In Bankruptcy, Forgiveness Means More Than Discharging Debt

June 12, 2008 10:48 am Published by

To a financier or an IRS agent, the word “forgiveness” has a technical meaning.  When a debt you owe is “forgiven”, you don’t need to repay that loan (and you may owe income pay tax on that benefit).  In the bankruptcy process, certain debts may be “discharged”, which means the person filing bankruptcy is excused from repayment of all or part of those debts.  Working as a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana for more than twenty years. I deal with the discharging of debts every day.  But, what I find so interesting and important about it all is this: While there may be a lot of discharging of debts going on around bankruptcy courts, what I’d really like to see a lot more of is forgiveness going on around bankruptcy clients and their friends, families, and associates. 

As you might imagine, by the time my clients come to see me about filing a bankruptcy case for themselves and possibly for their small business, they are under considerable strain. They haven’t been sleeping very well, so they’re not feeling very healthy or energetic. They are not in a very good state of mind to be making the kind of crucial decisions I’ll be discussing with them.  In many cases, people cast blame.  There’s a lot of blame put on spouses, on parents, on children, on partners.  Even worse, many bankruptcy filers expend energy blaming themselves for their situation.  None of this blaming helps the situation.  Trust me on this – I’ve counseled with tens of thousands of debtors from all walks of life – blaming always hurts, and it almost never helps.

Dr. Phil published Ten Life Laws.  Life Law #9 is, “There Is Power In Forgiveness”.
Dr. Phil explains that hate, anger, and resentment are destructive, eating away at the heart and soul of the person who carries them.”  He goes on to say, “Forgiveness is not about another person who has transgressed against you.  It’s about you.”

Recently, the Oprah Show featured the Forgiveness Project, a new charitable organization dedicated to the idea that “by listening to the voices of people who have experienced reconciliation and renewal, it is possible to see alternatives to endless cycles of violence, crime, and injustice in the world”.  When it comes to the bankruptcy process, as I’ve often stressed in this bankruptcy blog, it’s the “Now what?” part of the process that really matters, the part where people rebuild their financial lives.  By forgiving others – the government, the weather, the war, the partner, the spouse, and, most of all, forgiving themselves, people emerge from bankruptcy stronger than ever, eager to write “the rest of the story.” Holding on to blame and resentment keeps people in the same old story forever.

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This post was written by Mark Zuckerberg

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