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Ask Dave

Faith Vs. Fear

Donna has a very personal question for Dave about how his wife handled a time of turmoil for them.

QUESTION: Donna in Arizona and her husband are trying to climb out of debt. She wants to know how Sharon handled the emotional balance of faith versus fear and doubt. Dave says Sharon was terrified early on, but time healed the wounds.

Dave's ANSWER: The truth is, she would tell you that in the early days of us going broke, she was terrified. It was really scary, and it is really scary. It's not reality that the world is coming to an end, but it feels like it is.

Many years ago, someone in one of our Financial Peace University classes said it's like you're driving along on the interstate and it's dark outside and you hit a patch of ice that you didn't see and the car starts spinning. You know you're going to hit something, but you don't know how bad the wreck is going to be. There is a sense of terror of the unknown.

There's that fear where your stomach leaps up and your heart sinks down into your stomach and all those kinds of things. All of that is a normal reaction to the uncertainty and the stress. The thing is to not always be overwhelmed by it, but it's all right to say that you're scared.

The other side of the coin is to ask how you work through that. There are several things. You start to realize that your life is not a snapshot. If we froze your life in the condition you're in now and said your life will look like that for the next 60 years, you'd be upset and wonder who would want to do that. There is no hope.

But life is a film strip; it's not a snapshot. Tomorrow you'll wake up and it will be different, for better or for worse. You start looking past the junk that you're standing in. If you are standing in manure up to your knees, you can walk through it. As long as you don't spend all your time focusing on it, you can look to the other side of the ditch and determine that you're going over there.

You are going to get out of the manure and then plant some stuff in it and watch it grow. It's just fertilizer you're walking through. It is poop and it smells like it, but you look past it and that gives you the ability to walk through it rather than focusing on it as the only thing.

With all of that, you start to think that there is something else out there because there is. Intellectually you know that–it's just that your emotions are slammed. You know that a better day is coming in your brain. Then time begins to heal things. Time healed Sharon’s trust of me.

You are afraid in a place he doesn't have, and you've got to have an outlet to discuss that fear. What it does to men when they lose everything is they lose their self-esteem. Guys use money more as a scorecard. It's like we played 17 games this season and lost them all. You don't want to go out there and play another game. That's how he feels.

The problem is that your fear can be interpreted by him as yet another punch in the mouth, and his lack of self-esteem can start to scare you even more. There's a crazy cycle here. You can tell him that you trust him. Some of the things that he did that you allowed and you watched are behaviors that you don't trust, and you have some culpability in those as well. Anytime he goes near one of those behaviors that is stupid, it scares the crud out of you.

It was more than 20 years ago that we went broke. To this day, if we go into something and Sharon starts feeling a level of undue risk, I can see that cloud go across her face. That wound has healed, but it's still there and it’s still damaged. She'll look at me and say that we can't go there. I know what that means.

It doesn't happen very often, but occasionally we'll be doing something and she cocks that head sideways and says, "Wait a minute." That kind of feels like the old days, and I can't have those feelings. It's not that she doesn't trust me, it's just that behavior or that feeling is something that we have to put the brakes on and deal with.

The more time goes by and the more success there is, the more you are going to trust him. Time is the last element of this, and it's your healer as long as you guys hang onto each other. Don't let this take your marriage.