Girl and Her Money: How to Have a Great Relationship without Falling in
When Sharon Durling ’80 taught women from the Junior League about financial planning, she saw the same looks of fear and ambivalence on their faces as she did on those of the impoverished women she volunteered with in Chicago’s housing projects. She concluded that women are afraid of money, no matter how much of it they have.
So with her characteristic perseverance, Durling set about doing what she could to change that. Wanting to “offer a clear sense of hope,” Durling abandoned the job she describes as “meant for me,” rented out her swanky Chicago townhouse, and settled in to write A Girl and Her Money: How to Have a Great Relationship without Falling in Love — a book she said “is meant to touch some part in women that other finance books don’t. To get to the heart of all of those scary, bad feelings and make it be OK.”
So far, it’s working. Durling has reached women from their mid-twenties to near retirement, from what she describes as “the cashmere and pearls set” to the Chicago projects, from women with their MBAs to those who have never read a book about money before. Her method, she said, is taking the power away from money.
“Money and spirituality are highly interrelated,” she said. “Money is a neutral entity, an object of exchange; it’s not moral or immoral. But because it represents our energy or effort, we give it so much power — we spend so much emotional and mental energy on this thing that it profoundly impacts our spirituality.”
She goes on, “We know that it was a really big deal to Jesus — money and possessions. He knew that it is a hot spot for many or most of us. We cannot serve both God and money. What we believe to be true about God directly impacts our money behavior.” Durling urges her readers, “Discover and speak the truth about money. Experience the joy of giving. Love yourself more than money.” And, oh yes, “Spend less than you earn.”
In strong disagreement with the “health and wealth gospel,” Durling asserts, “the Bible does not promise us health or financial security. It doesn’t even promise us happiness. But it does promise freedom — including financial freedom — that ‘the truth will set you free.’ We need to be committed to the truth about money — that it won’t take away fear ... or satisfy desire.”
Durling is convinced that tension arises with money when we do not let our values dictate our spending. “We may not know why the tension exists, but it’s because we’re not congruent with our values. Life just becomes whatever we can afford, and that’s just ridiculous. Everything shuffles on down from there.” And, she urges, “the tiniest, tiny choices add up to a critical mass. Each decision needs to reflect your values. Tiny leaks sink big ships.”
For the woman who grew up in Prattville, Mich., and, along with 12 classmates, attended a school with no flush toilets, money management has come surprisingly easily. Writing is another story. Durling laughs, “Do I have to tell you what a horrible writer I was at Calvin? I was taking a history class with a young professor, and I wrote such elongated sentences. Once, my introductory sentence was so long that he asked his wife to diagram the thing. He was shocked to find it grammatically correct.”
But for Durling, writing the chatty, down-to-earth, accessible A Girl and Her Money was a calling. “I’ve really been pushed, almost against my will, into writing this book,” she said. But she wouldn’t have it any other way. Next on her horizon? A Girl and Her Merger — a guide for her friends facing the happy prospect of marriage and the scary prospect of marrying finances.
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This collection of essays offers a distinctly Christian perspective from a diverse group of practitioners who are actively involved in seeking answers to such problems as human rights, justice and accountability to enlarge our vision of civil society’s potential to effect local and global change. The focus is on the role and functions of civil society in a volatile world and the reasons Christianity matters to the discussion.
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