Self Improvement — 16 January 2017
The etiquette of borrowing and paying back loans

Dealing with outstanding debts is often an emotionally charged issue. Most trustworthy people pay their bills and debts on time and may even pride themselves for being financially responsible beings. They are well-regarded by others compared to those who commit to reimbursing the lender on time and fail to do so. Whether the debt is to an institution or to a friend may play a role in the sense of responsibility or lack thereof that the borrower feels.

A commitment to act in a certain way is regarded as a contract, whether it was a written or verbally agreed upon. Typically, the intent of the borrower is to honor his/her commitment to repay the lender, but sometimes life’s temptations distract the borrower from following through as promised. People who are impulsive, easily tempted by joyous adventures, or pleasure-seekers, tend to live in the moment and “forget” about their obligations. The temptation of a self-pleasing opportunity such as hosting a big, expensive party, or buying a new cherished item, temporarily “erases” their accountability to those who were generous to them when they were in need of help.

Research about self-absorbed, self-pleasing and “thrill-seeking” people indicates that the opportunity of having fun in the moment, temporarily erases some people’s capacity to recall their commitments. It is similar to a child who states that he/she is full after eating part of his/her dinner, yet becomes excited about dessert. Essentially, the responsible adult regresses to a thrill-seeking child whose pleasure supersedes all other considerations.

Grayson Bell, personal finance blogger at Debt Roundup stated, “Some people do not distinguish wants from needs. They use the word ‘need’ for almost everything they purchase, causing them to actually believe they ‘have’ to spend the money.”

Then there are individuals who are thrill-seekers. These people obtain great pleasure from trips, adventure, exploring other cultures, risking their lives and challenging nature by climbing, bungee jumping, and more. Some of them feel that theses pleasures are a “must”, and the funds needed for such adventures override any other financial considerations.

This line of reasoning of a borrower may not resonate well with the lender. Financial institutions require a signed commitment from borrowers so they have legal recourse for collecting the money. Family members, friends and acquaintances who lend money as a goodwill gesture may feel disappointed when the borrower faults on his/her commitment and are less legally protected in the event that the borrower fails to comply with the original terms of the loan.

A note to borrowers:

  • Understand that the private lender has given you the money out of respect for your needs and trust in your commitment to reimburse the funds as agreed upon.
  • Paying your debt on time validates your capacity to act with dignity, and preserves your esteem.
  • Failing to do so disappoints and even worries the private lender and may cause him/her to lose respect for you as a reliable and honorable being.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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