Everyone knows: don’t loan money to friends
A few years ago I did something that many wise people have advised against. I loaned money to a friend.
He was in a dire predicament and my immediate instinct was to help him. Without a second thought, I said I would loan him what was for me a large sum of money.
I went to the bank and handed over the cash to him. I felt I was being quite responsible as I asked him to sign a piece of paper with the amount being loaned and the payback date.
As I walked away, I began to have serious doubts about the transaction. The first thing that came up for me was a kind of embarrassment that I’d gone against the conventional wisdom. Then, I started to doubt the reliability of my friend. I realised I hadn’t known him that long and that I knew nothing about his financial situation. I became angry at him for prevailing on me for the loan and then upset with myself for being naive.
The loan was due in a month’s time. I was in a state of agitation for much of this period. I alternated between self-flagellation and self-doubt. I made unsuccessful attempts to bring my feelings under control.
Stuff happens: from dilemma to opportunity
Recently I came across the following words from a Buddhist monk who was commenting on a money-lending situation similar to mine:
You made good karma when you gave the money, as your intention was good. But then you made bad karma with your negative thoughts.
I won’t say whether or not the money was repaid. The point of this anecdote is that I made myself unnecessarily unhappy along the way. I did it, not my friend.
I have learned a lesson from this experience and others like it. Stuff happens. And, each time it does, there’s another opportunity to take pause and notice what reaction is occurring. Any incident is another chance to practice self-compassion and kindness to oneself.
Two weeks ago I was eating a hard piece of chocolate. When I chomped down on my back tooth, it fell out. My immediate reaction was to tell myself how stupid I was to be eating hard candy, especially on my weak back teeth. Next I went into lockdown. I didn’t want to tell anyone what happened, and especially about the chocolate bit.
Fortunately, my self-criticism lasted only minutes. I treated the problem as presenting a situation that now needed to be fixed rather than it being about me needing to be fixed.
I like to think that some wisdom has been born of age. I recognise that for most of the time, like you, I’m doing the best I can. Mistakes happen and they always will. Sometimes the more we do to have mistakes not happen just creates more painful experiences when they do.
I haven’t quite gotten to the stage where I can say, ‘So what, I lost a tooth.’ It is going to cost me money. But it doesn’t have to cost me my equanimity and availability. Mistakes are painful but it’s just plain crazy to inflate the negative thinking about them to the point where they create separation and self-harm.
While it seems like a mind-boggling experience at times, I’m learning to turn these faux pas into opportunities to practice mindfulness and self-love. The biggest payoff for this practice is that it spills over to being loving and understanding of others’ foibles. Because, for the most part, we are all doing the best we can.
P.S. At the eleventh hour, my friend did repay me. Phew!