It seems like in this world we live in today, it’s impossible to actually live without borrowing money. Everywhere you turn either yourself or someone you know is indebted.
Well over the last several weeks, a series of events all related to loan sharks and borrowed money have opened my eyes to certain truths that I’d like to share with you today. It’s my hope that you and I will see the fallacy of this dangerous lifestyle of borrowing that we are unconsciously comfortable with.
Lesson 1: Luzira express. Failure to pay debts is a criminal offence punishable with jail time.
Ok, this one I honestly didn’t know but it’s a scary fact. Even if you owe someone 10,000UGX and they take you to court over failure to pay, well you can be sentenced to jail time. I came to learn this lesson by the unwarranted instruction of a two loan sharks to whom my brothers were indebted. Suffice to say, they both have been arrested and only released upon lots of lobbying. I never used to get it but the basic principle is that getting you arrested is a strong arm technique by the sharks to force your friends and family to cough up the money in order to save you a one way trip to luzira. Now that used to piss me off but later I learnt that it’s actually a criminal offence to fail to pay your debts. A lot of us take it for granted that if we don’t pay our debts, what’s the worst that can happen? Well a couple of months in Luzira could happen. Take an example of those oh so popular salary loans we yuppies like to take out. A guy I know who works at a certain standard bank actually encouraged me to defraud my bank by taking a huge loan and not paying by simply saying I don’t have a job anymore so I can’t pay. Sounds really sweet eh? All that cash with no downside. Well a week ago I discovered that banks can actually take you to court and prosecute you all the way to cell block D if you fail to pay. So lesson, failure to pay your debts is tantamount to theft and you are a criminal if you don’t.
Lesson 2: The Borrower is the slave to the Lender
This one I first saw in the bible. Proverbs 22:7 says the Rich rules over the poor and the Borrower is a servant to the lender. This is a simple lesson I’ve seen in my own life and the life of many of my loved ones. When you borrow money, you are indebted to the person or system that lent you the money. Which means, in order to get your freedom back, you need to do everything in your power to pay them back. It is in the process of paying back that you become a slave. You go to work to day in day out to earn money to pay off your creditors. Trust me I’ve been there. Giving away half my salary every month to pay off some debts. Missing out on all the wonderful things I could have been doing with that money and at the same time shrinking my life to fit in the paltry salary that remained. Not even being able to buy a pair of shoes or a shirt. I began to loathe my job and my very existence because it seemed like I was working for my creditors. Others become insomniacs, get high blood pressure etc. Point is, you lose your freedom and become a slave till you clear that debt.
Lesson 3: Never stand surety for anyone. Period!
I don’t need to say too much about this one. It’s also biblical. Proverbs 6:1 says “My child, suppose you agree to pay the debt of someone, who cannot repay a loan. Then you are trapped by your own words,” and Proverbs 17:18 “It’s stupid to guarantee someone else’s loan.” Subtle!
I needn’t say any more about the folly of standing surety. What is surety you ask? Surety is simply guaranteeing a loan on someone else’s behalf. Failure of that person to pay means that you pay the outstanding amount. Now the problem with this is, a lot of people have no problem defaulting on their loans leaving you to face the music. Besides, by the time someone asks you to stand surety for them, they believe you are a Mugaga. Worse still though, if the person fails to pay, and you can’t pay either, well, it’s off to luzira for both of you! Back to the example of my brothers. One of them stood surety for a cousin who failed to pay. Guess who was picked up at his office by the police? Yep, my brother. Only some frantic running around spared him a one way trip to Luza’s. The prisons bus spent the whole afternoon eagerly waiting just for my bro. So key lesson, any failure to pay by the person is your failure as the one who stood surety. You are just as liable. So, as for standing surety, as the old adage goes, JUST SAY NO!
Lesson 4: Borrowing can ruin your reputation, your relationships and your life
Ok now this one I have seen way up close. A very close cousin of mine is like 5000 feet deep in debts to banks, loan sharks, friends and family. He hasn’t had a job for the last 6months. Several people in my family have had brushes with harassment and arrest because of standing surety for his loans. To put it mildly, they don’t ever want to see him ever again. His name isn’t even supposed to be mentioned. It’s like in Harry Potter, the reference to the villain is generally ““He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”. There, relationships destroyed. Nobody in their even wildly, intoxicated frame of mind would touch him with a ten foot pole. He has been marked by the new Credit Reference Bureau as a “Delinquent borrower” so he can never borrow from any bank in Uganda for a minimum period of 7years or is it 10? Whatever, the point is reputation destroyed. If he gets arrested by any one of multiple creditors, he’ll have a criminal record to deal with all the rest of his days. Plus there are ripple effects. When I looked at my other brother facing arrest for some loans, I couldn’t help think, so what happens to his wife and kids if he’s incarcerated? Who looks after them when the creditors take all their property to clear their dues? Their lives would also be destroyed. So no reputation, relationships or life.
Lesson 5: Borrowing is a sign of selfishness, impatience and indiscipline
Now don’t get me wrong. Not all borrowing is bad. But habitual borrowing underlines a much bigger problem. Why do you borrow? Simply because you want something but you don’t have the patience to wait to get it. It’s about instant gratification. I must have it now. We live in a generation where we expect everything to be instant and to get it with the least possible work. Borrowing is the path of least resistance. You want a car? Get a bank loan to buy it now even though in reality, you can’t afford it. You want to impress that girl? Borrow from your work buddies to take her to rock night and buy her black label. Spent all your salary paying for that really expensive apartment? Just borrow some money to see you through the remaining 3weeks of the month. Get the picture? Borrowing arises from selfish, impatient desire to have things that we can’t afford in the moment (and probably shouldn’t anyway) and we don’t have the discipline to live within our means and save towards getting that thing debt free. I’m definitely not perfect. I wanted a car so badly and I couldn’t wait so I borrowed money at an exorbitant interest rate and spent 2years paying for a car that in the end, I don’t even like that much! What’s more, the car isn’t even worth half what I borrowed now. Sigh. Even worse, we borrow to pay debts! Don’t even get me started about that crazy cycle. So lesson, if you are habitually in debt, it’s time to have a long, hard and brutally honest examination of yourself and your lifestyle. You might be shocked at what you discover about yourself.
So these are a few critical lessons I’ve learnt about borrowing. I’m sure i’ going to learn more as these situations in the family are being cleared up. My wife and I generally live by a strict agreement to never borrow unless it’s a matter of life and death or if it’s for investment. Otherwise, we’d rather starve than borrow and believe me, there have been times when we did. I must say though, after all the drama I’ve seen courtesy of loan sharks these past 6weeks, I’m so thankful we took this stand. I’d rather starve in my own house than have to worry about being made someone’s b@*$h! Now this advice is difficult for most but if you want peace in your life, and you want to avoid Luza’s, just stay away from borrowing. I’d love to hear some of your own loan shark stories and lessons so hit me.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19
Who goeth a borrowing, Goeth a sorrowing.
Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911
Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them.
Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want.
Live within your means, never be in debt, and by husbanding your money you can always lay it out well. But when you get in debt you become a slave. Therefore I say to you never involve yourself in debt, and become no man’s surety. If your friend is in distress, aid him if you have the means to spare. If he fails to be able to return it, it is only so much lost.