Service of Guilt II

August 23rd, 2010

Categories: Guilt, Lending Money

guiltThe first “Service of Guilt” post in February focused on people who try to ping a remorse reaction as a sales tool.

Today, I address guilt from some other directions, starting with the anxiety and stress I feel when asking a borrower for my money back.

moneylenderI was warned at my mother’s knee to never lend money unless I could afford to give it away which I clearly remembered and should have heeded. I’ve never seen a cent of serious money I’ve lent. I couldn’t afford to lose it and I truly thought I’d get it back.

When I called about it, I suffered beforehand, dreaded the moment and my stomach churned.  

I envy senators, congress people–politicians of all stripes–sports figures and tycoons who are accused of serious crimes, some of which they have committed, and who can return to work and to microphones without shedding an ounce of sweat. They stare everyone in the eye as though what they are acused of is no biggie, and today is just another August summer day. Their public stance shrieks, “so what about it?”

Here I ask for what I am due, and I feel embarrassed and guilty.

While we’re on the subject, I also feel guilty when I don’t do something I know I should. I’m a subtenant in an office with people from many businesses. When one of us goes out to buy coffee, we generally ask others if they want us to get some for them.

coinsgaloreA colleague and I joke as we exchange piles of nickels and dimes almost daily. One person in a business unrelated to mine has never reached for a penny. It’s not about the money as much as the attitude. While I feel guilty when I sail quietly by this person’s desk on my way out and return with a cup or more for myself and others, being taken  makes me angry at myself, which feels worse than the guilt that accompanies the omission, so I live through the angst. I bet I am the only one who notices.

Have you run into situations like this? Do you think that what I feel isn’t guilt, but something else?


13 Responses to “Service of Guilt II”

  1. Frank Paine Said:

    I’m a bit taken by the piece of artwork at the bottom of the article–somebody’s taking your pulse, or perhaps you’re taking it yourself. Anyway, I used to be a banker, so lending other people’s money comes as second nature. No guilt whatsoever about asking for it back when due. In lending my own money, I follow your mother’s prescription–don’t lend unless it’s a matter of indifference whether you get it back. No guilt there, either. So where does your guilt come from? What sin or ethical premise have you violated? None…but you’re still feeling guilt? I don’t think so-I think you’re just angry at yourself for being taken. Been there/done that myself…Not the same as guilt.

    Before ducking out, I want to add a point about your stated “envy” of lying/crooked politicians, etc. You don’t really envy them, you’re just angry that the electorate voted them in, and even angrier if you voted for them. You got taken, and nobody likes that. Same syndrome as with lending.

    At least that’s my take on it…Frank Paine

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I guess I should have used a photo of a psychiatrist querying me, rather than someone taking my pulse.

    Your analysis of my sinking feeling when calling for what a borrower owes me may be reluctance to confront a person when s/he is down, which is the only reason I can think of that someone wouldn’t pay back a personal debt.

    People don’t see a bank in the same way that they see a person and many cheat us all by cheating a bank because the bank no doubt covers its losses by charging more to customers who pay back what we owe.

    I am like dog-with-bone if I suspect someone trying to cheat a client.

    As for the crooks I envy, I wish I would have their moxy, but then, knowing me, if I carried on as they do, no doubt I wouldn’t sleep well at night. I see no rings under their eyes!

  3. Hester Craddock Said:


    The one that causes me the most guilt now is the needy person-stranger who emails me hoping I will email them back, when what I really want to do is save the time it takes and avoid them. I usually email them back and feel stupid about it.


  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Are you speaking of those email scams that start out “Dear One,” and are filled with typos? You email them back? You must have cookies and all sorts of nasty things going on in your computer, my friend, as I bet that these are up-to-no-good emails.

    I don’t feel an iota of guilt deleting without reading those emails.

    Or are you pulling my leg?

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Learn how to play the guilt card well, and suckers will flock, possibly to the tune of millions! When will people learn that guilt should only be considered when knowingly and willingly doing harm? Even then, should the harm be reversable, and every effort to do so has been made, guilt no longer applies. I am flooded with the “Dear one” & other pleas for help, and cheerfully pass the messages on to government agencies. The senders are clearly crooks who must be doing very well considering the fact I am flooded, and don’t respond. The new scam, which recently hit the news, concerns FaceBook, where the thief uses a persons “friends” to scream for monetary help for a nonexistent crisis in the name of the victim. How many upon receiving such pitiful squeals will feel guilty if they don’t immediately shoot out cash without investigating the truth of the message?

