The Gargoyle on Your Shoulder


This is a door knocker we found in Florence, Italy. It reminded me of a gargoyle, something scary and unfriendly. The teeth were actually carved to be defined and daunting, and it was very effective. When approaching this door you would not get anywhere if you were timid or shy when placing your hand on the knocker to enter. You had to be bold, decisive, confident and fearless otherwise he knocker won and you were left out in the cold.

I was in a store making a purchase and the shopper in front of me was making a payment on her store credit card. She paid the exact same amount as the items she was purchasing. The net difference was zero, so she ended up with the same amount on her card and the interest was piling up. She joked about never getting out from under it. When I made my purchase the store clerk asked me if I wanted to save thirty percent on my purchase today by opening a store credit card. I declined and she was surprised. She couldn’t believe I didn’t want to save money. I told her I love saving money, I also let her know that I understood that saving was not the point of her offer. By putting my purchase on the store card I was opening the door to debt and interest payments which would actually make the items more expensive. She looked stunned. She had never thought of it that way.

I have had recent conversations with people who are facing their own strangulation with debt. They are stunned to find themselves in this position at this point in their lives. One has lived well beyond their means with credit cards and equity loans. Another has every luxury of life and is facing the monthly payments they thought they could afford. Both  realize they have made a series of choices that have left them out of control and now they live life with the gargoyle of debt clinging firmly on their shoulder.

Debt is like a gargoyle. It intimidates us, causes us to be fearful, and it can prevent us from moving forward with confidence. We buy the line that we can ‘afford’ the payments never actually doing the math of what those payments totally cost. The challenge is the people selling us the items are there to sell us things whether or not we can afford them; they want the sale, who cares how it impacts your financial standing. Too many of us are never taught about how money works, so we take bad advice from people who simply want a sale and make money on the interest that racks up over time.

We forget that we have power, we have the ability to say no and move forward without debt. We can choose to buy what we want which may mean waiting until we can afford to pay cash. WHAT? Pay cash, that’s crazy talk! It may seem that way but in reality it is the preferred method if financial freedom is the goal. The key is to think about your goals long term instead of the moment’s purchase. The question to ask is do I want this item enough to feel the gargoyle of debt on my shoulder until I can pay off the debt? Do I want to live that way? Or do I want to wait until I can afford the item without any strings or interest? Can I curtail my urgent need for what is really important to me in the long run? Digging out of debt is a long path and can wear you out. The pain of a moment’s refusal to buy on credit will alleviate the long term, ever present pain of the gargoyle of debt. The only person who can make that decision is you.

This is a tough topic, not a fun one to write about. I have had my own years in debt and know that wrenching pain of digging out. Gargoyle’s are meant to be scary; they provide warnings, elicit fear, and serve as a reminder to enter with caution. This door knob reminded me of the perilous journey of paying off debt and the power we have to simply wait, say no, or go without. It takes guts to live life on your terms and with cash. It takes thought and resisting the urge to have now when what you really want is freedom. Maybe it is time for you kill the gargoyles in your own world and remove the fear from past decisions.

Life is meant to be joyous and full of excitement. I encourage you to take back your power and deny the gargoyle of debt the ability to live on your shoulder.

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