In a consumer culture the main complaint people voice is about money.  Not having enough of it, owing too much of it, not having it when you want it, others not giving it where they need to, too many people asking for it, people not using it ‘wisely’, money management, saving for a rainy day, spending it all because you can, etc, etc, etc.  It’s a huge river running through everything these days.  Which is not to say that it hasn’t been in the past.  I don’t know that there has ever been a Utopia where everyone has everything they need and the ability to get anything they need at any time.  No matter what the culture, people want things and need to figure out a healthy way to get them, although that’s not always the action they take to make it happen. However with the near collapse of the banking industry (although not the bankers themselves) and the housing market tanking, high unemployment and alla that, money is on everyone’s mind.

But the reality is that money is just a means to value something.  It is a common language that we use to be able to communicate with each other what value something has.  Just as you don’t actually buy gas, you buy the ability to drive your car for another week or month (depending on your gas mileage), you don’t actually have money, you have the ability to barter for things that you want or need or both.  So when you purchase something you are valuing that thing in a way that others can readily understand and agree or disagree with.  It’s a very clear and up front means of valuation.

Which is why things can get complicated very quickly when money and friends or money and family get intertwined.  Because money is a way you value something and people can get easily confused between the ‘thing’ you are valuing and the value of the relationship between you. When you are looking for a job you have a set value for the work you are going to provide and the employer has a value on that service and part of the conversation between you is coming to an agreement on what they will pay and what you will accept.  While it can seem like a complicated dance between the two of you, the only one that might be emotionally invested in the process is you to the extent that you feel personally judged by the process.  Rarely does the person doing the hiring have any emotional connection to the outcome and it is truly just a valuation of the service.  Family and friend are by definition emotionally involved in how you value them.

The easiest way to find out how someone truly feels about you and about themselves and the relationship between you is to put money into the equation.  Just paying for lunch can be a minefield.  There are friends that never pick up the tab, friends who always pick it up and make a big stink about it (like it makes them king), friends who need to calculate every penny owed by each person, and people who just want to split it all down the middle. Remembering that it’s not “about the money” but about being valued can help you navigate through seemingly bizarre and random issues around money.  It can also help when entering into larger or more substantive discussions about money.  When getting married, it’s not really about the money when you discuss who works, how many accounts to have, who has access, it’s about value, relationship, and empowerment.  No one wants to have to ask for each penny or to have someone else have power over their ability to do what they want to do.  It makes them feel judged instead of valued.

So as you are going through your day today, look at the money in your pocket, the bank account online, your credit card, and think about them not as money and all the complaints you have about it, but as the power to value something or someone.  What are you valuing today and how are you valuing it?  And what value do they/it provide to you?