Denial.  It is not just a river in Egypt, people.

Let’s talk about the disturbing conversation I had today.

I was in a office lobby, waiting for my meeting to start. I was chatting with a casual male friend. Nice guy, mid thirties, wife, kids, healthy and smart.

He was telling with me that he was hoping to golf today. I asked him how his schooling was progressing. He has been enrolled in a law university to finish up a degree. He was sharing how he was waiting to hear if he had received approval for a credit transfer. Then he mentioned that he was taking two more classes this summer, just as something to do.

Jokingly, I asked him if he enjoyed throwing money on the “college burn pile.”  I still can’t believe what he said next.  He looked straight at me and said “Oh, it’s all on federal loans. I took my first loan out in 1998 and still taking them out today.” I stared at him, stunned at his casual response. Then he offered this information-

“I think my loan amount is around $235,000.00. Wait, maybe closer to $240,000 since I am taking those two summer classes. “

Holy Debt Load Batman!

How do I respond to that revelation? Maybe- Congratulations? Or possibly- OMG?  How about – No freakin’ way?

I just stood there, shivering from the shock and awe of the desolation of his loan spreadsheet.

And to sweeten the story, he isn’t employed. Not sure exactly how or why he isn’t working, but he does not draw a paycheck. His wife is employed in a financial sector job. She might need to start robbing banks to prepare for his school loan payments! (Just joking!!)

Pretty sure my friend has been snorkeling in the good old river of Denial.

Denial- refusing to admit the truth about or reality of something unpleasant.

Apparently my friend has chosen to live his life in a mental state of altered reality. His appearances on social media are those of a normal family, enjoying extensive vacations, sports events, and personal hobbies. All the while, the specter of debt floats next to him, a quarter of a million dollars is chained to his very soul.

Our conversation continued, he shared a couple of golf stories with me and then it was time for my meeting, so we parted ways. He seemed to be pretty happy when he left, I, on the other hand was a wreck, thinking about that staggering amount of school loan debt.

After our brief conversation, I must admit, I had a new, less lofty opinion of my friend. I don’t comprehend how a person can float along on that river, Denial, remaining unemployed while his choices potentially destroy the family financially.  I started to wonder about his wife, how does she feel about their situation? Is she feeling the financial burden, or is she in a matching inner tube, floating right next to him? What does it feel like when you are the only one shoveling income in an attempt to fill in a GINORMOUS hole that your spouse has been digging for years?

Yikes.

I remember back when we were in a good amount of credit card debt. My feelings about debt would vacillate between two polar opposites. First, I would feel convicted, vowing to never charge anything again. Realizing the trouble we were in, part of me wanted to get out and never go back. But then, something “fun” or “shiny” or “must have” would come along, and I would immediately whip out the plastic therapy card. Making excuses for my lack of self control, I would buy whatever the thing was that I had to have, eat or wear.

I know how to ride the inner tube on the river of Denial. In fact, I could probably captain a river cruise ship.

Here are three reasons why Denial is devastating to finances and relationships.

  • We all must admit that at some point, maybe even this very day, we are operating in denial. Denial about our health. Denial about our kids choices. Denial about our marriage troubles.  And like my friend, denial about looming financial storms. If we can’t admit the truth to ourselves and our closest loved ones, we need help. Consider an accountability partner or possibly attending some counseling sessions.
  • When we operate in denial, we hurt other people. Our lack of self control impacts others, and can set a rough road for our family and most importantly, our children. There is a very high chance those cute kids, who think the world of their daddy, will continue on in the debt cycle when they enter college. How sad that another generation might possibly be chained with outrageous debt due to the actions of the parents. There can’t possibly be enough money in that family’s single income to pay for Dad’s accumulated debt and fund a college education for both of those children. Please understand, I do not doubt his love for his children and his wife, but his choices have set a course that the whole family must sail through.
  • Lastly, if you are a Christian, the more debt you carry, the harder it is to fulfill the purpose of God in your life. When you are in large amounts of debt, you lack flexibility to say yes to the invitation that God has for your life. Debt and denial can hold you back from the plans and purposes you have here on Earth.

To be clear, I am not against wealth. Have nice things if you can afford them. Get educated as cheaply as possible. Be creative with your income. Spend, save and give some of your paycheck away. Choose to be healthy in your finances, your body and in your soul.

So what is the single action takeaway for us?

Be real. Be painfully real. Look at what your choices are doing to your family. Ask your spouse to be transparent with you. Request feedback on how your actions are impacting your marriage. Consider the messages you are sending to your children. Are you instilling in them financial skills that will serve them as they journey to independence?

Start today, begin a lifestyle of reality.Stop swimming in the river of Denial.


If you need practical steps to get out of debt and stay out, grab a copy of Dave Ramsey’s book ” The Total Money Makeover.” It was the single resource that helped us change our mindsets and get out of debt.
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