Thursday, April 1, 2010

When a Friend Isn't a Friend and It's time to Tell Her

I have had this Friend. We've known each other for years, starting about 10 years ago in Sunday School. Friend always seemed to be in the midst of a calamity - financially oriented. She's sweet and nice and well educated, but something about her, something about her life, invites financial disaster.

About 4 years ago she came to me in despair, asking for a "loan" if I could just spare it. She laid the guilt trip on me, too, because I am comfortable financially although not without my share of bills. But I have been blessed never to wonder how I could possibly pay the mortgage/rent. At the time I was married and so had that extra layer of financial support. So I wrote her a check. And not a small one. She assured me it was a "loan" and that when she got on her feet, she'd pay it back. I never expected to see it again.

About a year later she came to me again. Again in despair. Again begging for help. Again I wrote her a check - smaller this time, but still enough for her rent. I was still married and Ex had a cow. I told him it would be the last time.

After the divorce, she came to me again. I said No. I said I had my own difficulties and now I as a single parent and No. She was relentless - showing up at my office, calling me, telling me how outrageous it was and not her fault that she ended up in this situation. She showed up at my church where I was teaching Sunday School under the guise of "I've always wanted to come to your church" but after class she just wanted a check. Her situation was a mess. And so, I rented her a car (she had an accident and totaled hers, her fault, and no collision insurance). Without a car she couldn't work. Without work she couldn't pay the rent. 1 week of rental was all I gave her. And I demanded that we sit down with her bills and her finances and talk about budgeting and how to get her out of her situation. I do have financial training and thought that rather than just write her a check, I could help her with my other skills. She was very angry and didn't want to talk about it. I insisted but we didn't get very far.

OH and by the way, did I hear from her in between? No. Not really. I was busy and didn't care if I'm being totally honest. But it got to the point where if I saw her number pop up (thank GOD for caller ID) or got an email or a voice mail at work, I avoided it.

Last month it started again - she called under the guise of "How are you?" And I laid it on thickly - all the financial struggles, the pay cuts at work, the layoffs, impending college bills, possible home repairs because of the monster storm. On and on. Of course she was really calling for money and I fortunately gave her the impression that I couldn't possibly give her money. Then this week she called again - not intent to leave a message, but texting, calling, urgently tracking me. It wasn't enough for me to tell her I was busy and couldn't talk.

Finally today I called her back when I had 5 minutes - literally 5 minutes between calls - to let her know I had no money for her. And I told her, "The only time you call me is for money. That's a one way relationship that can't continue." Boy did I get the wrath of God thrown at me - she challenged me to "Find that in the Bible." And I said, "Find what - the fact that you only call me when you want something? I don't think that's going to be in the Bible." She said, "All the other people don't accuse me of this" and I said, "Maybe you give them more time and attention than you do me, or maybe they are just afraid to speak the truth." She tried to tell me that "this" was not in my heart. I said, "You don't know what's in my heart or my head so don't try to tell me what is there."

Plus? I'm out of town and going to be out of town until the 12th - how can I write you a check? She had the nerve to tell me I could wire the money to her!!!!

She said I was "pretending to be too busy to talk to her." I said, "WHAT? You don't think I work 60 hours a week, am a single parent, am dealing with my own strife? You don't think I was in a restaurant having Lunch yesterday with my Daughter, taking time out of a hectic travel/college visit when you called? You don't think I was in a Meeting with Big Potential Client today when you texted me? You don't think I'm on a train right now and have a conference call in 5 minutes?!!" The NERVE.

It was hard. This is a person who I don't think is a "bad" or "evil" person. I think she has incredible strings of bad luck. I do think she is a person of Great Faith. I don't know why all these things happen to her. But I did decide that although God does ask us to help each other out, that there comes a time when I get to decide (not her) if I should help her. And somehow helping her hasn't helped her. Once she demanded that I "had" to pay for her Real Estate license so that she could supplement her income. I told her 1) a real estate license is a bad idea right now [about 2 years ago right before the house/mortgage crash] 2)I don't HAVE to provide such things for her - I'm still paying off my own law school debt 3) if she thinks it's such a great idea, get a night job at McDonald's, save the $600 in a month and get the license herself!!

It was hard to tell her No. It was harder to say, "This is a one way friendship and I'm out." It is harder to wonder if perhaps God does expect me to take care of her. I don't know. There is a lot in the Bible about "whatsoever you do for the least of my Brother, that you do unto me." My own family has serious financial struggles but no one has asked me to pay their rent or demanded I buy things for them. Perhaps she is in more serious and desperate straights than they are. But something about this is telling me, "Enough is enough."

Is it Guilt telling me I'm wrong? Or just that I have lived my life as a Pleaser and let people manipulate me? I don't know....

I do know that my own 17 year old Daughter said (yesterday), "Mom this is a 1 way relationship - you need to tell her about the 4 kinds of relationships and tell her that when 1 person is doing all the giving, that's not a healthy relationship." Wow. out of the Mouths of Babes.


ChiTown Girl said...

