This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while, but we’re going kinda off-topic today with a spinoff from my original post about the LuLaRich documentary. You’ve been warned. 😉
After I wrote my post about LuLaRich, I realized that I had left out one of the things I found most disturbing!
I went back and added a little snippet to the original post, but I’m also going to talk about it here because I think I have a whole post’s worth of thoughts.
To catch you up: LuLaRich is an Amazon documentary about LuLaRoe, an MLM company that sold clothing and took serious advantage of women who wanted to make money by selling the clothing.
Deanne and Mark Stidham are the owners, and oddly, they agreed to be interviewed for this documentary. They said a lot of wild things, but a quote from Mark is one that really stands out to me and irks me to this day.
Higher-ups in MLMs often get frustrated with people further down the line who can’t seem to make the “business” a success, and the higher-ups routinely blame the downline people for just not working hard enough.
In the context of this, Mark Stidham said, “We believe in self-reliance, and that the universe is ultimately fair.”
When I watched LuLaRich, I was in the midst of reading War Doctor, a memoir written by a doctor who has spent decades volunteering his surgery services in war-torn parts of the world, such as Aleppo, so my jaw kind of dropped when Mark said that.
What? How would a person who is not disadvantaged in any way be a trusted source for information on how fair the world is? Mark Stidham has just about every advantage in life that you could ask for. Of course he thinks the universe is fair!
The universe is ultimately fair? Tell that to civilians in Aleppo who have been gunned down by snipers.
And honestly, you don’t even have to go to such extremes (probably even Mark would agree that the universe has not been very fair to civilians in the midst of war). There are plenty of people in the U.S. that have disadvantages that others do not have.
What about people who have disabilities? Disabilities make life more challenging, and they are not distributed fairly.
What about children who grow up in poverty? Or children who get a poor education? What about people who have been abused? What about babies who are born addicted to drugs?
And conversely, there are lots of people in the U.S. who have advantages. If you grow up in a family with money and connections, you have a serious advantage. If you grow up with access to a good education, you have an advantage.
And to bring this back to LuLaRoe, the universe is most certainly not “ultimately fair” for reps who join now. As with all MLMs, the people who got in when LuLaRoe first started had an enormously unfair advantage over those who joined later.
Hard work does matter
I get that there’s a kernel of truth in what people are trying to say when they preach a, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” message, because without hard work, most advantages are somewhat useless.
For example, if you get sent to an amazing school but don’t put in the work, you will not be well-educated.
And by the same token, if you go to a not-so-great school but you put in lots of work, you could end up pretty well-educated.
Still, the point is: advantages such as amazing schools are not available to everyone equally, because the universe is…not fair.
It takes humility to admit you have advantages
There is a part of all of us that would like to feel self-congratulatory about our successes. We want to think we are self-made; that we deserve all the credit for everything we’ve accomplished.
So, it’s not a wonder that it’s tough to admit that we’ve had help, privileges, or advantages. Humility is a hard pill to swallow!
But the truth is that most of us here, reading this on the internet, have had advantages and privileges in one way or another; it’s common.
The uncommon thing is to have the humility to acknowledge those advantages.
I think advantages should be gratefully used
There’s nothing sad or embarrassing about having advantages (gratefulness is the more appropriate response), but it IS sad if the advantages are squandered.
When I think about some of my own advantages and gifts (a solid extended family, a knack for saving money, the ability to write, a brain that can learn about medical stuff, a healthy body, a good education, a heart that wants to serve others, the money to go to school and get a degree), I think about how it would be such a waste if I didn’t use those gifts to do something good in the world!
That’s why I blog and do volunteer work, and it’s why I’m going to get my RN.
Denying your advantages makes you look…worse
It’s one of those counterintuitive things in life; we think we make ourselves look better by presenting a self-made, self-reliant image.
But if you are like me, you actually think more highly of someone who can humbly admit to the gifts and advantages they’ve had in life.
And the converse is true. When someone cannot see the help they’ve gotten, I tend to lose some respect for them.
Seeing your advantages gives you grace for others
In the context of the LuLaRoe documentary, Mark Stidham was having a super ungracious attitude toward the reps who were having a hard time making money with LuLaRoe.
It was basically a, “Well, if you worked harder, then you’d be doing great, like me.” type of attitude.
Leaving aside the problematic nature of MLM companies, this is a pretty self-righteous outlook.
If you think you are entirely self-made, though, it is actually logical to look down on other people who are less successful; you think your current state is your own doing, and you think other people should be able to do what you’ve done.
But if you can see how you’ve been given gifts and help and advantages, then you can have grace for others who might not have had the same help.
To bring this around to frugality…
Sometimes, the Mark Stidham outlook crops up in frugal circles in the form of a frugal-er-than-thou type of attitude. Those of us who are good at managing our money and keeping our expenses down and resisting the siren call of consumerism can look down on people who have more trouble in these areas.
“Why can they not just do X,Y, and Z?” we think.
But I can think of all sorts of advantages I’ve had in life that have made it easier for me to be a money-saver.
To name a few:
I grew up in a family that modeled and valued hard work and entrepreneurship.
I grew up in a family where it was normal to fix things, do manual labor, cook from scratch, use the library, and a million other similar things.
I grew up in a family that did not carry debt.
My parents provided for my needs, but expected me to pay for things like a car, car insurance, and non-necessities in life (like extra clothes, hobby supplies, and so on.) This taught me some responsibility and independence.
I think I was born with a money-saving bent, so frugality is not a super-uphill battle for me.
Of course, I’ve also had to put in consistent effort at saving money. And my life has not been free of every economic disadvantage.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been given lots of advantages that are not my own doing, and it’s good and healthy for me to remember that not everyone has had those same advantages.
So, that’s part of why I blog here: to share what I know and have experienced with other people. It’s a way of spreading around the blessings I’ve received.
In sum, I think that advantages:
- are not equally distributed
- are something to be thankful for
- are healthy to see and acknowledge
- should be used to do good things in the world
What do you think about this whole idea?
I’d love to hear about some advantages you’ve experienced that have made frugality (or something else!) easier for you.