Gender, Forgiveness, And Bankruptcy

June 27, 2008 1:13 pm Published by

In my earlier blog, In Bankruptcy, Forgiveness Means More Than Discharging Debt, I talked about the technical meaning of forgiveness in bankruptcy and in tax law, versus the kinds of human forgiveness that are so needed in order to families and individuals to emerge after the bankruptcy process ready to rebuild their lives. As a bankruptcy attorney for many, many years in Indiana, I mentioned that while there may be a lot of the technical type of forgiveness going on around bankruptcy courts, what I would really like to see is more human forgiveness going on around bankruptcy clients, and around their friends, their families, their associates, and themselves. 

In a recent Reader’s Digest issue, I read a short article called “Gender Mind-Benders”.  Part of this article discusses what the writer calls “Forgiveness 101”, and it makes the point that men and women behave differently when it comes to grievances.  “Guys tend to focus on who did what, and they’re more interested in revenge and justice… Women are oriented towards community (how can we all get along) and therefore are more likely to kiss and make up,” the author explains.

In my bankruptcy law offices I see a lot of grievances being held and a lot of blame being slung about.  Generally speaking, I do notice some of the gender differences the article mentions.  But whether the clients are male or female, I see more similarity than difference in how folks react to their debt situation. Bankruptcy clients are under severe strain, as you might imagine, and the tendency is to put blame on everybody and everything: the spouse, the ex-spouse, the parents, the children, the business partner, the war, the weather, the government, and yes, even the lawyers and judges.  Worst of all, people put blame on themselves.

While I know why this is happening, I also know that for these clients, the secret to rebuilding their lives is going to involve letting go of blame and moving forward.  Blame acts like a boomerang – in the final analysis, blame hurts the blamer most of all.  As their attorney, I can guide them through the process of getting back on their feet financially.  But then, they have to live with – themselves!

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This post was written by Mark Zuckerberg

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