There's a story out there that says all you need to catch a monkey is a coconut and a handful of peanuts. As the tale goes, you hollow out the end of that coconut (just big enough for the monkey to squish his little hand through) then pour in the peanuts. Then you attach a rope through the cocount, hide and wait. That silly monkey will stick his hand in, grab the peanuts and hold on tight. So tight in fact that he won't let go ... but his fist won't fit out with all those peanuts. So, you reel him in, peanuts and all. Monkey capture successful.
I bet that monkey felt like he really deserved those peanuts.
Here's my confession: I'm that monkey.
When I get an idea of something I want, or something I think I deserve, I get committed. I work hard, I throw myself into it full force and when I do get it ... I HANG ON.
Even when it's dragging me toward certain disaster. But it was mine. I deserve it.
I deserve that vacation, that car, that home, that farm, that job, that horse, that fancy __(insert anything here that my heart may have desired)____. It doesn't matter what it is, or what it will cost me, if I feel I'm entitled to it, I want it. Now. No matter what that means long term.
Dave Ramsey (financial guru and author of The Total Money Makeover) told a story about deserving things that I want to share. (Which I'm quoting from memory).
There was a single mom, desperately trying to get out of debt and doing well. One day she had a terrible day. Flat tire, late for daycare, late for work, boss was grumpy, late after work... you know the feeling. The kids were so hungry and she was so tired that when they begged her to get McDonalds on the way home she relented, went to the ATM, got $20 and picked up happy meals. After all, she deserved the break. But, because she was on a zero-balance budget every dollar had already been assigned and she bounced 3 checks (which came along with a couple hundred bucks of penalties and fees). Here's what Dave had to say to her:
"Next time you need to just get prepared to be strong. You tell peanut butter breath in the back seat to "Shut Up! 'Cause Momma's taking you home to eat."
Honey, you don't deserve that kind of break."
I don't know why but this really made me think. Did she deserve a break from cooking? Maybe. Did she deserve for life to let up on her a little and make things a little more convenient? Possibly. Was she entitled to all of of this along with a huge bill, feeling of failure and a big inconvenience? Not so cut and dried on this one. And how do we judge what an individual "deserves" anyways?
Being in a culture of instant gratification I think it is extremely easy get an over-inflated sense of what we deserve. I know we did. We tried to to start our young, married life out where we left off with our parents. Nice home, nice vehicles, nice toys and trips. But our parents didn't start that way. They worked long and hard to get to that point. We just had a lot of debt. We financed our way into a life that we really didn't deserve ... then we got the "bill" and asked what we did to deserve it. And it cost us a lot more than money.
About a year ago we committed to a big overhaul. Now that we've made some huge life changes (selling the farm we couldn't afford in the first place, cutting up ALL our credit cards, cutting our lifestyle way back, paying down debt, saving for the future and living within our means), when we do get something, it feels like ours and it feels like we indeed deserve it.
Let me tell you though it has been a hard learning curve and a lot of dying to my flesh as Christians would say. There are so many times I feel like I need something so bad, but I just want it, and I don't have the money so I don't get it. I used to make excuses for why I wanted it or deserved it (as though they somehow justified spending other people's money to get it), especially if it was something horse related and I could write it off as a necessary business purchase. Usually it was just something frivolous or prideful. That doesn't fly any more either.
So now, I run my business as frugally as I can, putting effort into what I can use my time and skills for the most, rather than my money. I do the same with our home and the kids.
We are not perfect yet, and I still catch myself every once in while with my hand stuck in a coconut but by the grace of God I'm getting better. I'll let most of those peanuts go eventually.