Dear Ezra and Lian,
To paraphrase Yoda, “Give or give not, there is no lend.” One thing you will never see me do, is lend someone money. When you are old enough to borrow money, I will not make an exception for you two either. If you are worth lending money, then you are obviously worth giving money. If someone else is a bad risk and you wouldn’t give them money, then why would you lend them money? This is also the same reason why I either give big or I don’t give at all. People and causes are either worth supporting sacrificially or they are worth avoiding completely.
Don’t ever bother asking me to lend you money. Either you didn’t save enough or earn enough to deserve what you want. If you don’t have enough confidence to ask for a gift, then either your character is bad enough that you are not worth investing in or this object is not worth buying. I hope this will cause you to learn to earn and to save. I have hope you will pursue good character and good things.
I live by this principle for two reasons. First, I was given it as advice. Now, I give this same advice to others and it has helped all of them. It keeps people out of bad situations. The worry of collecting on debts or the fear of paying them back is removed. It is liberating. Secondly, more importantly and sadly, I received this advice too late. I went through a painful experience that helped me see the value in giving, rather than lending money. Let me share that story with you.
Remember Brad; the guy I watched get beat up as I drove away from him? A few weeks or months after that, Brad asked me to lend him some money. He needed a deposit for first and last month’s rent for a new apartment. I think part of the reason was because his old landlord was afraid after the violence on their front lawn. It probably was closer to a new job Brad had started and he didn’t drive or have any vehicle.
Partially out of guilt, partially because I wanted to help a guy get up on his own two feet and start a new life, I quickly said yes. Despite me being a young guy, I had a great paying job. It wasn’t that big a deal to lend him about $700. I soon wished I hadn’t done that.
The months went by. Brad never gave me any of the money back. He started avoiding me. I am pretty sure he lost his job somehow. I think he got some other debts to pay and those guys would send people to beat you up if you didn’t pay them back.
One time, I saw Brad and he saw me. He literally turned around and quickly walked away into the crowd. I was left standing there, wondering what just happened. I wanted to run after him, but I didn’t know where he went. I wanted to tell him that his debt was forgiven. He didn’t have to pay me back.
Brad disappeared from my life. He moved away without telling me. I don’t think our mutual friends and contacts even knew where he went. I can’t even remember his last name now. I lost a friend because I lent him money. He was too embarrassed to ever again see or talk to me. He probably felt guilty or that I would yell at him about the money. I didn’t care about the money. I would have given it to him from the beginning if he had just asked for it as a gift.
If Brad ever reads this letter, I hope he knows that he doesn’t owe me anything. His debt was forgiven about 22 years ago. He’s also the main reason I have never lent money to anyone since. I will never lend money because I don’t want to lose any more friends over it. Kids, I love you and I will never let money or debts get in the way of our relationship. So, I give or I give not, there is no lend.