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Helping someone who has previously helped you

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fatdogs12
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I have a strange situation in my family which I am somewhat confused about what to think of it. It all started a few years back. My sister got into a car accident, it was determined the accident was neither person's fault but still her car was ruined and while she was awaiting to collect her insurance on the car she needed money.

She asked my brother if he could loan her 20,000. He did, interest free. She took over a year to pay it back (I believe about a year and 7 months). Now he did this without complaining or hesitation. He was a big time stock trader and was making about 200,000 a year (this was back in 2002). However his lifestyle of eating terrible caught up with him. It turned him into the most sluggish laziest person around. He was once a man who could work 20 hours straight no problem but it got to the point where he can hardly make himself lunch.

In the mist of all this, his effort at work started to decrease and in stock trading that can be devestating. He went broke and ended up in debt. But now he was broke and too tired to do anything. He visited a lot of doctors and most told him he needed to take some time and start eating right and pretty much give up his bad habits.

The problem of course is that he had no money and was about to be on the street. He in turn asked my sister if he could live with her for about 3 or 4 months to get himself together. Now my sister is very religous and my brother actually believes in her religoun too but chooses not to follow it (Yes I am aware of how silly all of this is but that is the subject of another issue). She said he could stay with her under this condition: He go to all her religious services with her (which is about 4 meetings a week) and take the first job he can find at a grocery store or whatever regardless of what it pays.

Now when I first heard about what my sister was requiring I thought it insane especially since he was willing to give her so much money when she needed it but now she is trying to force her religoun on him.

So my question is this, since my brother loaned her money or helped her when she needed help would her being so against reasonably helping him be immoral of her?

How should I view my sisters actions here? My immediate reaction is that she is wrong to a degree, in that I can't see that she has a moral obligation to helping him but I still find it wrong that she would not offer to help. It's kind of like the whole Tsunami situation, we gave all this money to countries that if the situation were reversed would not give us money but rejoice in our destruction.

What do you think?

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She, of course, has the right to set any terms she wishes, and your brother has the right to accept or reject these terms.

Are the conditions she's setting idiotic? Yes (the religious ones), but she has the right to set them; this is not immoral.

Is she being immoral by settings loan terms of the kind that she would presumably not be agreeable to herself were she caught in a similar situation (suppose your brother, back in '02, required that she stop going to church services and stop all religious activity in order to lend her the money, as well as take on the first job available)? She is being immoral to the extent that she's compartimentalized her mind. That is, she is being inconsistent, disintegrated. Her particular immorality has nothing to do with whether it's your brother or a stranger in need--the fact remains that she applies a different code of ethics to different situations. (That is, if our presumption is correct that, were the tables turned, she wouldn't agree to stopping her religious activity and take on the first job available in order to get a loan from your brother.)

On the other hand, if back then she would've been perfectly able to give up her religious activity and take the first job available in exchange for the loan, and perhaps just keep her beliefs intact internally, then she's not using mixed ethics by demanding that your brother take up religion and take up the first job available. (A third issue is the extent of her evasion for being religious in the first place, but that's an aside.)

Either way, the most important issue is that she has every right to do as she wishes with her property. This is my off-the-cuff opinion.

Something else worthy of note is whether or not your brother was right in loaning her money back in '02, no questions asked. What he did implies that he valued her, presumably for rational reasons. If he pulled a "she's a blood relative" type deal, then he acted irrationally and has got no right to demand that his sister do the same. If your sister is setting these terms to punish him for his "selfishness" and what not, this again ties into her compartimentalized mind. However, if she's doing this because she honestly thinks it will help him get out of this mess, then she's just misguided and without ill-intention.

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I think what your sister is doing is perfectly moral.

From the situation, it looks like the brother and sister value each other hopefully for rational reasons like Felipe said. The brother did not collect any interest from her, and in return, she is letting him stay at her house (rent free i'm assuming).

There could be two reasons as to why she's setting such conditions,

1. She firmly believes in her relegion and wants her brother--whom she values--to follow the "right" path

2. She simply cannot have someone living in her house, not following her relegion.

i think both of these reasons are pretty valid.

