Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Etiquette of Debt and Borrowers

Mere conventions, mere formal ceremonies, do not indicate good manners. Good manners are the result of an unselfish desire to avoid annoying others and to give pleasure to one’s associates.” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox 
Borrowers Should Form a Union and Establish Rules and Regulations 
Too Many Receive Favors Only to Forget the Lender...
Failing to Recompense and Never Thinking to Express Gratitude, Thus Hurting Hearts That Were Friendly

It’s a world malady which few of its denizens are able to escape. Sooner or later, the burden of debt is incurred for a longer or shorter period of time. It is a misfortune but not a crime to incur debt. The man who owes somebody, has a much larger company with whom he associates than the man who lends. So old and so almost universal is the position of the debtor that a “Debtors’ Union” ought to be formed. 

Every union, every organization of any kind, has its certain laws, formalities and obligations, both written and unwritten, which make what might he called the etiquette of the order. The borrowers of the world need such a union, and are sadly in need of an understanding of its laws of etiquette. Here are a few outlines of those laws: 

You who have asked and received money, or influence, from anyone in the world to enable you to further your own interests, will understand that these laws are outlined for your special benefit. And if you will, be glad to know in your heart, that the reproof they convey to the delinquent, the thoughtless or the indifferent does not apply to you. The reproof is intended for the thoughtless, the delinquent and the indifferent. 

After Receiving the Favor, Too Many Lapse Into Silence 

A struggling youth, intelligent, moral, industrious, found herself in temporary embarrassment, and wrote to a friend asking for a loan. The loan was granted promptly, and with words implying the pleasure it was to be aide to bestow this favor. A grateful acknowledgement of the accompanying check was received in reply. Then an utter silence ensued. Months became a year and no word was heard from the young woman who had been benefited, save an occasional item of information through casual mutual acquaintances. 

The etiquette of the Debtors’ Union should demand that at least twice a year a courteous and friendly note should be written from the debtor to the lender, telling of his doings, his interests, his efforts toward success and his belief in final attainment of the goal he was seeking. No continual reference need be made to the debt, but the individual who is sufficiently interested in another to lend him aid of any kind is sufficiently interested to feel the wound of silence and neglect. 

Another young lad had passed through great sorrows and unusual tragedies, which resulted in the breaking up of his home and in his becoming adrift in the world without kith or kin. He wrote to a lady who had known him from childhood, asking for a small loan, with which he could provide himself decent raiment to wear in the fulfillment of duties he had recently secured. He assured the lady he would repay her one dollar a week until the debt was liquidated. The check was sent gladly, and in the accompanying letter, the lady said she accepted his terms of payment, as she felt it would enable him to feel more manly and to form business-like methods. Her bank returned the voucher of her check, which had been cashed, but in that way only was she even aware that it was ever received. No acknowledgment was sent to her, and even a letter of inquiry, after more than six months, brought no reply. 

These are but two illustrations of what seems to be an almost universal habit of the borrowers of the world. To lend money to one's friend seems almost invariably to cause a deterioration of character and a loss of high ideals and nobility of thought in the borrower. It may be urged by the borrowers that they feel sensitive in regard to their debt and do not like to write until they are able to liquidate it. But if they are not too sensitive to ask such favors they should not be too sensitive to refer to them after they have been granted. 

There are shining exceptions, of course, to these dark examples. A woman struggling in direct poverty with a sick husband and a large family of small children (a woman of refinement and education) borrowed $100.00 in an hour of great despair. That was ten years ago. Two or three times a year the benefactor receives a few words, at least, and often a long letter from the one benefited, and even small sums have been insistently enforced upon the lender to lessen the debt in order that the borrower might retain her self-respect. In that way, half the sum has been paid, but better than that, admiration and affection for the borrower have been strong factors in enriching the life of the lender. Here was one who understood, without being taught, the etiquette of debt. But they are few. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1915

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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