HAMLET’S TRAGEDY – Marilyn Armstrong

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare
Act 1, Scene 3


Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

I’ve been thinking about the difference between borrowing, grants-in-aid, and theft. Which brought the quote from Hamlet to mind. I felt a clarification was necessary because a lot of people don’t recognize that “borrowing” is different than getting a gift or grant, or for that matter, theft. Sometimes the line is narrow, but it is there. Let’s see if I can illuminate the differences.

  1. To borrow something implies you intend to return the item, or, in the case of money, to return an equivalent amount of money preferably during the lifetime of you and whoever lent it to you.
  2. If you ask to borrow money (or some other item) but do not intend to return it? That is not borrowing.

(a) If the lender believes you will return it but you know you won’t and probably never had any intention of returning it, you’re a thief.
(b) If the lender is Mom or Dad and everyone knows you won’t return it, it’s a family dance performed to save the feelings of all the parties. It preserves the borrower’s pride and makes the old folks feel less foolish.

On the whole, most of us know that money and other items “lent” to a child or relative is probably a “grant-in-aid.” We call it a loan so everyone gets to keep his or her dignity. It’s a gift, not borrowing.


Then there are the true leeches. Not only are they thieves, but they are righteous thieves who believe they deserve whatever they take.

We need new words for this kind of “borrower.” These are the folks who want your stuff because, in their twisted minds, they feel they deserve it. We can afford to give it to them because whatever we have, they are sure they should have it. Therefore, it’s okay for them to take it because it really belongs to them.

Not only do these folks lack boundaries, but they have a bizarre sense of entitlement which is not the result of need or poverty. They are sure they deserve “the good stuff.” If you have it and they don’t, you have deprived them of their rights.

These are the ones who won’t work for a living because they don’t feel they should work. They aren’t responsible. Ever. No conscience, no honor, no respect for anyone else’s work. either. Not immigrants. These are usually white Americans with a really bad attitude.

Envy rules their world. They hate immigrants who they are sure are stealing their jobs (even though they wouldn’t do the hard work immigrants are willing to do) and they hate anyone who has a nicer car, bigger house, or even looks better.

If you make the error of feeling sorry for them and offer to share your life with them, they will view your generosity as a sign of weakness and take full advantage of you and yours.

I love being generous and am tickled pink when I give things away and it makes someone happy, but I take exception to the inevitable ingratitude. I’ve heard this quote as having come from OscarWilde, Mark Twain, and several other people but cannot confirm its real source:

“I don’t know why he hates me so much;
I never did him a favor.”

Categories: Family, Humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Parenting and parents, Quotation

Tags: , , , , , ,

26 replies

  1. Mum was always taken of advantage of in this way by various relations. She loaned money which she couldn’t really spare and never got it back. She was generous with gifts but received little in return. One particular niece was particularly bad for this type of thing and would lie to mum about not having the money to repay her when she really did. When our stepfather died this person offered to take his car to the dump, none of us drove, but we found out later she sold it and kept the money. Mum put up with it all because “she’s family”. Naomi and I were very relieved when she moved to another state and did not keep in touch as she was a toxic personality in many ways.


  2. Oh dear, this is heavy subject. I loan to our children and don’t always expect to get paid back. Loan forgiveness is often a birthday present.


    • Loans to kids and within families is not a loan. I think we all know that. These days, we have to sometimes say no because we simply don’t have the money to give. Regardless, I never expect to get paid back — and I never get paid back. But I think most families are like that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I stopped loaning years ago.., Instead I will give stuff and money away. I just don’t enjoy the burdon of trying to keep up with expecting to be repaid.., or worse expecting something, anything, in return. It’s best to move on and hope that whatever you gave, will be useful to that person?

      That being said, there are certain items that I prefer to sell.., at a bargain price of course.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I never kept track either…it would become too complicated…


      • I just sold about $1000 worth of antique dolls for $50 because they needed new homes and I was afraid that if I leave them around, they’ll wind up in a dumpster somewhere. I have three or four crates of dolls in the basement. But they all need to be rehomed. I hoped I’d get a little more for them, but my reality is I no longer have the connections to sell them to the right people.

        Meanwhile, yesterday, we took Gibbs and Duke to the vet. Duke is fine and just needed a rabies shot, but Gibbs has badly swollen lymph nodes. He either has an infection (probably from a bad tooth) — or lymphoma. But there went ANOTHER $200 and if Gibbs is that sick, it’s thousands of dollars and there’s simply no way we can handle that especially since both Scotties are 13 and not getting younger either. This is just a few days after coming up with $900 to replace the toilet. Bonnie’s teeth are rotting and Garry has a bad tooth that needs repair. We also need a new furnace/boiler ($8000, give or take a few bucks).

