did have vast wealth, but didn’t let it control every waking moment of their lives. They live in nice houses, dress well, eat well, and vacation when and wherever they want. They may always be working to get more, but they are not afraid of spending part of what they’ve already got in order to make life fuller.

I am rich in many ways, but not yet in dollars and cents. I console myself with the hope that one of these days a book I’ve written will do very well and the financial pressures of day to day living will be lifted. I’ve always had more than enough of food or clothes or household goods to try to help those in need. I think the greatest joy of having a lot of money would be the ability to secretly help those in need. I’ve known at least one professional philanthropist and his full-time job was going to different parts of the world and checking out genuine need, then having access to the resources to help.

Many of us in Appalachia have grown up under generations that went through the Great Depression. We are survivors and the children and grandchildren of people who know how to “make it” in this world under difficult circumstances. It is easy for the mental cycles of poverty due to lack of jobs and opportunities to repeat itself from one generation to the next.

Even in the church community, poverty is often looked upon as holding some level of closeness to God. The meek, the humble, the lowly, and the poor are mentioned in the Bible with great love from God. Somewhere along the way, part of the church has given power to poverty as a way of staying close to God, of pursuing the things of God wholeheartedly and leaving finances out completely. There are also ministers and TV ministries that have encouraged people to “give until it hurts,” or to “give it all.” I believe we should be givers in the body of Christ to those who have genuine need, but it is not a sin to prosper.

We don’t need to spend our lives thinking like paupers and believing that we should be content with our lot in life and never try to do any different or any better. If our hearts are centered in God’s love and His view of us and the world, we don’t have to live and think of ourselves as paupers. We don’t have to wallow in a poverty mindset where we are afraid to dream and afraid to try something that will fail. We don’t have to be afraid that being successful will separate us from God or from the ones we love.

I may never have another penny more than I have right now, own a bigger house, grow a big bank account, or travel the world. But I will never give up trying to be the best person I can be. I will never stop dreaming. I will never stop trying to help in the ways that I can, even if they are small things. I am rich in so many things already. If God should enlarge my borders and pour blessings into my life, I think I will be the same person that I am now, but with a lot less worries.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.