The rules of borrowing from friends

My lesson from borrowing from a friend

Probably 8 years ago when I was in love with driving cars with manual transmissions (because I had always had automatics) I begged my friend to let me drive his car. He was reluctant because he had just bought it used a few weeks earlier. He finally agreed and so I was off in his car (by myself) and not more than 200 yards later I heard a loud weird noise and the car stopped moving.

The transmission had gone out. I don’t think it had anything to do with my driving ability, but after the awkwardness of the following few hours drilled a lifelong lesson into my head: don’t borrow from friends.

Of course I haven’t followed this advice all the time. But that situation was enough to make me think twice about borrowing for the rest of my life.

For the borrower

I have always heard that the rule of thumb for something that breaks while it is being borrowed is to replace it. In fact it’s what the Bible says about it:

Exodus 22:14

“If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution.”

This is the guideline that I try to follow in the rare instance when I do borrow from friends. Before I borrow anything from anyone I ask myself, “can I afford to replace this if I break or lose it?” Most of the time, I find I can do without or I decide that I would rather just buy the item myself.

Personally, I would much rather pay a lot more by buying the item to avoid the weird situations that come up from borrowing. I still wonder if people have lent me things that I just forgot that I borrowed. I just don’t want to be “that guy” who borrows stuff, forgets to return it and then completely forgets that he ever borrowed it.

I guess I just don’t like the pressure of borrowing. I always feel obligated to treat the object better than I would if it were my own – which is a good thing. But, I just like the comfort of not having to worry about it.

For the lender

SmartMoney Magazine has 5 obligations of lenders:

  1. If the borrower is not aware of the value of the object, make sure they understand the value of it.
  2. If the borrower is careless, you don’t have to lend it.
  3. If the borrower loses or breaks the object, don’t insist on being made whole.
  4. When you are better off financially than the borrower and the object breaks or is lost – as an act of charity you should forgive the debt.
  5. Don’t lend to someone who can’t afford to replace it – unless you are okay with replacing it yourself.

I do enjoy lending to people, but I make sure that I always assume I will never see the object again. If I do, then it is a great surprise, but if not I don’t worry about it, because I wasn’t expecting to get it back anyway.

I used to get frustrated with lending to people who didn’t return the items that I lent to them. But, I quickly realized that it is a very common occurrence and I was either going to be needlessly frustrated with a lot of people or I could just consider it GIVING rather than borrowing. I like the giving approach much more. It makes my life easier and it takes everyone else off the hook too.

This is what the Bible has to say about it…

Luke 6:35

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great…

Find out more of what the Bible says about lending

Do you borrow from friends?

Have you learned any lessons the hard way like me? Do you have any rules of your own for borrowing or lending?














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10 Comments
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  1. Great post! I follow a lot of the same rules, though I never articulated them before (except “Consider it a gift instead of a loan.”)

  2. @Shannon
    Yea, I think a lot of the rules are unspoken but followed by many…

  3. Wow, that car-borrowing experience sounds horrible!
    I only borrow from/lend to family and close friends.
    I agree that if something breaks while you’re using it, you should replace it. This would also apply to something like a book if it fell in the mud or something. I would go out and buy a new replacement to give the person.
    Good tips!

  4. I agree with your article! I believe that there are certain principles that are important!
    Exodus 22:14

    “If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution.”

    This is the truth. Great post.

  5. yes and very true. i would also like to add couple of tips to the lenders. about 5 days ago my friend asked me to borrow win 7 CD from me and he said he will return it by the next day. so for the past 4 days i kept reminding him to bring it back and finally today i decided to just not remind him about it. if i happen to see him (he is a close friend) i just act normal as if nothing has happened.

    i think the author really nailed it by saying, “when you lend something, expect you will never get it back”

    thank you

  6. I lent my camera to a friend (value over $1,000!!) and she keeps making excuses about why I can’t come over to pick it up because she has people over, she’s on the road or at work, or if I see her she’ll conveniently forget to bring it. I have my YouTube channel and I can’t work on it anymore without the camera, and what really bothers me is she doesn’t just say she wants to keep it (I even tell her to, she says no, I’ll bring it so-and-so day!), so the whole thing just drags on and on and on. The damage to our relationship is far more than the value of the camera in my opinion, which makes it all the more frustrating.

  7. Jaye Griswold

    I agree with the borrower part, but not the lender part. A true friend with integrity would make restitution. If the person doesn’t have the money to make restitution, other arrangements should be made. Who wants a borrower for a friend that doesn’t return your item anyway?

  8. I once borrowed a purse from a dear friend to use for my son’s wedding. It was perfect and I was very grateful. About a year later she began asking for her purse. I assured her I had already returned it and that I didn’t have it. She began repeatedly calling and I could tell she was not happy as it had been her mother’s purse (who had passed away). I was sick to my stomach over it and went home and tore my closet apart. Sure enough, lying flat in a bag with something on top of it, I found the purse. I had to eat crow, apologize, and of course return the purse. I will never borrow something again.

  9. Eliza

    I have a friend who lives close by and I like him a lot. His wife died from cancer a few years ago and he went through a dread ful experience. i too lost my mother, (who I was very close to) to cancer an year ago. My friend has three children and it is fortunate that his mum and sisters help him. He is very good with cars and fixing things. He first worked on my car, a Holden Berlina series 2 in feb this year. Since then we became friends, but the work on the car seems endless. There is always something to fix and he delays the work tremendously. He uses my car too. I am not sure what to do with this …right now he has the car as I write. It seems that he has become totally obsessed with this car. Loves it to bits. I live alone, in a very big house, have a job and the Lord has provided me with so much. Right now I do not know what to do about this friend. He has a family and home too. What am I doing wrong? Please advise. God bless you.

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