The social stigma of bankruptcy and foreclosure

I’m afraid that even in these times of record numbers of bankruptcy and foreclosure filings — primarily by good people with good intentions who are in bad situations through no fault of their own — the social stigma attached to bankruptcy is still alive and kicking. I was reminded of this by the blog post of a friend, who is in a rotten situation due to the economy and horrendous real estate market. He and his wife are both professionals and they have a young family, and they are facing the very real possibility of foreclosure and perhaps bankruptcy. They’ve burned through their savings and are living right on the edge. His big fear, he says, is that if the situation doesn’t change,

“we’ll be those people. Bankrupt, foreclosed, ruined.”

I commented with what I thought was a positive reply, telling him that — having been down that road and come out the other side — it really isn’t that terrible and that people survive these things and go on to bigger and better. I gave him some of my best resources for handling bankruptcy and foreclosure well. He never responded, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was counting me among those people. You know. Losers.

I was starting to take this personally, so I went back and re-read the post. One of the other commenters on the blog had replied that,

“You will never ever be one of “those people,” you have character and honor and faith.”

For everyone out there who still thinks this way, I strongly encourage you to check yourselves out of the 1950s and live in the real world of the recession. Having been through this process myself, and having made many contacts with people who are facing the same challenges, I am here to tell you that the vast majority of people who face bankruptcy and foreclosure today are not doing it by choice. We are here because we’re forced into it by circumstances we can’t control, whether it’s unemployment, the utter failure of the real estate market and mortgage modification process, or some combination thereof. We built our lives and bought our homes when we had good jobs and honest intentions to repay our debts. We have character, we have honor, and sometimes we even have faith — although we probably have less of it now than we started with.

Instead of thinking of “those people” with contempt and disdain, how about a little compassion? How about some acknowledgement that thousands upon thousands of people have lost entire lifetimes of savings for themselves and their children? That they’ve had to give up their dreams or planned retirements and take many steps backwards when they have worked hard to get where they are? How about offering a little sympathy and assistance, instead of making them feel even more broken-hearted than they already do? How about the realization that despite your best efforts and intentions, it could happen to you?

Think about it. How many paychecks are you really, from homelessness? From being one of them?

Edit: Shortly after I posted this, I was comment-trolled thusly:

loser cunt loser cunt loser cunt loser cunt loser cunt loser cunt loser cunt loser cunt go sell your cunt on the street, loser.

I wasn’t going to approve the comment, but it actually is an excellent illustration of the exact point I was trying to make in my post. We have a long way to go before people start using their intelligence and compassion at the same time.

By the way, the troll read 11 pages on my blog before showcasing his ignorance. I count that as an SEO win!


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