Nelson Letshwene

Author and Speaker



"Guilt and fear are the only enemies of man. Guilt is the decision to feel bad about what you feel good about."

Neale Donald Walsch

The Setswana word for debt, “sekoloto’, seems to have been derived from the Afrikaans word, ‘skuld’, which has roots from the German word for debt which means guilt. Even ‘skuldig’, in Afrikaans means guilty. 

Now consider how much guilt people feel when they are in debt. Where does the guilt come from? It comes first from an acknowledgement of your own inadequacies. I think we all innately hate the idea that we are insufficient unto ourselves.

The idea that to arrive at our own point of satisfaction, we have to rely on other people’s resources leaves us feeling empty. The reason we feel so bad is because the idea that we are insufficient unto ourselves does not speak the truth of who we really are. Deep down we know that we must be better than this.

To manage this crisis of borrowing and lending, there are a few rules to apply that could help us to bridge the gap between our perceived self and our real self. Here are some rules to follow:

Rule number one is: Never Borrow money. Never open that room of guilt. That may be a very hard rule to follow, but if you can, then there would be no need for the rest of the other rules.

The second rule is a slight relaxation of the first rule and it says: never borrow money unless your survival depends on it. I know we all define survival in different ways, but perhaps you can sleep it off before you borrow. If you wake up alive the next day without having borrowed the money, then perhaps you have survived. You can probably do without the debt… perhaps!

The next rule is: Never lend money to friends and family, unless you are willing to write it off. We haven’t quite established this here but the general psychology of a borrower is one who sees themselves as being unable to cope with either waiting or without assistance from a source outside of themselves.

You are seen as a ‘helper’ at the time of the loan, and then an ‘enemy’ when you demand payment. Your debt will induce guilt in those you love. Are you willing to forgive? Really, the reason they’ve stopped visiting is not because they are “crooks”, but that they feel guilty and can’t face you. They are also angry at their own inadequacies and worried about the loss of your trust.

The inverse of this rule is: Don’t borrow from friends and family, but you can let them invest in viable projects —therefore know why you are borrowing the money. That means, if you can’t figure out from the onset how you are going to repay the loan, don’t borrow. 

The follow-up to those rules is: Don’t lend or borrow money to “solve problems”, lend or borrow money only as an investment in viable operations. The borrower must tell you how they’re going to repay you.  Don’t blindly fall for “the month end” trick. If you do, make sure they don’t feel guilty afterwards. Reach out with love.

Finally, always know how much debt you are in, and have a debt elimination plan. Follow your debt elimination plan.

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Nelson Letshwene is the author of: Functional Mastery Over My Finances (Reach Publishers, 2008 - (Contact him on