    Even legitimate organizations use the guilt card to good effect. Ever get those unsolicited calendars (greeting cards or small change) which appear under the heading of “free gift(s)?” accompanied by a donation form? Failure to respond generates a “did you get your calendar?” letter, along with a second request for money. Guess one is supposed to feel bad for not paying up. Well folks, if it’s a gift, then it’s “free” so why send money for something neither requested nor wanted? Anger and annoyance are more logical reactions.

    Crooks get rich on the misplaced sympathies and/or guilt of their victims. Think of that next time a stranger starts to whine about the “poor children” and/or whatever. Nothing will discourage them more than non response. Now there’s a public service. Doesn’t cost a dime, makes one feel good thinking of the potential victims who may be spared loss of funds, and in many cases, life savings. Think along those lines, and guilt flies out the window!

  6. Anonymous Said:

    The subject of guilt and lending money hits home with me.

    My business partner and I [stupidly] gave a $1,500 advance against future sales last May to an ad-sales guy I worked with for many years at another job. He had always been pleasant and highly productive, and he seemed to really understand how to finesse a pitch and close a deal. That’s why we thought hiring him would be great for our small business. We told him to pursue non-edemic advertising and send us a brief progress report weekly. Very simple requirements, but getting him to send reports became an epic struggle.

    As the weeks rolled by and he continued to ignore my calls and e-mails, it was easy for me to conclude that I needed to pull the plug on the business relationship. I told him we expected him to repay the advance and he agreed to do so, so we [stupidly] extended the courtesy of a four-payment schedule rather than lump sum.

    On the day the first payment was due he sent me an e-mail that said his house probably was going to be foreclosed on next week so he couldn’t send us the payment. My business partner was inclined to have mercy on the guy and forgive the “loan” but I was not.

    Like you, Jeannie, I hate the feeling of being taken, so I’m going to pursue the matter–anyone know a good collection agency?–and I don’t feel one iota of guilt about his alleged impending homelessness, because it’s probably not true.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I had a former client take bad advantage of me. It is worse when you feel taken by someone you know. A dear friend was duped into working for a person going into bankruptcy and she was never paid. I go nuts when I feel gyped by sleazy Wall Street types yet I have an even harder time getting over this kind of robbery when the person knows me.

    Lucrezia, there was a time I had an almost lifetime supply of return address labels I never ordered nor did I pay for. Some people feel guilty to use what they don’t pay for. I am happy to use the unsolicited, often hideous labels.

    As for the Facebook scam, a friend called to ask me if I knew if a mutual friend, M, was OK as she’d received the email you describe. She wanted to call him up. He’d recently changed jobs and I didn’t have his home phone number so I called another friend to see if he had M’s phone number and he told me about the scam, that M wasn’t in Italy, nor in dire straits, nor did he need help!

    Thanks, all.

  8. Ann L Said:

    I worked with a man who was an excellent furniture maker. It was a hobby to him and he was good at it. I asked if he would build me a simple Shaker style table for what was then my country home. He agreed.

    I had a detailed design plan done for him to follow. We travelled to a famous wood place near the Delaware border and selected the wood together. I paid for the wood $$$$ I never saw the table.

    I would occasionally ask about it’s progress and his reply was usually sincere with the excuses of a busy life. I think it was about fourteen years ago.

    I still have no table and have wondered what wonderful whatever he eventually built for himself. Was it guilt that prevented me from pushing him or was I simply stupid? I think on some level it was fear. I did not want to hear the truth as to why he was not up holding his end of the bargain. Some form of rejection?

    Calling money in for services rendered has always left me with a similar feeling. It’s hard to understand why people do not fulfill their commitments

  9. Henry Babitt Said:

    In a curious twist on the usefulness of guilt, seven or eight years ago, I was approached by a well spoken island gentlemen as I walked down Madison Avenue at about 25th Street. He asked me whether I remembered him. I didn’t. Then he told me that we had met through his aunt, our long time weekly cleaning lady, uh, uh… I said, “You mean, I—?” saying her name. He said, “Yes, she is a great lady.” I agreed. Then he put the bite on me. He had just been robbed, he said, and needed money to get home. I gave him what I had, fortunately not much. I remember feeling guilt about it because he was intimidating and because of who he said he was and that he was related to our cleaning person.

