Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Does Money Affect Who Our Friends Are?

Okay, let me say right off that I don’t know the answer, I’m throwing it out there as a discussion question.  I’d LIKE to say no, but I think the real world answer is more complicated than that.

I think that, subconsciously, it probably affect us more than we know.  Most of us tend to make friends with people who go to the places we go, do the things we do, and enjoy the things we enjoy.  So lots of times, those people tend to be in the same general financial state we are in.  I, for one, wouldn’t have that many opportunities to rub shoulders with yacht-owning multi-millionaires to discover that we have lots in common.  Most of the people I encounter in my life, I perceive to be somewhere in a spot somewhat similar to me.  Of course, that’s just my perception, who knows what the reality is?  I have often met moms at the playground, who I was sure from first impression were very well off and somewhat snobby, but later met them for real and discovered they were great people.  I don’t know what their first impression was of me.

I personally feel intimidated and a little “out of my league” around people I think are in much better financial shape than me.  I don’t know why that is, and it’s not something I love about myself, but I am being honest here.  There is a certain award-winning Christian author who goes to our church, and whom many of my friends know and love.  I have always been, well not quite intimidated, but I guess I felt like “why would she want to hang out with me?” “ they must really have it all together, I mean she is an AUTHOR!”.  Dumb huh? ( Haha, you know who you are :P  ) Then one day, I realized we had something in common, and we struck up a conversation, and you know what? I really like her.  I mean I always knew she was nice, but I guess once the imaginary pedestal I had put her on was gone, I realized that she is another Christian wife, woman and mother going through life.  I really love her company…and her crocheting advice.  The pedestal I imagined her on had nothing to do with money, but I think we do tend to put others on these imaginary pedestals when it comes to this area, and it affects how we see them, and how we relate to them.

Doing this blog, and speaking to my mom’s group about money, has really opened my eyes.  People feel free to come up to me and talk about money, or mistakes they have made too.  Its been one of the most interesting things to me, how so many people make mistakes and our perception of them is that they don’t.  Talking to others about how this affects friendships has been interesting too.

It’s easy to see how you most often meet new friends in the same financial class as you envision yourself.  But what about old friends?  If you have been friends with someone since high school, and your financial pictures have slowly changed until there is a huge divide, does how close you are with them slowly change?  If you are still friends, does it affect the relationship?  If you used to enjoy tent camping together and now one of you is a multi-millionaire who travels the world in first class, are you still going camping in a tent each summer?

What about in families?  Are you and your siblings in roughly the same places? Do you expect that?  How do you feel if one of your siblings is much wealthier than you? If you are the sibling who has worked hard and built things up, do you feel annoyed when the other sibling seems to feel entitled to what you have or to imply that they will still do better than you, as if it is a competition?  How do you interact with those who are nowhere near as wealthy as you are right now?  Do you feel free to strike up a conversation with that mom at the playground who you perceive to be really wealthy? I have to admit, I’d feel intimidated.   What about a friend who makes three times what you do, but is always complaining that they can barely afford to live? 

In what ways has money affected the relationships in your life?


  1. Mel,
    What you say is true, I treat people differently when they are more "well known" or "wealthier" that me.....I think I am not good enough! I give you a lot of credit for getting out there and putting the "stuff" aside that we tend to put on ourselves and getting to know people.
    I know that lots of people think that I am stuck up, because I don't talk to them, but I am not. I am the furthest from stuck up! Amazing what we put on ourselves. Perhaps a challenge for me to stick my neck out!!
    And yes, I think I have friends who are in the similar "spending level" as me, and I do have friends who complain about not having enough when all they do is buy and buy and buy because what they have isn't good enough or isn't the newest or fastest or up-to-date enough and it drives me nuts!
    Thanks for your insite.
    God bless! I will have fun with your Mommy next week!!!

  2. Haha, I can't imagine you as stuck up, but maybe that's because I've known you for so long, since I was such a little kid!
    I think its the perception of others, and not often the reality, that affects us.
    I am quite shy until I know someone ( ok ok, I know that's hard to imagine if you do already know me, but it's true). I remember being shocked once that a classmate told me to stop being so stuck up. She had mistaken my more withdrawn " I dont know you well enough and can't relax and stop worrying about not being good enough" behaviour as " I think I am too good for you".
    So often we make desicions about others based on our perception of them, and I wonder how often our perception is no where near the reality?

  3. I agree with you Melissa, but there are the odd exceptions. While I don't really sit around and pass judgments on how much money my friends make, I know that some make more than my family and some make less, and I think MOST of my friends fall in that mid bell curve where our income is the basis. I guess my closest friends are the ones in the same income level as myself, and many of my acquaintances are perhaps higher income or lower income. While I don't base my friendships on that, I MAY make that assumption of income later once I get to know them. Does it change my opinion of them? In nearly all cases, no. The friends were made through common interests (church, theatre, work) and income is a distant aspect of it.
    I do notice that it can affect how the friendship works at times. Say I wanted to participate in an activity that costs money. Sometimes I will have the money for myself and I want to treat my friend who may not have the same income as me and feels that pride of accepting this treat and turns it down... I have done this myself by not going somewhere or doing something due to financial limitations and my friends who make a little more than me offer to treat, and my pride kicks in.

    I have friends who have quads or boats, go hunting and traveling alot, have gaming systems for themselves or their kids, or maybe drive a better car than me. While I can feel some envy for those things, it isn't the ability to afford those things that makes them my friend.

    In the end, I have my friends for the connections made and the laughs shared... and of course the kids who play with each other at the back of the church and share their Froot Loops.

  4. So I sit down to read a few blogs with my morning coffee and then I come across your very interesting post.

    You are not the first person that I have heard this from and it is interesting how we perceive others. When we were pastors, people thought certain things about us, then we stopped pastoring and starting "attending" the church and people would make comments about how normal we are. Well, actually we were always "normal". Please note that "normal" is a relative term. :)

    My national award surprized me as much as anyone else and to be honest, since my book came out in 2007 I have made a a total of $519 in commission from my publisher. Finacially my book has done nothing for us but in terms of life experience and unique opportunites it has been great. My book makes me no different than anyone else, I was just being obedient to what Christ called me to do and He made it possible.

    Melissa, I so enjoy our friendship and I am so impressed with your blog and your honesty. Keep it up you are helping in more ways than you will ever know! Keep the conversations going!

  5. @Cj: Haha, I know all about normal, whats that saying, "around here normal is just a setting on the dryer" ? lol.
    I think there are so many imaginary divides that we put up between others and ourselves, making ourselves feel not as good etc. Really, we should all learn never to compare since God made us each unique, and learning to stop making judgements based on our perceptions of others has done lots for me.
    There are so many imaginary types of divides! To brainstorm a few I've heard : Money, beauty, marital status, career, parenthood... so many times we rule that another person can't be part of our lives, when really we should just be open!
    What I personally am noticing is that what we percieve about others is most often not close to the truth.
    I am really glad I stopped thinking that a cool Christian author wouldn't have anything in common with me, because I enjoy your company so very much.


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