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My immediate reaction is that she is wrong to a degree, in that I can't see that she has a moral obligation to helping him but I still find it wrong that she would not offer to help.
I think your sister's religious inclinations suck loudly, but as you say your brother is attracted to the same cult so that doesn't really make a significant difference. Your sister should be extremely hesitate to let your brother have money, and the fact that your brother lent her money before is immaterial. Your brother engaged in a righteous act of charity (it seems) by helping your sister in a manner than would not hurt her -- it seems that she is not extremely irresponsible or self destructive (having these cultist relatives really messes up the discussion, and another option is simply "You guys are all a bunch of self-delusional loons, and I'm outta here"). Your brother, OTOH, seems to have a major problem that significantly transcends his religion (though might be caused by it), and he is suffering the consequences of his bad choices. That doesn't mean she has to be mean to him -- it does mean, though, that she should be very cautious that she is not being an enabler.

From what I see, there is a major difference in that lending your sister money allowed her to maintain a normal life that had been distrupted through no fault of her own; your brother did not accidentally get into his hell. The argument "I helped you, now you owe me" is a bad argument: charity does not impose an obligation on the recipient to reciprocate. In an analogous situation, dropping the religious junk and I would do exactly the same thing as your sister: demand steps towards a more focused and rational life. What it comes down to is this: "I will only help you to climb out of this pit, I won't help you to stay there. Do something to prove that you're getting out". She is totally wrong in thinking that religion will ever actually help someone, but as you say, that's a separate thread.

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I think your sister's religious inclinations suck loudly, but as you say your brother is attracted to the same cult so that doesn't really make a significant difference. Your sister should be extremely hesitate to let your brother have money, and the fact that your brother lent her money before is immaterial. Your brother engaged in a righteous act of charity (it seems) by helping your sister in a manner than would not hurt her --

I disagree, I don't think it was charity, in general we as family members help each other when we are in need of help. It is based on that idea that he was willing to lend her the money "no questions asked". Similar to how you might do to a worthy friend who has fallen on hard times. This is NOTHING like donating to a charity.

From what I see, there is a major difference in that lending your sister money allowed her to maintain a normal life that had been distrupted through no fault of her own; your brother did not accidentally get into his hell.

I disagree I don't think my brother made a real mistake that was easily avoidable nor do I think she was trying to help him live a more rational life. While he did spiral into this it was not because he was irrational but rather lacking in knowledge. As my brother got sicker and sicker he saw a very large number of doctors but to no avail. He took medicine that they perscribed but no positive results.

He tried nearly everything he could think of until he really started looking at his diet and pretty much stopped eating anything processed. My brother wasn't just a hedonist who caught HIV, he was someone who was attempting to be as productive as possible and in the process it cost him.

Continuing to eat badly would be irrational though. I have to say David nearly every single post you have I disagree with in a major way. I am not trying to start a problem but I generally wonder if you actually are thinking about the issues or just reciting objectivist ideals.

- Fatdogs

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How should I view my sisters actions here? My immediate reaction is that she is wrong to a degree, in that I can't see that she has a moral obligation to helping him but I still find it wrong that she would not offer to help.

Your sister might think like this: "He says that he only wants to stay for a couple of months but what if his situation doesn't improve or even worsens? What if he has to stay for years instead of months? I then wouldn't want to kick him out of my apartment because he was so generous when I needed his help. So I better make sure that he improves."

But you could simply ask your sister why she makes her help conditional upon attending church. Also, depending on her answer, you could propose a better alternative to letting him hear what an evil man he was making lots of money and not going to church in his past as a stock trader.

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I disagree, I don't think it was charity, in general we as family members help each other when we are in need of help.
I think you don't understand what the word "charity" means. It's not intrinsically evil -- the evil comes from believing you have an entitlement to receive, or an obligation to give, regardless of rational values. You are reinforcing my belief about your brother's bad ethics, if he really holds that he is entitled.
I disagree I don't think my brother made a real mistake that was easily avoidable nor do I think she was trying to help him live a more rational life.
Then perhaps there are some factual details of his circumstance that you decided not to mention, which would show that he was coerced into his actions, that he could not use reason in making better choices, or that he could not possible have known the outcome.
I have to say David nearly every single post you have I disagree with in a major way. I am not trying to start a problem but I generally wonder if you actually are thinking about the issues or just reciting objectivist ideals.
If you have a substantive disagreement based on fact, you have the right to voice that disagreement and state whatever facts you know of that show that I'm wrong. You also have the right to express your feelings, but I'm not interested in mere emotions. I'm impressed, and concerned, that you read all of my posts (or even a majority of them).
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I don't think it's right to impose your beliefs on anyone else. If they ask about them its one thing but to purposely take advantage of someone else's misfortunes to manipulate them into learning about them is plain wrong. Everyone goes through hard times and family should be there to help one another out... occassionally. I agree with your sister that he should take whatever job he can get (if only temporary) to help pay for his keep. But otherwise I think she's wrong.

just out of curiousity....why hasn't your brother asked you for help? how would you go about helping him (assuming you are able to)?

