We are still in January and this month I am exploring two or three of the themes that I have been thinking about at the start of this new year. You can read my first post here.
When I was in Bible college, at chapel one day a professor spoke on the difference between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality. It was one of those times when a talk impacted me in such a way that I remember it and think of it often even 8+ years later.
Having a scarcity mentality is believing that there is never enough. If I have something good, I need to hold onto it with clenched fists or else it will be taken away. If someone else has something good, that can only mean that there is less for me. There is not enough for both of us, so I need to try to hold onto the good things I have. Scarcity thinking is driven by fear and produces a misguided self-sufficiency.
Having an abundance mentality is believing that there is more than enough. If I have something good, I can hold it with open hands and be grateful. If someone else has something good, I can be genuinely happy for them without fearing that it will take away something from me. There is enough. Abundance thinking is driven by gratitude and a deep trust in God.
At the time I first heard this it was quite applicable to my Bible college experience, specifically in my studies in music. I realized that I felt intimidated and threatened by other students whose musical abilities surpassed mine. If she is such a brilliant singer, it must take away from what people think of me as a singer. I’m not as good as her, therefore I’m going to lose out. This is scarcity thinking. Even more specifically, there was a time I auditioned for a band at college, and there was only one spot for a female vocalist. I did not get the spot, but another vibrant and talented singer did. A scarcity mentality would tell me to be devastated; that my future was ruined because I missed this opportunity (which is likely how I felt for a while at the time).
An abundance mentality sees it completely different. I do not have to be threatened by other talented musicians. Their beautiful voice does not take away from mine. Though I did not get chosen for this one big opportunity, I can celebrate with the one who did get it, because there will be another opportunity for me. There is more than enough. Back in the moment, I needed to realize that I could not see the big picture, and that God had something else for me. I was given the opportunity to co-lead another worship team for my final year of college and this provided me a different opportunity to grow as a worship leader and be a part of many beautiful worship moments in our college that year. I thought I was losing out, but I wasn’t.
Buying into a scarcity mentality means believing these three lies:
It is all about getting what is “best” for me. What’s “best” for me here is whatever is going to benefit me or help me succeed. I need to get all the good things so I can become successful, acknowledged, wealthy, satisfied, loved and therefore happy.
Others are my rivals and I have to be threatened by them. If it is all about getting myself to the top, then anybody I see alongside me is obviously my competition. I have to be smarter or better or faster than them. If I’m not, I will lose out.
God does not know what He is doing. When life inevitably does not hand out every success, and I stop progressing towards that glorious perfect future I envisioned for myself, God must have got it wrong. Why, oh why, God, did I not get that good thing? Did He not know how important that was to me? Now how will I move forward?
An abundance mentality is not only just the opposite of these things, but is built on a completely different starting point. The foundation of abundance thinking is that the purpose of life is knowing God. We have each been created beautifully and uniquely to know God, to worship Him and glorify Him. Jesus died and rose again so that the barriers of sin and death could be destroyed, and we could completely enter into the abundant, full life of knowing our Creator as Lord and Saviour, and therefore letting ourselves be redefined because of that relationship.
Abundance thinking means it is all about knowing God and becoming like Jesus. Others are not rivals, but those loved and sought after by God. God is trustworthy and sovereign. I do not have to live with the thought that there is not enough to go around, because in God there is always enough for everyone. So what does this mean when I lose out on opportunities, when I experience broken relationships or the loss of a loved one, when there is literally not enough money or food or time? I remember that abundance does not mean I will always have all of the earthly good things, but that God is faithful and present with me. I can trust that God is still with me, working in me and working through me. I can know that even though it appears I have lost out, and even if it is hard and hurts, I am being formed to be more like Jesus Christ. Having something good taken away does not mean that all is lost, but that I can know God in a new and deeper way because of that loss.
One last very silly example. The place where this entire post originated is that I have been noticing a scarcity mentality in myself in one specific, small day-to-day thing. Food. I really enjoy food, but find myself being selfish with it. I’m the one that at a family potluck is worried about getting a second helping of that amazing broccoli salad before I’m even finished my first plate, worrying that it will be all gone before I get there. I’m also the one that will save a small piece of chocolate to savour all by myself, and will get a bit too upset if you eat it on me. Like I said, a small and silly thing. But I started to realize this is scarcity thinking. I was feeling like I was losing out if I did not get these simple things. Now if someone eats the last piece of some food I wanted, I catch myself. I remind myself that there is more than enough food, that it is alright for someone else to enjoy it, and that if it is all gone today, I can most likely have the same thing another day. And if for some reason I will never be able to have that same treat ever again, it is still ok. It is ok because the abundant life I live is not based on food or material things or money or the perfect circumstances. The life of abundance I have is because my Lord and Savour, Jesus lives in me.