Money as interpersonal hygiene

Money doesn’t solve every problem but is solves many.

Some relationships are well-served by using money. It maintains a hygiene between the two people that minimizes resentment.

Early experiences with loans taught me this lesson. People in the rooms would say “Lend me $20 and I will pay you back next week.” Since there is an assumption (highly wrong, I discovered) that everyone is living according to the principles we share, I would loan the $20 without concern. Of course the person was good for it.

But they weren’t. And it made future meetings a bit more uncomfortable. What if I see this person? What do I say? Etc.

For the borrower, I noticed that it often meant I would never see them in that meeting again. They could not hold their head high, because they had lied about their intentions. That damages them.

Two people helped me on this. Ed said that in his head he always treated these transactions as gifts. Then he never had an expectation of repayment.

A. told me that when asked for a loan he told the borrower that in fact it was a gift. If the borrower insisted that this was a loan and would be repaid, he would tell the borrower to repay it by making the same kind of gift/loan to someone else. Lend it forward, in other words.

Both of them agreed that you had to have an upper limit on these transactions. Help people out so they can eat. Don’t help people out so they can sponge off the rooms indefinitely. That would defeat the possibility of the borrower’s own spiritual growth — it is essential to be self-supporting through your own efforts if you wish to grow. Don’t interfere with a person’s necessary growth.

I have also learned this lesson a few times in business. I have a particular skill. Someone else has a skill. We trade work for free.

It never worked for me. One person always put more into it than the other got out of it. Resentment occurred. Usually that was me. Sometimes both of us!

Or the reverse. I would get out more because I was doing less. I felt guilty. I am taking advantage of my friend.

This is why pricing and paying in dollars is important. It puts the value proposition on the table. The person receiving the services can decide whether $x is worth giving to me in exchange for what she gets. And by paying $x has a clear conscience. I asked for $x and she gave it to me.


It almost doesn’t matter what the price is. The hygiene between good friends is what matters.

Now that I am writing this I am recalling Don’s advice on this very point. People in the room would seek me out (or him, because he had the same skill set as me) and ask for free help.

He said he always offered to help for one hour for $10. But they had to pay. At the end of an hour he would refer them to someone else where the person, if he/she needed help, would have to engage in a normal commercial transaction.

This method, he said, allowed him to be useful at an affordable price, giving guidance in a professional way and allowing the recipient of that advice to feel the benefit of being fully-self supporting (at a face-saving price). (Well, sometimes $10 would be a hardship for the person, TBH).

And then, when the real work began, the person would not be paying full price to Don. Which had its own possible negative impact on the social and spiritual dynamics in the room and between the two of them.

This is why books are sold at cost. Sure, they could be given away. Someone, somehow would subsidize this. But it is essential to be self-supporting. Even paying $0.75 is important for the person new to the room. (And anyway people gave things away all the time in situations of obvious need).