Debt and Shame

Blog

Jul 29

Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. But both men and women generally feel bad about carrying debt and not being able to pay it.  Most of us are brought up to pay our debts.  Our religious or moral code may reinforce this.  Above all, people feel embarrassed if anyone knows that their debts are not being paid.

These feelings can be overcome, and efforts should be made to do so.  I often can accomplish this by demonstrating the necessity for dealing with the debt.  This is particularly effective when there are children involved.  The choice becomes easier when the available resources must be used either for the children or to pay the credit cards.

Creditors themselves often help debtors change their feelings.  A nasty creditor or collector can quickly change a debtor from feeling bad about not paying to feeling a sense of righteous indignation.

The founding fathers included bankruptcy in the U.S. Constitution

The tool I use most often, though, is knowledge.  Few people know that the founding fathers provided for bankruptcy in Article I of our constitution.  By doing so, they provided a means for debt relief which was unlike the system they had left in Europe.  Our constitution would not provide for debtors’ prison, indentured servitude, or the placing of children with employers to pay off debt as in a Charles Dickens novel.

I also often provide my clients with a short history lesson about famous Americans who have weathered financial difficulties, both with and without bankruptcy.  The biographies I reference will vary, depending upon the experience and background of my client.  Examples might include Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry Truman as presidents, or Larry King, Howard Hunt, and Wolfman Jack as celebrities.  I especially like to use acknowledged pillars of industry, like Henry Ford, J.C. Penney, and Walt Disney for people who have businesses of their own.

Whether a debtor is using bankruptcy or a repayment plan, we should do what we can to retain and promote their self-respect and dignity.