Wisdom Tree Blog

Generational Poverty


Growing up in Appalachia I could write you a book on financial poverty and the cycle of financial poverty.  I come from a long line of hillbillies – and I’m not ashamed of that.  They were good, decent, hard-working people – but like most Appalachians, never crossed the threshold out of poverty.  Sure, some were homeowners or business owners or even educated people.  Some even left the area for better opportunities. But, they didn’t accumulate wealth and they didn’t pass on wealth to their children.  There is a difference between surviving comfortably and getting beyond poverty.

And, so, we have generation after generation of folks just living to meet basic physical needs.  And that is financial poverty.  No matter where you are in the world, if you get up each day knowing that you can’t get sick and take a day off because you won’t be able to meet your basic needs, that is poverty.

I grew up poor.  And most of my life I’ve had lots of excuses for remaining poor and they all revolved around blaming something else and someone else for me being stuck in this generational cycle.   If only my parents had paid for my college instead of me being stuck with a bazillion dollars in student loans!  If only there were better jobs in this state!  If only I had the chances other people had been given!

Hey, don’t get me wrong – Appalachia is not an easy place to find good jobs, transportation, job training or a way out of poverty.  I get that and I honor all of us who are or have been caught in this cycle of struggle.  It’s freaking hard to get ahead here!

But, not too long ago I realized there is another kind of poverty that is perhaps even more crushing than financial poverty.  It’s called, Spiritual Poverty.

 “The spiritual poverty of the West is greater than ours… You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness…They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”  – Mother Theresa

I realize that is a quote from a blessed religious figure, Mother Theresa.  But, I don’t actually mean spiritual in the context of religion.  I mean, if there is one thing in Appalachia that is bountiful, it’s religion.

To me, spirituality is your connection with your spirit – your soul – your higher self – the divine in you.  Mother Theresa said “What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”   And, she’s not wrong. Only, God is whatever you call the life force energy that created you.  Whether you call it God, Allah, Universe, Creator Source, Nature, Science, Energy – if you are disconnected from your spirit, you are not connected to source or “God”.

What happens when we are not listening to our soul?  We are driven by our ego.  Religion, in my opinion, is ego driven.  Spirituality is divine inspiration.

When we lack a spiritual connection, we live from fear.  Ego keeps us afraid because it thinks it’s protecting us.  That’s its job and it does it well.  The problem is that if we don’t have a connection to spirit – or LOVE – then all we have is fear and ego.  Fear is spiritual poverty.

The truth is that if we are living from fear, we cannot live from love.  You cannot be in both energies at one time.  They are completely opposite and separate and have no common ground.  If we live from fear we don’t even have a choice to live from love; it’s not on the fear menu.

I believe that it is fear – spiritual poverty – that has kept families like mine and generations of others, living in physical poverty.

How is that possible?  Doesn’t fear drive you to do better?

No.  Fear tells you that you can’t do better and for a while you try to prove fear wrong and end up failing because at some point you are going to give in to the fear.

Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.      – Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

The puppet from Star Wars is not wrong.  Spiritual poverty ends in your suffering.  And then you blame the suffering on money.  It’s hard to crawl your way out of this kind of poverty if you don’t even know it’s there.

The biggest fear in Appalachia – the thing that keeps this area from growing and prospering – is the fear of change.  We’re comfortable in our poverty.  We’re proud to be strong and sturdy and surviving and we are so afraid that if we rock that boat that it might teeter to the negative side and leave us even worse than we are now.  And we pass this fear on to our children and grandchildren and they, too, become spiritually poor.

I’ve grown up in a time where poor small towns rejected highways and interstates coming through their areas because they were afraid of the growth it would bring and the change to their way of life.  Spiritual poverty made them unable to see the prosperity and abundance available with such growth.

Fear makes you doubt yourself.  Fear causes you to become attached to things, beliefs and routines.  Fear makes you jealous of the prosperity of others. Fear causes you to feel alone.  Fear creates a sense of hopelessness, futility and despair.  ... because the ego is trying to protect you from the unknown future.  

So, we’ve got that now.  Fear keeps us poor.  Spiritual poverty keeps us in financial poverty.

How do we become spiritually wealthy?

To become spiritually wealthy we have to have a connection to our spirit – our soul – our higher self.  We have to recognize the divine within ourselves. We have to live from a place of love.

  • Listen.  Listen to your inner voice.  How do you know your inner voice from your ego voice?  Your soul isn’t angry.  You soul isn’t afraid.  Your soul doesn’t tell you to act out of hate, spite, jealousy or fear.


  • Realize that you are divine.  The divine is in you and you are divine.  You are not separate from “God”.   You are in the universe and the universe is in you.  You are created and you are creator energy.  That means you are made perfectly.


  • And, if we all are made up of the divine, then we are all made up of the same love and light.  Once you understand that, then you will look upon your neighbor with the same love you look upon yourself.  You are divine and your neighbor is divine.


  • Finally, when we choose to look upon our neighbor with love and spiritual wealth,  then we can throw away the fear because we are glad for our neighbor being prosperous and we can see that change and growth will also benefit us with abundance and prosperity.  And, so ends the cycle of financial poverty.


Simplistic?  A bit.  I mean, getting to the place of love takes a journey.  Especially if you’ve lived your entire life from fear.  Not to mention the geopolitics involved in poverty on a grand scale.   But, one person at a time can do something as simple as connecting with their inner-self and live their life with abundance in every sense of the word.  You can live spiritually and financially wealthy.  This is true no matter where you are – from Appalachia to Australia.

So, are you like the generations of my family, stuck in a cycle of poverty –  spiritual or financial?  I’ve got this new course starting that will put you through many exercises to get you connected to your spirit and trusting you inner voice.  By the end of the course you will be making life choices from a place of spiritual abundance and living the life you want.

Check out my course, Vision Quest – journey through Transformation.




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