Nor a Lender Be
The topic of lending money to friends and relatives came up this week and it made me want to cover it here. In truth, though, I feel a little like I’m ripping off Dave Ramsey. He’s the master of busting debt myths, and this is one of his favorites, because the damage it can cause to a relationship is enormous. So, don’t be fooled, anything that follows which resembles wisdom probably came from something he wrote or said.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–76
Here’s the story.
I was talking to a friend this week. She’s been having some relationship troubles with her boyfriend. Recently, there has been some growing tension, and some accusations have been thrown between the two of them. Trust is starting to break down. She’s wondering if there’s any point in going forward.
I was trying to be a good friend. Just listening, keeping my mouth shut, and letting her vent, but then she said, “I guess I’ll have to make him sign a note or something for the money he owes me.”
Say what? There went keeping my mouth shut.
It turns out he had a period of unemployment and was having trouble keeping up with his mortgage payment, so she covered it for him for a few months. She was able to help save his home until he could bounce back and start working again. Anyone looking at what she did would agree it was a good thing.
Except me. I’m a jerk. It’s what I do.
Let me explain. There’s now a several thousand dollar debt between them. That’s not money that she could easily do without, so she’d like him to be paying her back. That’s only fair, right?
What about when he misses a payment, though? It strains their relationship. It eats away at the trust that needs to be there to build a future together.
When he decides that he and his child should take a vacation together, she can’t help but wonder where the money for that comes from. Why isn’t it being used to pay her back instead? It introduces questions about his responsibilities and priorities.
The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
The problem is that the moment the money changed hands, they stopped just being girlfriend and boyfriend. Now she’s his creditor, and he’s her debtor. According to Proverbs, he’s now her slave, and I bet he feels like it. Although I guarantee that neither of them thought that a little loan would change their relationship so drastically, it has.
This is true in every case. No matter the relationship and no matter how large the loan. If the money is not repaid quickly, then the loan will become a source of contention, and it will change the nature of the relationship. Possibly even destroy it.
Don’t be a lender. You love your friends and your family. Protect those relationships. If they’re in need, and you can help them financially, then give it to them out of your love. If someone you love owes you money, consider forgiving the debt and setting them free.
Have you ever been on either side of a situation like this? Did your relationship come out unscathed? What do you think of the phrase “The rich rules over the poor,” and how do you think it applies to our lives today?
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