Thursday, April 19, 2012

"to be truly debt-free..."

“So many words to say,
but I’m opting for silence...”

I had an epiphany last fall. And it caused such a profound paradigm shift, that I couldn’t even write about it. Sara Groves’ "This Peace" was my gentle companion, as I navigated a new landscape without the safety net of words.

Writing is my default, when processing new insights and inspiration. I write, and write...and write. I write until I have taken it all apart, and put back together again, in a way that makes sense to me.

But this message came with such clarity and force, that I couldn’t do anything with it, but put it into practice...constantly. And I have. This message demanded it. Because when it came, it deforested the old growth of my mental landscape, like a tsunami washing over an unsuspecting island in the Pacific. Leaving me with nowhere to live, and nothing left to do, but start from scratch.

So here's the story:

I was sitting in my favorite booth at our local bagel shop one afternoon. It was a cool day, but the sun was bright. I love those days. It was just an ideal setting, the sun warming my shoulders through the big windows at my back, and falling on the pages of a book I loved, providing the perfect light for reading.

My phone rang, and it was a friend. I’d just been thinking about how I could strengthen my practice of a deeper level of listening, and this was a perfect opportunity. I closed my eyes, and let my heart open as wide as it could, while my friend poured out his hunger for spiritual answers.

His concerns were not so very different from what many of my friends and neighbors have been facing over the last few years -- under-employment, financial insecurity, housing vulnerability, and a fragile ability to care for one’s family.

And as I let my heart open, I noticed that my practice of deeper stillness was working. I had absolutely nothing to say. Nothing. Much to my surprise, in retrospect, there weren’t a dozen, or more, quotes, personal stories, or insights just jumping up and down...with their hands raised like third graders in a spelling bee... eager to speak. I really did have absolutely nothing to say.

That doesn’t mean that my heart wasn’t filled with profound feelings of compassion, empathy, and hope. But there were no words. I had no “judgment” about what my friend might want consider addressing in his life, how he might want to think about things differently, etc. All I had was I stayed there.

And, into that extended space of quiet....which seemed like a yawning chasm....he stepped forward, and added one more thing -- almost as a tag on. He said, “I don’t think this has anything to do with needing a job, or more money. Those aren't the real issues. I think this is actually all about my relationship to the concept of debt.”

Again, quiet.

But this time the quiet was two-fold. I was still, out of respect for the voice of his own inner Teacher. But I was also silent in awe of how deeply his insight resonated with me.

And then I heard myself say something that sounded so nonchalant, that I couldn’t believe it was coming out of my mouth in such an off-handed way, especially after all that sweet silence.

I said,

"“Forgive us our debts. as we forgive our debtors.”

I think that was all. I may have added that I was looking forward to praying with the Lord's I thought about what he'd shared, and asked if he’d like to talk again the next day. He said he would. And that was where our call ended.

As I hung up the phone, I was horrified. “Did I just say that? I wondered. I love and respect the Lord's Prayer. And I know how perfectly it meets each of us where we are. But I'd had no intention of sharing it at that moment. And certainly not in such an unceremonious way. It seemed out-of-character...almost cavalier and dismissive. But I had. And I really needed to understand why.

So, I sat back again, and closed my eyes, letting the sun's warmth penetrate to the core of my heart. And as I let it seep deeper and deeper, I slipped further into the stillness of that quiet, holy space.

And as I did, an unexpected thought came washing through me, with such force, that I almost gasped.

I heard, as clearly as if someone was speaking next to me:

"Kate, no one owes you anything.”

I let it sink in, suffusing the entireness of my being. And it continued, “No one owes you respect. No one owes you an apology. No one owes you gratitude. No one owes you understanding. No one owes you time. No one owes you space. No one owes you support. No one owes you anything. And because of this...because no one owes you anything... you are debt free.”


I’d always thought of a "debt" as something I obligation. And, that to be debt free, was to be free of what I owed others. In other words, the debtor, was the one who owed someone else, something. So to be saddled by debt, was to be the someone who owed something to someone else. Does that make sense?

But I suddenly realized that the greater weight of indebtedness, the heavier burden...the one that seemed to make me feel poverty stricken, filled with lack, empty, and aching with need...was not as much about what I thought I owed others, but what I thought others owed me.

The ugly veneer of self-justification and self-righteousness started peeling away immediately. Immediately. Within an hour, I had shed years of a completely twisted sense of indebtedness.

No one owed me anything. My family didn’t owe me acknowledgment or gratitude, especially not for the things I'd been keeping an accounting of for years. The emotional ledger was wiped out in an instant. My community didn’t owe me anything...respect, acceptance, compassion, or, even understanding. My friends didn't owe me approval, affirmation, or validation. My children didn’t owe me appreciation...or even love. My husband didn’t owe me time, equity of contribution, security, or a home. The driver in the car next to me, didn’t owe me consideration, politeness, or even a smile. You can see where this began to take me...and it never stopped.

