“I understand that you really need this laptop,” I said to Bill, “and so I’m willing you help you out. I’ll pay for a new MacBook Pro for you.”
Bill smiled with relief, realizing that this tool that he needed for work, study, and staying connected with friends would be provided to him.
“I’m taking a risk in lending you this money, Bill. You understand that right?” I asked. Bill nodded, and I continued, “I want us to shake on this. You promise to pay this money back to me, right?”
Bill shook my hand and I felt confident that the credit that I was extending to him, this way that I was respecting him, would be returned to me. Do unto others a we would have done unto ourselves, is a motto that I like to think I live by; I am often willing to take the first step.
There was no reason for me to help Bill other than that I cared about him. I wanted to help him to fulfill his potential, to get his needs met. I was willing to address Bill’s short-term cashflow problem by lending him this money until he could pay me back.
Bill and I went to the store and I paid for his laptop using my credit card. I borrowed money to help my friend. Isn’t the world a wonderful place.
A year later, I was still waiting for the money to be returned, for the credit to be reciprocated, for the honor to be reflected. I reached out to Bill and asked if he had a plan to return the money, “Oh, I see,” he told me sternly, “money is more important to you than friendship!”
I was shocked. What did he mean? Was I being an asshole asking for the money to be returned? Had we not shaken on it? Was I putting money above our friendship? I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong, like I should not be so rude as to remind him of his obligation to me, of the commitment he had made with the shake of my hand. How dare I? How dare I remind him of this vulnerability that he had entered into?
So there I was, left holding the bag, a patsy, a chump, the one fool who put a friend first, who gave only because I trusted, who took a risk on a friend. And what I was told is that I should forget all of that in order to keep the friendship. After all, I guess, that was in the past, my sacrifice was willingly given and is…