We often live as if money is the most important thing.
We hear (and believe?) that time is money, happiness is money, success is money, power is money, freedom is money. Or the inverse: money is time, money is happiness, money is success, money is power, money is freedom.
We have created a world where we can (theoretically) buy whatever we want. Everything is for sale. We can purchase time, happiness, success, power and freedom. Money is the most important thing because money gets us what we want.
But what is money?
Money is, “a current medium of exchange.” What is necessary for exchange? Relationship. What gives a piece of paper with pictures and words on it value? Our relationship with that piece of paper – our collective, accepted belief that the piece of paper means something – is what creates the value.
Money relies on the relationship of our (shared) mental concept with the piece of paper for its existence and on the relationship of buyers and sellers, employers and employees, fundraisers and donors for the exchange.
Money is nothing without relationship.
And what about time? How do we measure time? In relationship. We observe the relationship of sun, moon and earth. We create concepts of light and dark, of more and less, and we gauge them in relation to each other. We call more light, “day” and less light, “night.” We assign numbers to our descriptions and then calculate the relationship of these numbers on our clocks to create a meaning of time.
How do we distinguish past, present and future? By their relationship to each other: Here we are in Now, and this (idea, story, memory, experience, goal) that we are thinking of is not happening Now, so it is either past (already happened) or future (hasn’t happened yet.)
Time has no meaning without relationship.
And happiness? What is happiness? Everyone has his or her own definition of happiness. How do we know whether we are happy or not? Through the relationship of our idea of happiness with what is.
We evaluate happiness by comparing what is happening (present) or what has happened (past) or what we plan to have happen (future) to our idea of what happiness is. Is our idea of happiness what is happening? Then we are happy.
Happiness is defined by relationship.
And success? How do we know what success is? We assign value to certain ideas, we create a concept of what “success is” and what “success is not” and then we determine success through the relationship of these concepts to each other.
Success is determined by relationship.
And power? What is power if there is nothing to exert power over, or power with or power to?
Power exists in relationship.
And freedom? One of our most cherished ideals. To not have freedom, something or someone has to be constricting, denying or taking away our freedom. We give up freedom for, grant freedom to, win freedom from, something or someone. Without this something or someone, all we know is freedom.
Freedom can only be restricted, granted or denied in relationship.
What do money, time, happiness, success, power and freedom all have in common? Relationship. They are defined and determined by, exist and are valued and experienced in, relationship.
Relationship is the most important thing.
So as we listen to the economic news and count the dollars in our bank account and as we look at our giving charts, segment our supporters into categories and plan strategies for meeting our fundraising goals – we can remind ourselves that money is not the most important thing – relationship is.
Loosing sight of this is easy to do because our jobs are defined by getting the money. With this pressure, money can seem like the most important thing. But relationship is what brings and keeps the money flowing to support the work. Money is just an exchange, which takes places in relationship.
The key question to ask then is, “What is the quality of our relationship with our supporters?” Do we see them as “cash cows” or as partners in the work? Are they just a means to an end or vital players in the actualization of our mission?
As you answer these questions and work to raise money to support your cause, remember that relationship is more important than money.