Forgive Us Our Debts
Jan 29, 2014 05:16PM
● By By Jo Anne Shumard, J.D.
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
--Alexander Pope (1688-1744 English Poet)
Many good people have suffered divorce, death a job loss, a medical crisis, or some other catastrophe that put them in severe debt. Nevertheless, it can leave folks feeling pretty guilty. Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions we experience. Our conscience is reminding us of our inherent desire to “do the right thing.” This is what makes us human. Many of the people I have met with express this concern. They sincerely wish they could repay all of their debts, and the sooner the better. They recognize that they did, in fact, borrow all this money they owe. Many are consumed with guilt, remorse, and sadly, an inability to forgive themselves.
Some clients have based their reluctance to seek the financial relief they need on teachings within their chosen religion. Many religions implore their believers to repay any and all debts but also speak of forgiving the debts of others. One of the common precepts of most religions is the recognition that we are human, that humans are imperfect, humans make mistakes, and that humans should learn from their mistakes and strive to not repeat them.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
--Matthew 6:12, King James Bible –
Most clients agonize over their financial crisis recognizing that they truly intended to repay their debts and made every effort to do so. But ultimately, no matter how hard they tried, no matter what they did, they simply could not do it. Wanting to do what is right, but not being able to, is totally different from being able to do what is right but refusing. Accepting that distinction is extremely important for this is what leads to a very important aspect of life—forgiving yourself.
Congress created the Bankruptcy Code to provide a fresh start to the honest but unfortunate debtor. These laws have roots deep in our faiths and cultures. Allowing people to discharge debt and move forward with their lives relieves them of a heavy burden that can be crippling. Those honest people discharged of debt are more likely to become productive taxpayers. It also makes it less likely that they will become a burden on taxpayers later. Most folks don’t realize that if you feel a moral obligation to repay debts after they are legally discharged, you may do so in your own time – without contact and harassment from your creditors. However, after discharge, there is no legal obligation to do so.
For those honest citizens in Brevard County who are facing tough times, I must remind them of a story that made headlines a while back. If we can forgive the CEO of a major bank who allegedly spent a fortune to redecorate his office, despite his bank losing tens of billions of dollars, AND getting taxpayer bailout money, we can certainly forgive the honest citizen who struggles day in and day out to survive. Good people deserve a second chance.
Jo Anne Shumard is an author, consumer advocate and Satellite Beach bankruptcy attorney who served many years with the US Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida as both Legal Advisor and Judicial Law Clerk. In her 25-year career in bankruptcy and litigation, she has counseled clients troubled by their financial condition. Ms. Shumard is currently available by appointment in Satellite Beach for Brevard County residents seeking a fresh financial start. 407- 927-0767 or [email protected]