My Word of the Week: Scarcity


scar·ci·ty – noun \ˈsker-sə-tē, -stē\

: a very small supply


This morning, while helping my mom with some errands, an employee at her local bank branch had to confirm my demographic information before I could co-sign some paperwork.

“Is your address still . . . is your phone number still . . . does your driver’s license expire on . . . is your employer still . . .”

“Yes . . . yes . . . wait, how did you know that? . . . and no, actually I’m self-employed,” I responded. I felt my pulse rise a little. So did my posture.

“And what is your occupation?” she asked.

“Writer,” I said, without missing a beat.

It wasn’t the first time that I had to tell someone that I was self-employed now, but it was the first time I felt so confident about it. I felt like a real entrepreneur, setting out with an idea for business and seeing it come to fruition.

Of course, my sole proprietorship can’t stay afloat on writing alone, at least not creative writing. In fact, the editing and corporate writing I am doing actually keep me busier than I had planned. It’s funny how new work keeps coming, just when I wonder whether I will be able to make enough money for our family.

But this little business venture I have undertaken–that’s what the French derivative of “entrepreneur” actually means–also has landed me squarely into the economics of scarcity. There’s only so much work out there; if I don’t take every job offered to me, I may get left behind.

That’s the lie of scarcity, actually. In a world providentially ordered and lovingly laid before me by my Father, I don’t have to fall into the trap of clawing my way to the top. I could do that; I could elbow through the crowd and make sure I’m the one getting the job every time. But at what cost?

scarcity

A couple of weeks ago, a man I know from my previous church contacted me through LinkedIn about a one-day freelance job. It was a great opportunity to get connected with a local business. The job also would have cemented a casual relationship with someone who could refer me to other organizations in the community. But it would have meant ending vacation with my family a day early, and getting up at the crack of dawn the morning after a 14-hour drive home from the beach.

I had to say “no.” But with the decision made, was that all I had to offer him? Just “no”? It would have been easy enough to leave it at that, to casually mention that I would be available for future projects. But I also have lots of friends who are freelancers, and the opportunity to get connected with this man and his organization might be good for one of them, too. As I was writing a message to several of them to see if there was any interest, the thought crossed my mind that I could be making a mistake. By sharing the lead, I could be forfeiting an opportunity for myself. I nearly changed my mind. That’s what a scarcity mentality would have dictated.

Instead, confident in God’s plan for my own career and bolstered by a commitment to do business with a heart, I sent the message. Within minutes, I had a name to pass along.

Ironically, a couple of weeks later, another friend offered me a similar freelance opportunity. And this time, I could meet the need. Conventional wisdom might say one good deed deserved another. But I’m not so sure. I think this is just how friends and fellow entrepreneurs conduct business together.

Learning when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to work is going to be a challenge to me for some time. Any time I have to say “no,” I wonder whether I have jeopardized my career, whether I have left income on the table, whether my husband or boys will blame me for not doing enough. This scarcity mentality can become a snare if I let it.

Sarah Bessey wrote about this in her High Calling post this week called, “Rethinking Scarcity: A Legacy of Abundance.” “The myth of scarcity tells the powerful to accumulate and take and dominate, to be driven by the fear of Not Enough and Never Enough,” she writes. “We make our decisions out of fear and anxiety that there isn’t enough for us. These core beliefs can lead us to the treacheries of war and hunger, injustice and inequality. We must keep others down so we can stay on top. We stockpile money and food and comforts at the expense of one another and our own souls.” I’ve just been doing this self-employment thing for just a few weeks, and already I can see how scarcity could lead to this.

But Jesus asks us to follow him down a different path, to remember that He is the source of abundant life, that in Him, I can do all things, that I can cast my anxieties on Him, because he cares for me.

Sarah says it this way: “As the Church, we are called to exist in a prophetic community, an alternative to the narratives of the world living out the Kingdom of God in our right-now lives. There isn’t scarcity, not really: there is more than enough if we live like our Jesus. For instance, scarcity tells us to work until we drop. We’ve got to hustle, hustle, hustle to get ours and then to keep it. But in the liturgy of abundance, we practice Sabbath. Exhaustion and burn-out are symptoms of scarcity: wholeness, joy, rest are hallmarks of a life lived within abundance.”

I said “yes” to a project today that I’m not sure about. But I also said “yes’ to Jesus today when I offered him my work, my calendar, my reputation and said, “In you, all of this is enough.”

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WORD COUNT: 970

Photo by nedim chaabene, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License; design by Charity Singleton Craig. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


  • Amber ,

    Yes, living generously brings more abundance to you and your community. So good to live in freedom.

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Thanks, Amber. I’m so glad we can be in community together as writers and sisters.

    • Linda ,

      I love this Charity. It is filled with such wisdom. It isn’t easy to live open-handed and open-hearted in a world that puts self first. I’m so proud of you.

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        Thanks, Linda. Being in business for myself has been very eye opening. I want so much to do the right thing, maintain a good reputation, work considerately toward others. It made me realize how very vulnerable employers are when they hire other people. All these years, I’ve been working under someone else’s vision of these same values. I only hope that I did well by them, too.

      • Diana Trautwein ,

        Lovely, Charity. And this is spot on. It’s hard to let go of scarcity thinking, especially when you’re newly self-employed in a highly competitive market/career. But I think it’s the only way to live into this call of yours with integrity and joy. Nicely done.

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Diana – Thank you. That word integrity means so much more to me over these past few weeks. It’s a word I really want to explore more. What is your definition of integrity?

          • Diana Trautwein ,

            Hmmm.. . . I guess I’d say ‘wholeness, ‘wholeheartedness,’ coupled with commitment, follow-through, truth-telling, truth-living, adhering to your values. . . pretty comprehensive term, I think.