October 8 - The Value of a Car

A car is one of those objects around which many stories are written. For some it is the very first purchase they make after inheriting money or winning the lottery. For others they don’t wait until they make the money…they borrow enough to buy a car that they have no business buying. In reality, they are often trying to buy something that is impossible to buy…they are trying to buy an increased sense of self-worth, of value. It is an artificial means of meeting a true and genuine need…that of mattering.

This is the true story of a couple who were once faced with an interesting dilemma. For three years they had leased a car for their business. The lease was about up, and they were planning on turning the car in and saving the money each month that they had been paying for it. Their circumstances had changed dramatically since they first leased it…they both worked out of their home and truly did not need two cars anymore.

But the car manufacturers had done their best to convince them otherwise. Each month like clockwork they called them with “their latest offer.” With only a month left of the lease, the last offer was particularly sweet…almost impossible to turn down. It was a great car, with very few miles on it, and they had never had any kind of problem with it. If they needed it, they would have bought it in a heartbeat. But they really didn’t need two cars.

They knew this without a doubt, and when they thought about turning it in, they could hardly wait. Yet within moments, one of them (and they took turns!) started second-guessing their decision. One night the husband said, “You know, not once since I was sixteen have I not had my own car. It feels kind of sad to think I won’t now.”

Once, after they had been all excited about their decision to turn the car in, out of the clear blue sky, the wife had said, “I don’t know what to do. I keep thinking we will never find as good a car at such a low price with so few miles on it…could we be making a mistake?”

This is a great example of how the chatter in our heads so often tries to change our minds about what we know deep within ourselves. They both knew they didn’t need another car…at least not right then. They had not each had a need for a car at the same time in over two years. They either went somewhere together, or one of them went somewhere and the other would take care of the home front. They figured if the occasion arose where they ever did need two cars, they could pay for a lot of taxis for the amount they would be paying for a car that sat out most of its days in the garage.

They talked about what they would do with the extra money and decided they would put it toward their mortgage payment in the hopes that someday they would not have one! They were excited by the prospect of making such a wise and sound financial decision.

Yet the second thoughts persisted. What would people think? How would they feel about themselves if they only had one car? This was their nicest car…should they keep it and sell the other? Should they just bite the bullet and keep it no matter what? How much value did the extra car add to their self-image or the image others would have of them? What if one of them did want to go somewhere while the other was out?

Fortunately, their wisdom prevailed. They eventually finalized a plan for their future that felt good all the way through. It did not depend on any artificial measurements of value. It was contingent on that which feels right to them, even if no one else would be able to understand it. If that chatter in their heads reappeared, they would then be able to recognize it as just that…chatter, not the truth.

P.S. The next morning the addictive pattern tried one more time to hang on...the husband turned to his wife and said, “Well, what is our final decision about the car? I have to call them this morning!” For a nanosecond she experienced a flash of doubt…but then she peacefully remembered what they both knew.

How do you measure your value? Is it dependent on a car, the size of your house, or the price tag on your clothes? Or is it in what you contribute to the world, how you treat others, or the security that you have provided for yourself and your family? Is it more important to you to impress others or satisfy yourself? Where do you truly find your value in life?

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