Affluence and Influence…

Affluence and Influence…

While philosophically we could argue that Knowledge is Power, in this day and age it would seem more consistently true that Money is Power. And we could choose to wish and believe that the following chain of comma...nd is undeniable: Those who have Knowledge, earn the Money that garners the Power. But for better or worse, life and experiences have taught me that this would-be esteemed triumvirate of Knowledge, Money and Power is not the honored and impressive triad we would want and wish for. As often as not, those with money are dangerously reckless, and those with power tend to wield it either ruthlessly or foolishly and all too rarely, wisely. And while true Knowledge remains an admirable and untarnished asset, those with Money and Power often suffer from a precariously short supply of good sense. Case in point…Congress.

The fact of the matter is, I have struggled with this theme more than is sane, sensible or you could even remotely imagine. And if I am to offer a full and complete confession I believe that my inner turmoil around this entire topic stems from my Catholic upbringing. Now I want and need to make it abundantly clear that this monkey on my back was not something taught or espoused by my loving parents. It was a message I absorbed from a little too much religious doctrine without the maturity, knowledge or good sense to pull it apart for the sake of understanding. Instead, I just heard and internalized a message that I have spent my entire adult life trying to shed and shake.

Many…too many of us, grew up erroneously internalizing thoughts such as “money is the root of all evil.” Or that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mathew 19:23-26) or the generalized declaration that it is the “meek” who shall inherit the earth. The references could go on and on and these sentiments have reached beyond the pulpit into the general population as some warped way of either creating some false sense of virtue around the lack of material success or to allow insecurity to rule the day and vilify those who HAVE simply because you HAVE NOT. It has taken me a lot of years and a nearly rabid pursuit of knowledge and understanding to un-pack this nonsense and begin the tedious work of ridding my mind and my heart of this dangerously flawed dialog that has far too many of us in its burdensome and unrelenting grasp. My “Aha Moment” of sorts came when I discovered that in its origins the word “meek” meant “strength in service of something.” It was applied initially to spirituality and religion as a call to those of Faith to throw their strength into the service of their belief. But like so many things, time and man’s less than noble intentions have warped its meaning as well as our mindset.

Suffice it to say that I have done and will continue to do the work of internalizing a far different and infinitely more correct conviction and at the end of the day, what I know is this: Affluence undeniably creates Influence. Consider it as much a certainty as gravity or that chocolate is a food group. Now lest you get ahead of me, we will all agree that Influence does not REQUIRE Affluence. Beloved souls from Gandhi to Dr. Martin Luther King to Mother Theresa have led lives that testify to this truth. The pastor at our church has a wonderfully immense amount of influence but he would never claim to be affluent. Affluent or not, we each have a profound influence on our friends and families and those selfless souls who volunteer their time and energy to worthy causes also touch lives and hearts on a daily and enduring basis. However, everything from a church to the Red Cross needs funds to operate and do its good work so whether directly or in more subtle anonymous ways, we cannot deny that Affluence continues to have a hand in our ability to Influence. As we accept the undisputable truth that Affluence has always and will always create Influence, the dilemma becomes whether those who possess it are using it for good or more nefarious pursuits. Are those with Affluence creating The Gates Foundation or are they building the boiler room that defies every SPAM filter I can find and keeps finding ways to stuff my Inbox with everything from “Oprah’s carb blocker” to Mail Order Brides to How to Have an Affair…and then get a good deal on windshield replacement. I often wonder where the world would be if these brilliant people applied themselves to something that uplifted humanity rather than offering…online…the quickest way to the gutter. So I view THIS as the single best argument for those ethical, principled, devout, strong and kind souls to shed any doctrine, fear or insecurity that has held them captive in order to achieve unbridled, unapologetic greatness so that THEY are the ones who will be sharing their light, their leadership, their voice, their insight and their Influence on the world.

I often listen to a radio program hosted by Dave Ramsey – a highly successful, hard-driving entrepreneur and also a devout Christian Man. And I had to laugh out loud as he railed about the sheer stupidity behind the vilification of success. To be sure, money is NOT the problem. The people who have it are the problem. As Greg so often astutely asserts, “if you were an a**hole before you had money you’ll be an even bigger a**hole with money.” Truer words never spoken and the solution lies within each and every one of us. The answer is not to shrink from success, but to aspire to it. The answer is not to malign wealth and privilege but to work your rear end off to acquire it. The answer lies in the fact that Affluence always has and always will create Influence. So at this point it is my firm belief that virtues of kindness, compassion, character, generosity and Faith will never cost a dime. But we all live in the same wondrous world where Affluence will continue to create opportunities for Influence so I can only hope and pray that the very best of you, that have the very most to offer, take on the challenge of becoming outrageously successful and use that gift to offer the world less of what it has and more of what it needs.

2 Corinthians 9:11

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