        I’m not going to be popping up with spare money anytime soon. Or maybe ever. Lending money isn’t even an issue. Just getting to the end of the month and having food to eat is a big deal.


        • Boy do I understand that. It seems the expenses of owning a home just don’t stop. I’m looking at repair or replacing my roof, and eventual replacing the A/C unit, which is located ON the roof. These two items are interrelated so I have to find out which one needs to be done before the other can be addressed. I’m thinking the roof as there is a small leak in the laundry room?? Maybe the A/C unit then the roof?., I just don’t know. Time to call in a professional.

          Your Scotties are up there near the end of their days at 13yrs apiece, but accepting this is really hard on the emotions. Duke is a mutt and a pretty strong one at that.., he’s gonna be around for a while. My heart goes out to ya.., I’ve been there.


          • So far, our roof is OK, but it’s 20 years old, so it’s time will come. We don’t have a cooling system, just a couple of Walmart-purchased AC units — three of them. But that heating system will cost more than our roof AND siding cost. The windows are going, one at a time and we are replacing them — and their supporting walls — one at a time. And the deck needs to be replaced. Owen shored it up, but it’s falling off the house. I think houses reach an age when all the things that were new are suddenly, in a hurry, old. You’re right. It’ll never end.


          • Have you seen Tom Hanks’ “The Money Pit”? If not, it will make you laugh until you pee. It’s the homeowners movie of movies. I think Spielberg was renovating a house at the time he made it.


  3. My mother had that adage tattooed on her forehead “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Ironic in a way, because she felt entitled to a LOT better life than my father could provide for her. And she was light fingered. My dead aunt was worse, she was that very definition you provided of the entitled idiot who thinks just because the thing coveted is more desired by the idiot, it should be theirs. And they proceed to take it, legally or not. Auntie was labelled by her close family as a klepto. Maybe that described it. In the end years of that woman’s life, NOBODY wanted her to visit, because inevitably something would turn up missing. I started down the road myself (not entitled, but didn’t see what was wrong with theft) and realized Karma was kickin’ my entitled thinking ass. I stopped cold turkey and have never regarded it as any loss. If I can’t afford the coveted thing, well so sad, too bad. No more light fingers for me!


    • Teenagers tend to be light-fingered, but most of us grow out of it. Some people, though, are so SURE that whatever it is, they deserve it, they don’t see anything wrong with taking something that OUGHT to be theirs. And yes, after a while you don’t want them in your house. Things always seem to just slip away when they are around.


  4. You know, Marilyn, you have written so much truth here I am just about pounding the table in excitement at it. I agree with every word. Generous people also need to beware of “toxic” charity, which you have alluded to here. I never loan money to family. I pay them to help me with something I need assistance with.


    • I did a lot of that too. “I’ll get you that lens if you will help me clean up the house …” and sometimes, it works. But I also got tired of paying for things and then watching them be unused. The soccer outfit, the special clothing for gymnastics that promptly went unattended. I gradually learned to say no when I was sure it was just another waste of my money for something that would never happen — and that’s hard to do with kids and grandchildren. Mostly, I do the best I can to help them if it’s something they really need and I’m sure it will be used.

      The toxic ones are the “Everything belongs to ME” crowd. It took me a long time to pin down who they were, but eventually, a process of elimination made it obvious — amidst furious denials and “how could you say such a thing!” But oddly, when they stopped “dropping by,” things also stopped disappearing. Funny about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Marilyn, I really enjoyed your thoughts on gratitude. Often, when we are polite ourselves, we automatically say yes. We should program ourselves to say, “Let me think about it.” Then we could make an informed decision. Is this a person who appreciates or one who expects? How will I feel if the “item” borrowed was never returned or ruined?


    • I am also an automatic “yes” sayer, though I think I’ve gotten a little bit better with time … and losses. Even with kids, in retirement, we don’t have that extra money, not if we are going to manage to eat and all of that stuff. So sadly, the answer is often either no or not right now. I’m not sure if the youngsters understand how different retirement is from when one was working — or in this case, two of us were working.


  6. This reminds me of when someone would ask to borrow a tissue. No, you cannot borrow one, but I will gladly give you a tissue. Were they trying to be polite?


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