I became fascinated with personal finance sometime ago (years if not decades ago). It probably started with listening to Clark Howard (the OG of personal finance audio). However it started, I now read and listen to more sources of personal finance information and related topics than I care to elaborate. Sometimes this leads to tangents that while pertaining to personal finance also relate to much broader subjects. An article I read this weekend hit upon one such a theme and it related to a derogatory Gaelic term.
The term is is “Mé Féiner“.
Here’s the article in which the term was mentioned. It describes a situation where three coworkers regularly drive to lunch together, often driving distances to explore the restaurants in their community. They decide to share carpooling duties only for one of their number to decide they don’t want to drive nor do they volunteer to contribute to the cost of the journey, thus leaving it for others to pay. The author brings up the term mé féiner to describe the apparent behavior of the one party in the story.
I don’t speak Gaelic but from what I have found online the term basically means “myself” but with a more sinister edge to it. It is used for the type of person who is always focused on how an event affects them with no concern for others. You probably know this type of person, maybe you have some of them in your life. They always put themselves first. They are always at the center of the photo, they eat more than their fair portion, or more of the best parts, of a shared meal with no regard for the others in the group, they make sure that they financially come out better in every situation, while others come out worse as a result of their choices, any emotional drama that takes place is shaped to help them first and foremost, etc., etc. The world revolves around them and thus they should benefit from pretty much every action.
Are any people coming to mind?
There are a few that have been a part of my life that seem to ring the bell when I think of this Gaelic term.
I don’t have the training or education to go into the pathology of why this happens with some people who may have it as the result of personality disorders but I do believe for many non-personality disordering suffering people it comes from being overtaken by two mindsets: 1st a mindset of fear, and 2nd a mindset of scarcity. I fear that I won’t be taken care of because there are limited resources. So if you get your needs met that very well may mean that my needs will go unmet as a result. Therefore, I operate in a “me against the world” mindset and look out for myself first. Love says “we’re in this together” and lifts others up. Fear says it is a “dog eat dog” world and one of us has to lose so it might as well be you.
The Jesus described in the New Testament is unlike the mé féiner. He is the one Who lays His life down for others rather than just thinking of himself. He is the One Who continues to take care of others’ needs even when He is exhausted and just trying to avoid the crowd (Mark 6:32-34). Paul describes Jesus, and how we should be like Him, in the following song from the early church quoted in his Letter to the Church in Phillipi.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest placePhilippians 2:1-11
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The cross-shaped life informed by Jesus is the opposite of the mé féiner life. I am convinced it is also the better life. The message of the world may be “get yours” or “make sure you are looking out for number one”, but I am convinced that those messages are not only hurtful to those around us but also to our very own selves. That message tears us down and keeps us from the joy of living the cross-shaped life. The self-giving message of the gospel teaches us that when we lose our life that is actually when we find it. Which is why I believe that when we lift others up and operate out of love instead of fear, we usually find that we have been lifted up too. Love cast out fear and when there is no longer any fear there is no longer any “need” to grab yours before others receive theirs.