    A few months later, a description of this “con” appeared in “The New York Times,” and I felt stupid. Others were approached about their supposed mother, if not an aunt.

    A week ago I was walking down 47th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue when I was hailed by a well spoken gentleman. He started, “You remember me ….” I was caught off guard and said, “No.” Then he insisted with the family connection story, and then I remembered. I said, “Yes, I do remember. We met on lower Madison Avenue some years ago.” He said, “Nonsense. I work at the A & P over here.” He further insisted for a moment, then thought better of it and took off.

    This time I felt neither guilt nor fear, but I did feel stupid again for not immediately yelling out, “Help! Police!”

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Ann L,

    If I had the money from all the people who started and never finished jobs at my house I would be on easy street. There are some people who feel no guilt in taking money and giving nothing or the converse: Asking for services with no intention of paying.


    I remember hearing about the scam you described! I was once stopped on the street late at night with nobody around and the guy said he needed money for gas. I keep a few dollars in my jacket pockets so I don’t have to open my wallet, handed him the money I pulled out and kept going.

    He wanted to know my address so he could return it to me!!! I kept on walking fast. I could have called out, “Help, police!” and the confrontation would have been worse and I don’t think I’d be doing myself any favors. I don’t think you would have either, although you could call the precinct that covers the street on which the person stopped you to let them know he’s out and about so they can keep on the lookout.

    Doormen will tell you that these “I need a few dollars for gas” semi-holdup people hit them up all the time. It is disgusting.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I just got a phone call from someone I hadn’t spoken with in ages and she made me laugh. She said, “I didn’t respond to your guilt post and I feel guilty.”

  12. Nenaghgal Said:

    As I’m now in sales – one has to get over the guilt of collecting money – in fact, our policy is that your ads don’t go out on the radio unless everything is paid in full. I’ve learned the hard way so now I emphasize this point thoroughly before the sale is finalized.

    In regards to loaning money to friends – versus collecting from clients – I did it once years ago and it was the worse decision I ever made – I won’t be doing it again – ever- there is a whole different attitude when it comes to loaning to friends and especially family. If I ever have to out of a dire situation, I will set it up like a business agreement – with a payback time and will explain I’ve been burnt before, not to take it personally but this is the only way I will lend money.

    Henry – I got conned by someone like that in New York when I lived there and even worse – one does feel very stupid – but we do learn! I’d say they had a good racket going for a number of years.
    Ann- I think you need to follow up on that table!!! 14 years! Madness –
    and yes I’ve gotten those emails asking for money – first one I responded as I’d never gotten one before but did not send money – far too wary about that these days.

    I think we all need to feel a lot less guilty and remember in these tough times – taking care of ourselves and our family is the most important – don’t let these con artists and bad sales people tap into our guilt.
    Here’s to a guilt free day!

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nenaghal Gal,

    I think you should stick to the promise to yourself never to lend money to a friend–or just give it to them. The payment schedule idea doesn’t work. At least, it didn’t with me, in spite of all the signed documents, revised schedules, updates about jobs and income etc. etc. I never saw a cent.

    Eventually, with one of the borrowers, the city sent me a notification that the person was going to be in bankruptcy court on such and such a day, if I wanted to present my case. I didn’t go. Why shove everyone’s face in something that is a lost cause? This happened in another economy, but my bet is that it will happen more and more. Scary.

    By the way, I did a rush job for a new company recommended to me by a prestigious trade editor whom I like and trust. I had a dickens of a time getting any money, and ended up giving up after seeing half. The company is now gone. My policy is not to start until I get the first check, if on retainer, or the equivalent of half the creative budget, if I’m doing a project. I did this person a favor because of the time crunch. Bad mistake: No more favors. And it wasn’t fun getting the money I did. To get the person to answer the phone, I had to use a colleague’s phone as the client wouldn’t pick up my calls!

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics