Girl Talk Career Blog

May 24, 2010

When Help Becomes a Burden

Filed under: work imitates life — lisalahey @ 8:57 pm
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My friend “Arnie” has a brother who drives him nuts. His brother, “Todd” hits him up for money on a regular basis. A long time ago it used to be for futile business ventures that never seemed to pan out. Of course Todd didn’t consider that a loan from Arnie. He saw it as a business investment and an opportunity for Arnie to rake in a few bucks if he was lucky.  He never was. Over the years, Arnie got more successful and Todd got stupider. He didn’t go to school. He didn’t pursue a serious career. He job hopped and he seldom got any decent references between lily pads (surprise, surprise). 

Now Todd is a “leech”. He has gone from needing the occasional hand up out of the mire to being a constant burden on my friend. Arnie on the other hand is a “saviour”. He is the type of guy who can’t wait to help his brother out of a bind. Perhaps there is a co-dependency there and Arnie may need to take a closer look at his own behaviour too.  Everyone in a family acts out certain roles at given times in their lives. Clearly Todd is the Black Sheep and everyone expects him to screw up which is the one thing he does flawlessly. Arnie on the other hand seems to have a mix of roles gravitating between both Hero and also just Regular Guy, if there is such a thing. I mean he’s not a superficial stereotype. He is a well-rounded,  happy and highly intelligent person.  But insofar as the relationship between the two brothers is concerned, what’s in it for Arnie? What’s in it for Todd.  There has to be a mutual exchange of some sort or the whole mess couldn`t continue.

But Arnie and Todd’s co-dependent relationship makes me wonder when does family have the right to pull back the purse strings and no longer offer financial “assistance” (that will never be repaid) to an unemployed or underemployed relative?  Clearly Arnie struggles with that one. So does Todd.  Recently Arnie found himself in yet another financial dilemma not only because his ever unfortunate brother needed his help. Years ago Arnie foolishly co-signed for a loan for Todd (another of his business ventures) and forgot about it.  Then suddenly a collection agency contacted Arnie and informed him that Todd had defaulted on his loan and they were coming after Arnie for it. Arnie is again faced with the very real burden of his brother’s financial woes and in order to sort it all out and keep his credit history clean, Arnie went out and took a second job. Egads. My head is starting to spin.

To be sure Todd isn’t a bad guy. He’s just irresponsible and unable to handle his own finances. In fact Todd has difficulty managing many aspects of his life. In other areas, he is quite responsible and organized. Like many of us he has good and bad characteristics. Arnie, too. I mean the more he jumps in and comes to Todd’s rescue the more Todd is going to look at Arnie as a financial lifeline and not take his own responsibilities seriously enough. I almost wish Arnie would ask the question that is begging to be asked here  “am I my brother’s keeper?” 

I think Arnie has asked and answered it but is answer is skewed.  He thinks he is Todd’s keeper to the point where his own life has become disrupted and he doesn’t seem to know how to establish a boundary. Mind you Arnie has vowed never to co-sign for anything for Todd again. No more money lending of any sort for any reason. No more this and that. At least that’s what Arnie says to  me time and again. If Todd was less of a dufus and Arnie was more of a dufus then perhaps they could meet in a comfortable, somewhat fair middle but that is not likely ever to be the case.

I read a great chapter of Jason Seiden’s e-book How to Self-Destruct, a satirical look at the idiot mistakes people make in the corporate sector every day as they wonder why their careers aren’t going anywhere. He briefly posed the question, “when people refuse to help themselves why is it that the only people who suffer are the ones around them?”  That was the question that caught my eye and made me think about Arnie and Todd.  Judging from Arnie and Todd’s example I would have to say because one of those people is a natural fraud and the other is a natural martyr, as in the type of person who seems to gravitate towards those who do them harm because he gets some sort of reward from it.  Still I could hardly believe it when Arnie told me a few weeks after all this business went down and he secured a second job for himself that he mumbled, “from now on when Todd calls me for money and it’s really necessary I will pay the source directly rather than put it into his hands“.

Oh, Arnie.