Saturday, August 5, 2023


I bounced out of the bedroom, exuberant. A pad of paper was covered in scrawls, noting wisdom that I had gleaned in the past hour and a half. I had just participated in a free online webinar with an editor at a renowned Catholic publishing house.

Information and advice had piled into my lap, and I was encouraged by all the other people I saw participating in the webinar—some of whom I already knew of through various online Catholic publications. I was also excited about this opportunity: to receive wisdom from a woman who was freely offering her thoughts and expertise to us.

In a culture where countless offerings from creatives are monetized, this shocked me.

It’s important to compensate people for their work. Resources require time and money, and someone, somewhere, has to pay for them. Paying for books, art, classes, and conferences helps to offset the cost of producing these things. It also creates a general recognition that these resources are valuable—they are so worthwhile that we pay money for them. 

However, we’ve reached a point where we stick price tags on everything. Articles, talks, newsletters, courses, conferences, meetups—just to name a few—often have some kind of fee attached. Everything has a price, and if you don’t have the money to pay up, then you don’t receive the mentorship, training, or advice that is touted as “indispensable.”

“My time is valuable” is a refrain that I’ve seen bounce around frequently. People who create courses and other online content spend a lot of time doing this work, and it’s important that they are compensated in some way. However, our attempts to stick price tags on our time can get obsessive.

I once saw an online course that was priced at several thousand dollars. The person who developed it probably was knowledgeable, but that seemed like a lot of money to pay—especially when this person didn’t seem to be that “famous” or well-established in the field. I looked at the social media posts, in which the course creator defended the price. My time is valuable, and I spent a lot of time developing this course. When I learn more, the prices will go up—so get in now.

It’s good to be compensated for work that we’ve done, and we need to pay people a living wage. In the encyclical, Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII notes that “To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven (20).” However, if we get caught up in money and the trend to monetize everything, it’s easy for us to monetize people. 

We start to see our entire lives as a series of transactions, and we focus on what we receive. If we aren’t getting emotional fuzzies in a relationship or brief interaction, we step away. If we aren’t being entertained at church, we find another church (or quit going altogether). If we aren’t feeling appreciated by our neighbors or community, they are the problem and we fuel ourselves with bitterness. Other people cease to be human persons to us; and instead, they turn into objects for our gratification and compensation.

Our transactional mindset tells us that if we are good people, then we deserve emotional fulfillment with a spouse and children (the exact number and sex that we determine)—and if we get these things (people, rather), it’s an injustice that we must fight. And if we do get a spouse and kids, but don’t receive the hoped-for emotional fulfillment? Clearly, it’s their problem, not ours, and the injustices continue to pile up.

Will this obsessively monetized view bring us lasting peace or true joy?

I think of all of the saints: holy men and women over the years who offered themselves to God as they prayed and served others. I think of all of the holy priests and religious sisters I know, who currently sacrifice their lives each day as they care for every person they encounter. I think of all the people who truly seek to see Christ in each and every person. And I think of a speech that St. Paul gave, where he says:

“In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

Transactions are part of life, but we need to let God—not money—be our guide and inform our business decisions. 

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this and fully agree. The obsession with monetizing everything has exhausted me. And I think it’s made many people think a little too highly of themselves.