So many people tell me about how ashamed they feel about their financial problems. They feel like losers, cheats or just bad people for not being able to honor their repayment promises.
It is truly unfortunate that people find themselves in money trouble with debt casting a huge black shadow over their life as far as they can see.
But the tragedy in debt is not that it happens, bad things happen in the lives of many due to no fault of their own. A plane crashes, a rock falls from the sky, a truck slides on ice and loses control. Accidents and unintended events will always happen and each day that we wake up could be our last. Those are all just facts.
In my humble opinion, if you believe in a higher power or God then it is not the fact that you found yourself in trouble that you would be judged on. If you make a mistake and place yourself, intentionally or unintentionally, in harm’s way with finances, the real thing to worry about is not to punish yourself for your past error but instead to learn from that mistake and not repeat it moving forward.
There is no sense wasting a perfectly good mistake. Learn from it.
Stop worrying about how people may judge you for your past mistakes. Instead, let’s focus on making your life from this day forward, better. Be grateful, be happy, be thankful for what you have and the curses that you don’t have. When you think your life is bad, trust me, it could always be worse.
Rather than leaving yourself in a financial bind for years to come by sacrificing your health and safety to make minimum payments, consider that it is also gracious to accept responsibility for your past mistakes, address them and move forward to create a safer future and to be a better steward of the money you are making and will make now and in the future.
I have seen many situations where the most responsible action to take is to file bankruptcy instead of limping along to make marginal payments that will never satisfy the debt. In these situations, people, after making these payments, are unable to live in a safer area, can’t save for the unexpected, can’t afford medical care or properly feed themselves. Does that make them better, more moral, or more responsible people?
Don’t allow your creditors or debt collectors to judge you. Your debt is not a statement of who you are, it is only a part of the life that you live. Collectors give you attitude and cast dispersions on you as a tool to make you feel guilty to collect more money. Let judgment stand between you and your God instead.
Now I’ve got to be honest, some of the stories that I hear from people in debt leaving me shaking my head at times and wondering, “What were they thinking?” but even the stories of the worst financial mess have never left me thinking any less of that person as an individual. Debt happens and bad debt happens to good people. Debt is debt, it is not the sum of your life and it certainly does not define you. Your actions define you. Your kindness and gratitude define you.
But that’s just me and my point of view.
What do you think?
Originally published January 25, 2009.