I've now let this living, breathing message steep and percolate in my heart...and in my life...for over nine months. And it feels like it's become fully incubated and is ready to be shared a bit. I'm still being "given" many opportunities, each day, to practice the vitality of this truth. But it is no longer just a concept to be considered and tested. It is very practical, and real, for me. It's become an integral part of my heart's landscape, with deep enough roots to withstand the winds of ego that scream otherwise. I love the stark beauty of this vast promise..."nobody owes me anything." Pure freedom. This is all I am entitled to.

I'd been told that author Byron Katie once responded, when someone told her that they loved her, with a guileless, "I'm so happy for you." This now makes perfect sense to me. When we really love, we aren't doing it as an act of reciprocity, but "just because." Just because it is our nature. Just because we owe it to ourselves to be true to ourselves. Just because it feels so wonderful to love. Not because we owe it to someone else, other people's opinions, or society's expectations. And I am beginning to see...and feel...that no one owes it to me. I owe it to me.

So, I am walking, driving, and moving through my days with this new sense of freedom.

Whenever I've felt the tightness of worry, concern, or fear grip me....on any front...I can immediately put it through the filter of the simple question, “what is it that you think that you are owed, and why is that not true?”

And the amazing thing is, it has never been true. All that I need, all that I have ever needed, or will ever need, I have from reflection. I already include everything good. All the love, respect, appreciation, integrity, forgiveness, fidelity, honesty I could ever hope to inexhaustible within me. Why would I ever seek, expect, or demand it, or anything, from anyone else.

For example. If I think someone owes me respect, perhaps it is because I'm not looking at myself, and my life, through the lens of spiritual dignity, innocence, purity, and grace.

The word "respect," simply means: to look again (re-spect). In those moments when I get caught up in the downward spiral of thinking that someone owes me respect, I have the opportunity to look at myself again, through a different lens...the lens of Truth.

And the truth is, that God is my Source. He is the only Creator in my life. He is the only Supplier of good to every part of my being. And He has never left me to wing it on my own -- to make mistakes, to undermine my own dignity, to violate the purity of my own story. Whatever I have done, has been with my hand in His. As the once errant Psalmist humbly sang about his un-sunderable relationship to the Divine:

“Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there.
If I make my bed in hell, Thou art there...

If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there shall Thy hand lead me,
and Thy right hand shall hold me.”

And in each case, all I can really do is trust that the one, and only, God...who is leading me, and holding also supplying me with all that I need to make the journey with grace.

Respect, is just one example of how I began to take back my spiritual soundness.

And for the last nine months, I have let this simple truth...

“No one owes me anything.”

...gestate in my being. I have fed it, nurtured it, loved it, practiced it...and it has blessed my life in ways that I can’t even begin to describe.

I owe myself this truth. Because within the fathomless security of “No one owes me anything,” I am truly, for the first time in my life, absolutely debt free. Free of feeling that anyone is indebted to me...for anything.

As for the bills, statements, taxes, charitable giving, tithing and account-settling that I am responsible for each month -- I owe myself the joy of expressing appreciation, the beauty of respecting the work that has been done on my behalf, the sweetness of celebrating services rendered, the dignity of honoring commitments I’ve made, the privilege of caring for my community...and its children. That is a gift I give myself...not a debt.

And since my life is so filled with such abundant opportunities for expressing dignity, integrity, and appreciation...and since no one owes me anything...I am truly debt-free. This truth has changed my life.

with Love,



  1. Love, love, love this! Thank you!!

  2. Anonymous12:56 PM

    I love this part,
    "I'd been told that author Byron Katie once responded, when someone told her that they loved her, "I'm so happy for you." Suddenly this made so much sense to me. When we really love, we aren't doing it as an act of reciprocity, but "just because." Just because it is our nature. Just because we owe it to ourselves to be true to ourselves."
    It is a helpful reminder of why we love and that it is a part of our nature. So often I am trying to push love away. But, if it is our nature than I really can't help but to love... Thank you

  3. The fullness of relating is warming me. Thank you very much for this post. Right now, I just thought of how the line, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," could mean, Forgive me my perceived 'shortcomings,' as I forgive yours...and this does not mean that I have to accept another's 'shortcomings,' but forgive the idea that any of us can behold ourselves as short of the fullness of Love. ~A

  4. It's unusual for me to read something that feels like a truly NEW thought - an epiphany. Thanks for giving me a fresh perspective to take with me into this day, weeks, months....

  5. It's unusual to read something that is a genuinely NEW thought for me. I, too, have lived with that prayer my whole life, but never heard it this way. Thanks for a fresh perspective to carry into this day, this week, this month.....

  6. aaah! thank you. xo

  7. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Thank you so much Kate...this is so wonderful...I really needed to hear this message! Take care