The Personal Ponzi Scheme

“I’ve decided that life is a Ponzi scheme.”

I must have looked puzzled.

“Do you know what that is?”

I knew I had heard the phrase somewhere, but–unsure of its meaning—I shook my head.

“Smoke and mirrors,” she said, smiling. “It’s like, convincing others that you have this great thing to buy into…”

I realized then where I had heard the term. Wasn’t this what Bernard Madoff had done? Bilked hundreds out of millions by convincing them to invest in his fraudulent scheme?

I sat up straighter.

My friend is getting her MBA, so she is always enlightening me—stretching my world bigger. An Occupational Therapist, her mind works in ways that amaze me. While we dine in my small office at the hospital, she educates me as to how the world is flat, given me insights about the international business world, and helped me understand the virtues of certain marketing strategies.

But a Ponzi scheme?

What in the world?

I listened to my friend expound on her theory.

She explained that she has stumbled on a new source of self-confidence.

The Ponzi scheme.

“Most people get their Ponzi schemes from their parents. As they’re growing up, they’re told they’re wonderful, or special…you know? They get this unconditional love that they build their world on and…and they totally buy into, right? So they grow up feeling good about themselves…”

I was on the edge of my seat. And then she said this:

“And since I was raised by crazy people, I didn’t get my Ponzi scheme.”

My eyes widened.

“I didn’t either!”

We talked more about developing our Ponzi schemes—how to use this concept to build our self-esteem.

I loved it.

It made sense.

Sort of a self-investment. Building myself up.

That’s good, right?

I was so impressed with our new theory that I told Jeff about it when I got home.

“Isn’t that neat? I mean, if I buy into the scheme that I am a self-confident, all together woman, and act accordingly—then…I am. I just have to buy into it and then others do too.”

Before I was finished, he was shaking his head.


I don’t want to have to pretend to be something I’m not, he explains calmly. Why do you think I gave my life to God? Because I’m sick of all the Ponzi schemes. I’m sick of all the falseness in the world. I don’t want to invest in anything but the Truth.

Can you say ‘deflated’?

Still, not willing to let go, I looked up Ponzi scheme on Wikipedia and this is what I found:

”A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profit earned. The Ponzi scheme usually offers returns that other investments cannot guarantee in order to entice new investors, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going.

Reading just a bit further, these words jumped out at me:

“The system is destined to collapse (emphasis mine) because the earnings, if any, are less than the payments. Usually, the scheme is interrupted by legal authorities before it collapses because a Ponzi scheme is suspected or because the promoter is selling unregistered securities. As more investors become involved, the likelihood of the scheme coming to the attention of authorities increases.”

Destined to collapse.


It’s not looking so good for the personal Ponzi scheme.

Sadly, I relayed Jeff’s words to my friend at work the next day.

“He just says it’s not based on the truth…”

“But what is truth?”

She tilted her head to one side as she said it, eyes sparkling with mischief.


What is the truth?

Truth for one person may be totally different from the next.

In fact, another friend said she thought our theory should be called the Fun House Mirror.

Because how we see ourselves is so different sometimes from how others view us. When we look in the mirror we all see different distortions.

After all our discussions about truth, we decided that whatever we call it, the goal of the personal Ponzi scheme is to create a new truth for ourselves. One that promotes success. It does not have to be fraudulent or disingenuous to do so.

Still, I can put on my Ponzi scheme, feel totally satisfied with the results, then go home and it could all collapse out from under me.

I need more.

The sad thing is, I know there is more.

There is a truth that I can cling to—one I can build my life and self-image on that will guarantee success. But I don’t live every moment of my life doing so.

The knowledge that I am loved and valued by my Lord just as I am—with all my blemishes and failures—this should be earth shattering. This truth should give me a supernatural confidence, and assurance despite earthly discouragement.

But I must invest in this truth before it can change me.

Friends, there are going to be days when I’m just not feeling it. On those days, I might have to rev up the personal Ponzi scheme.

But when all is said and done, I need more to hold on to.

In the end, I want my investments to be in the Truth.

Personal Ponzi?

I might need one sometimes.

But what I really want, what I really need is my Personal Jesus.

That’s where true confidence comes from.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 4:16)


  1. says

    Personal ponzi… sounds like a fun phrase to work into a poem… somehow. 🙂

    On a different note, I wondered if you might have read Between Two Worlds!

  2. says

    Thought-provoking…never thought of this or heard of it. Love Jeff’s reaction “that’s why I gave my life to God”.

    You are so right that truth is based on interpretation from one person to the next. I know the truth I feel about myself is not close to God’s truth about me or even my friend’s and family’s truths about me. Low self-esteem, I believe it’s called.
    Love ya,
    Posted today on our study.

  3. says

    Hey friend, I wonder what you would hear if you took your journal, went away to a quiet place and asked your Creator… “What do you think of me?” “What do you see in me?” “Who would you say I am?” “Is there a name you would call me?”

    Once you hear, it becomes your ponzi….

    Just thinkin….

  4. says

    Why do people base their lives on things they know are schemes, things we know won’t last and are destined to fall apart? Maybe because of that initial rush, the quick gain.

    We’re so hopeless with the big picture. That’s why we need God.

    This post is the best thing I’ve read in a long, long while.

  5. says


    There is also a sequel to the book my son is reading. I forget the name of it but I’m sure you can find it on Amazon when you are looking for the other book. He recently started the “Redwall” series as well. There is about 15 books in this series. A friend recommended them to me. I haven’t actually read them (totally trust my friend on that one because we tend to be really careful about the books our kids read). Anyway, the “Redwall” series fall into the fantasy category. All about some mice , swords, castles, and all that good stuff boys love.

    Just thought I would pass that on… have a great day!

  6. says

    Yup…God and I were just talking about that the other day as I mowed. A thought popped into my head and I was just PLAIN TIRED of thinking that thought… a giant DUH…..God told me to quit listening to my own thoughts and think like He does…about me…His beloved….no matter what happened those first 18 years that is the past….I’ve allowed consequences for WAY TOO LONG! We do need a new way of thinking…just His.
    Someone shared some of God’s thoughts about me once…I CLING to those words…I KNOW it is how He sees me—-they are the most precious words I have ever heard. Blessings!

  7. says


    Don’t you love it when God uses our man to speak straight to our hearts?

    “What I really want, what I really need is my Personal Jesus.” I love how you bring the truth home!

    Love the way you minister, girl!

    Love you,

  8. says

    Wonderful post, I was going to say something but then I read the comments so now I can just say ditto to Julie!

    John Eldredge wrote a great book “Waking the Dead” one thing I took away from it is “God created you for good” It’s so easy to get distracted by all that we do that is wrong that we forget that He really did intend us for good and as long as we look to Him he will eventually right it all with us and Him.

    In Him,

  9. says

    At first, I thought of Fonzie, but then I realize this was going somewhere else. Ponzi-ing is exhausting; Truth, on the other hand, is revitalizing.

    Keep me to the path of the one Truth, Father, all the days of my life!

    This all makes sense to me; I’m just not sure how … still stuck on Fonzie.


  10. says

    I for one, am so glad that you went home to bounce this off of Jeff. What wisdom in your Man and how God confirmed that wisdom through wikepedia.

    I for one, have had enough fradulent and collapsing if my life to last a lifetime. GIVE ME JESUS!


    Love you and I know we are standing together, GIVE US JESUS!

  11. says

    I have been told many times that I am living and perpetuation a ponzi scheme when proclaiming Jesus…

    I know better…. 🙂

    Good Post Laura….thanks for sharing.

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