Don’t Let the ‘G’ in Giving Stand for Guilt

One of the challenges facing many people, especially those considered to be better off than their family and/or peers in terms of education, income or employment, is the misplaced need to always say yes when people ask for financial help or gifts. If you are one of these people, you lend money to friends or relatives even though you know they won’t pay you back. You are the one who always pays for the movie tickets, picks up the tab at dinners, pays for gas, etc., because it is assumed that you “have it like that.” Many relatively successful black people suffer from a kind of survivors guilt which makes us feel obligated to give, pay and lend even when we can’t really afford it. If we are honest with ourselves, that guilt also drives much of our overspending during the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, such people are usually surrounded by friends and relatives, including parents and children, all too willing to take advantage.

One of the most important mental adjustments we must make as we learn to build wealth and change our relationship with money is to learn to say NO and to know when to let go of chronic takers. There is nothing wrong with helping out friends and relatives during tough times, or expressing generosity, especially during the holiday season, commensurate with the abundance you’ve been blessed with. However, there is something wrong with people using your hard-earned resources as their emergency fund. As one of the wisest and most generous woman I know once shared, “You can lean on me, but you can’t lay on me.” The first is temporary; the second is continuous, and can drain you of the resources to you need to achieve and maintain your own financial security and freedom. The following is wise advice, which a cousin of mine shared with me a while back, for those who need a rationale for denying the urge to give out of guilt:



Learn to admit when certain relationships aren’t working. Acknowledge when your efforts to rehabilitate somebody have failed. That can be hard, especially if you’re a chronic crusader with a fierce need to help the underdog. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride with a tall glass of realism and admit that instead of you lifting them up, they’re dragging you down. Releasing somebody doesn’t mean they’ll never improve, it just means that God’s better suited for the job than you are.

Be careful of those