I don’t follow a religion. At the same time, I don’t blame people for thinking they should.
The Big Questions that religions discuss are valuable. How should we behave? What should I do now? Why are things so unfair? Which things can I eat?
When the questions don’t seem very pressing, we’re happy to ponder them on our own. But when things get difficult, we start to doubt ourselves. That’s good. It’s important to get these things right. We should admit our weaknesses.
When that happens, people start looking for an adviser. Hard questions need expert assistance.
You do the same thing when you want to invest money. You can try investment yourself if you don’t have much riding on your choices. But when you need to get serious, you realize you’re not up to the task.
So in both cases you go out shopping for an adviser, right? You want to make sure you get the best guy investing your money or beliefs exactly where they’ll have the best results.
Well no, you probably just visit the guy your parents go to. But that guy knows that you have options, so he’s gonna try to sell you. He wants you to invest your money or beliefs with him.
- He has references from names you might trust, like Harvard or God.
- He’ll give you a list of promises, like an 8% return on investment or eternal life.
- He’ll lay out a plan that is best for you, like a 401(k) or a nunnery.
And in the end, you’ll go with the first guy you come across because you’re busy today.
I don’t fault anyone for looking to an expert in both of these cases. And unfortunately in both cases, you don’t have much to really judge your choice on.
“Harvard sounds nice.”
“Did you say Jesus spoke to you? I’ve heard of him.”
But there are differences. Once you’ve chosen a financial adviser, you expect results. You expect to have returns, and if you don’t see them after a year or two or three, you’ll take your business elsewhere.
And you can do the same with religious leaders. You expect results. You expect… What do you expect?
Most people lay out their expectations when they sign on with a financial adviser. Or the adviser lays out the expectations for them.
But when signing on with a religious adviser, you don’t lay out expectations. So it’s hard to tell if you’ve gotten what you came for.
Your religious adviser doesn’t give you a progress report of how close to are to achieving nirvana. He doesn’t show what percentage of your prayers succeeded compared to 4th quarter projections.
He may show you how your donations helped build a new wing of the church. Or even better, they may have helped feed children. If that’s why you signed on with that religious adviser, you could much more efficiently mail your donations in or volunteer and then skip all the other stuff.
When you don’t lay out your expectations, you don’t have a way to check if your expectations were met. Then you could easily fool yourself into thinking you’re getting what you came for. If you let your financial adviser get away with that, you’d kick yourself when you lost out. But you never set any expectations for your religious leader to meet.
If you don’t set expectations, neither will your religious leader. And so it’s no surprise that they don’t achieve much. A church can help you engage in charity, and that’s great. There’s just no reason to believe their answers to those Big Questions you had.
The post image came from Pictures of Money.