Home > Managing Debt > With Debt, Fear is Your Worst Enemy

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Phone_Matt_Reinbold_CCFlickrFear is the worst enemy of the debtor.

Fear allows us to accept false solutions and incorrect thoughts into our consciousness when we are dealing with debt.

Fear is not reality.

Overwhelmingly, a pattern emerges for people facing financial troubles in which they eventually become afraid and paralyzed by their situation. They either leap at any solution or do nothing. They fall for fake promises of help or take action that leaves them only further in debt, without money, and still facing the same debt monster.

I wanted to share with you a different point of view on the whole debt experience, one I wish I had fully realized when I was facing my debt demons years ago. Well, on some level I did.

When you fall behind on your bills and don’t think you’ll be able to meet your obligations it is only natural to be concerned and worried, that is unless you are a sociopath like Dexter on that television show who murders people without remorse.

[Article: Top 10 Most Misunderstood Facts About Debt Settlement]

But the emotional whipping we give ourselves distorts reality and we do much more damage to ourselves than we have to; needlessly and senselessly.

Let’s just take one part of the debtor experience: the debt collection call.

Many fear the debt collection call. They feel they are being judged or viewed with moral disdain for not meeting their obligation on a timely basis. Or at least that’s what the voice in the head says.

The reality is that if you could pay your bill, you would. If it was within your ability to make your payment by the due date you would have made the payment. But sometimes shit just happens.

It doesn’t matter if the reason for your inability to make ends meet is that your home was just wiped off the map by a terrible tornado, or the business you worked for was destroyed by fire. The reason could be as simple as you lost your job or slipped and fell and are now laid up with an injury. Whatever the reason, the outcome is the same: you simply can’t make ends meet. It is what it is—and that’s all that it is.

Debtor Shame

Are victims of a hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster left in a shameful position? Should they feel guilt or moral embarrassment because they can’t make the next payment, or maybe the one after that?

Let’s put all of this mess into perspective.

Nobody wants to be beholden to another and not be able to meet that obligation. It’s not something most strive for. Sure we can point to scammers, crooks, and flim-flam ne’er-do-wells. But if you are reading this, that’s not you.

Debtor shame makes people do stupid and ridiculous things and have stupid and ridiculous thoughts. From the low end of the spectrum, it makes people agree to payments they just can’t meet; to the high end of the spectrum, they take their own lives in suicide or murder their family in shame.

And that entire spectrum of silly and senseless things is born out of just one issue: we fear the debt instead of embracing it.

Embrace the Debt. Are You Insane?

The actual best move to make when you start to feel the fear of debt creeping into more and more of your waking thoughts is to stop fearing it. The fear harms you more than helps you. It does not change your situation nor does it give you the opportunity to make it better.

The best thing you can do in times like these is to embrace and own the situation, not run from it. If you are in debt and can’t pay the bill, accept it. Live in the moment when you can’t make the next payment but do it from a position of reality, rather than fear.

There is a large volume of travel between being afraid of the phone ringing and the words a strange voice on the end of the line is going to say that will judge you, to welcoming the call and the debt collector.

[Consumer Resource: 11 Ways A Debt Collector May Be Breaking the Law]

You can react in fear or you can live in joy. The choice is absolutely yours. Which do you want to live in? The choice is entirely yours. It is your choice so what do you chose?

As silly as this may sound, being in debt and having the debt collector call is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not the worst thing.

On the scale of horrible things I’d much rather get a collection call than be on fire or get jabbed in the eye with a sharp stick.

We allow ourselves to be panicked by the collection call simply out of a poor sense of prioritizing the reality of the event. On the scale of having our neighborhood hit by a tsunami or getting a collection call, the collection call is less than a nothing.

What to Do When You Get Collection Calls »

Photo: Matt Reinbold, via Flickr.com

Graphic courtesy Steve Rhode

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  • Christopher

    Great article. I can confirm fear was running the show for me for quite some time in not taking care of my finances. It increased and increased until I finally made those calls in November 2010, then it dropped substantially. I’m now almost done with paying off older items (three more months), and have worked out a plan going forward to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    And you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding most of the collectors: they pretty much worked with me to get the situation resolved without judging me. The situation was what it was and how it got there wasn’t relevant.

  • http://getoutofdebt.org Steve Rhode


    Thanks for the compliment on my article.

    I’m so glad you finally reached that point when you realized it is what it is and there are two ways forward, either in fear or not.

    Most people in the depth of difficult debt can’t imagine letting go of the fear. They then make some horrible decisions based on that fear which only drive them further down.

    Congratulations on your success.


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