All I can say is - GOOD FOR YOU!! I no longer have any tolerance for fair-weather friends. I've had a few myself. Good riddance, I say! Stick to your guns. You have NO reason to feel guilty about anything. SHE is the ONLY one who should feel guilty about all she's taken from you, without even a thought of repayment. Shame on her. You don't need that kind of friend in your life. Your friends should add to the joy in your life, not suck you dry, financially and/or emotionally. Sheesh, ok, I'll climb down off my soapbox....;-)

Gigi said...

I'm sorry, but that's not a friend. You were right to tell her no. A friend is someone who is there for you - not only around when they need something.

Amy said...

Good job! I myself have been trying to stand up for myself this year as well. I think you did an awesome job on speaking your mind. And I don't think you should feel guilty about it either!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

My goodness--what a story. I would never, ever ask a friend for money. It simply would not occur to me. You make me wonder what I would do if one asked me for money.

You must be relieved to be done with her.

Feisty Irish Wench said...

I am so proud of you!

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I agree with you and your daughter. You're being used and I don't believe that God expects us to lie down and allow that. Good for you for standing up to your "Friend"!
Also...can I have a loan?
hee hee hee!!

J.G. said...

If it makes you feel any better, I don't think you would be "helping" her by feeding her habit of financial disaster followed by bail-outs by friends. If she was addicted to drugs, you wouldn't be helping her by giving her more drugs when she ran out.

Good for you for first trying to help her change her habits, and then being strong and saying no. You're both better for it, in the long run.

katydidnot said...

You know what I love most about this? That after all the loaning and not repaying and stalking you for money and frankly, looniness, you still wonder if you should do more. Probably you shouldn't, but that's entirely not the point. The point is that you're generous and loving and kind. To a fault. I think that speaks volumes about you.

Also? Can I borrow fifty bucks?

DF said...

Offer to help her find the money in her current budget. I'll bet that she has a $100 cable bill and a $100 minimum cell phone bill. She probably eats out 7-12 times per week, costing at a minimum $8/meal. In a month, these three things can get her the $600 needed.

If she has car payments, a trade may be in order for an older car with no payments. Not as prestigious, but better on the budget. Maybe she needs to talk with her lender for a re-fi. But no money should leave your hands for hers.

This too may sound odd, but is she tithing? God provides to those who provide for God.

That is the Engineer in me coming out. Sorry

Hula Girl at Heart said...

Stop. Feeling. Guilty. For. Refusing. To. Be. Used. Anymore.

TAG said...

This person is no friend. They are one of those poor misguided souls who happens to believe that everyone around them owes them something.

She needs to adjust her thinking until she figures out the only person who owes her anything is herself.

I said it this way in my list of 50 things I learned in 50 years.

If you loan a friend $20 and you never see either one again, it was a good investment.


Paranoid said...

I'm not exactly a religion expert, but don't they say that God helps those who help themselves? And I don't think that means "Help themselves to your piggy bank."

This is a person who continually allows herself to get into bad situations, confident that there will always be someone there to bail her out. That's not a healthy or feasible way to live. In the long run, I really believe that it is kinder to let her flounder and figure out how to help herself for once. You were well within the bounds of friendship to tell her the Bank of GND is closed.

Elle said...

I just came to your blog... but as a Christian I think you made the right decision. The Bible does tell us to help each other, but it also talks about if a man doesn't work neither let him eat, and it warns us against spending money foolishly, and that we should only "lend" money to one another if we can afford to not expect to get it back. There is a difference between someone who is genuinely in need and someone who is taking advantage. I myself have had incredibly bad luck financially, a month after my college health insurance ran out I had a $30,000 emergency life saving surgery (no one's fault my body just broke), then two months after that I was the 4th car in a 6 car pileup (again I was not at fault just in the wrong place at the wrong time), then I was working two jobs to pay the medical bills and make my car payments and I got mono and was fired from my second job. Not to mention that after my divorce I was strapped with the student loans that my ex and I agreed to take out in my name to help pay his way through college... there I am a few months out of college, on the other side of a nasty divorce, and suddenly $50,000 in debt. Flash forward four years and I've paid off $30,000 of that debt... and to do so I worked two jobs for a long time, I also sacrificed and took the jobs that paid me the most even if they weren't great jobs....

All of that to say, did I have rotten luck? Absolutely, did I blame it on anyone else? absolutely not, we were never promised an easy life... what did I do, I worked, and worked and worked to get my feet on the ground. I learned a heck of a lot about managing finances.... and I never begged anyone and certainly not a friend to pay my bills for me! It is one thing for you to offer help (when people offered help I always gratefully accepted it, followed with a plethora of thank you's often accompanied by homemade cookies or something)... but begging, and cajoling and harassing you into helping her is not the right thing to do... and like you said you aren't really helping her... you were actually just enabling her behavior.

So good for you, and I know as a Christian it's scary to have someone on the outside tell us that our behavior is unChristian, sometimes they are right, but sometimes and I think it's the case here... they are simply using our faith as a weapon to hurl at us!

~annie said...

You've gone above and beyond and did the right thing - enough is enough!

Anonymous said...

If you still feel like you need to help her, send her through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I'm sure there's a church in your area who's conducting it during a time she can go.
It's a faith-based financial plan that teaches people how to best use they money they do have to get out of debt and save.