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She didn't force him into his misfortune, and that she has the capacity to help his need does not give him a right to set any terms. If she requires certain things for it to be an equal trade, so be it. Though there are people that prey on the helpless in order to build their self-esteem from without, it's not exactly clear whether that's what she's doing.

Family should be there to act in accordance with their values. If family members value each other by choice, then they must decide to what extent and how they're willing to help one another. Blood bonds do not grant family a claim on their relatives' wealth, but value bonds do require one, if they truly value someone, to act accordingly.

For example, I despise some of my family members while I highly value others. When any of them are in trouble, I act in occordance to how high they reside in my value hierarchy--those that I despise reside very low and thus don't recieve anything, while those that I love reside very high and thus recieve much more.

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According to the posts it is not the brother's fault he's gotten as ill as he is either. The fact that he used to be quite a successful broker should count for something. This is not some bum she is picking off the streets. It is someone she's known all her life. It is someone's who became ill and is now probably suffering from depression from the misfortunes in his life. It is not about a charity case, like he said. In the end it is the brother's choice whether he accepts the sister's conditions. But the thread asked us whether we thought her conditions were wrong I still think they are....the one about the religion anyhow. This country's founders believed in the principle that no one can impose their religion on anyone else ...I find it hard to believe that many here don't agree.

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While it might be idiotic and mindless to set the terms she's setting, there's no 'force' going on here. Comparing the Founders' principle of freedom of religion to this situation doesn't fly. The sister is not forcing anything. I agree that requiring such terms is nonsensical, though.

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Hi "fatdog", I reply because I think your initial reaction was absolutely right, and in total agreement with a rational philosophy.

I cannot find words for that sisters ungracious and manipulative way of using her power, "upper hand", to "help" her brother. It's almost as if she demands he should subject his soul in return for her material help. Had she demanded - or better yet, reasonably argued - that he get into a diet and training program, then I could have understood her, and I think your brother would have too. But demanding religious service attendance 4 times a week in return for her doing what she herself should deem a religious duty to do (leaving aside that there is no such thing as religious duty)? Hypocrisy: yes. Manipulative: yes. Harmful to her brothers self-esteem because it demands subjection: yes.

Her gracious helper gave her a free loan, no strings attached, and when the table gets turned she sets those demands for helping him! How nice. These demands are irrational and she is morally wrong to set them. She has a _legal_ right to set them - of course! - but she is morally wrong do to so.

She doesn't really seem to be a thankful decent person (judging from this particular story) and if I were the brother I would have cried for the sister I had lost and tried to get help from a _real_ friend. Where is her compassion? Her love for her brother. Her thankfulness for the help she received when in need? I see none. She seems cold. I do not envy you the spectacle of witnessing this very ugly trait of your sisters soul revealed so unpleasantly.

Your "gut" reaction was right: this is "insane".

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Your sister has the right to set the terms she wants, regardless of her previous dealings with your brother. Everyone has the right to set the price they want for the services and products they offer.

However, I'd be on alert if I had some future business to do with her. It is curious that your sister set the terms she did, to say the least. An honest person does not ask of another to agree to such terms, which I think to be an attempt to control your brother's life (go to church, accept any job whether you like it or not).

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A lot of interesting posts on this thus far. First of all there are a few things to consider and I have a lot to respond to:

First of all I want to deal with what David Odden said: (the website seems to be slow so I can't quote it exactly): That what my brother had done originally for my sister was charity. If your definition of charity is "something given to help the needy" then I would agree but it's not as simple as that. You said:

I think you don't understand what the word "charity" means. It's not intrinsically evil -- the evil comes from believing you have an entitlement to receive, or an obligation to give, regardless of rational values. You are reinforcing my belief about your brother's bad ethics, if he really holds that he is entitled.

The essence of this issue comes down to a common unstated agreement that many families have even though it's not always explicit. That agreement is that the other members of the family will be there to help them in return for thier help when needed. In that sense what you have is an agreement almost like an insurance policy. If my brother would have thought that if the situation were reversed my sister would not have helped him he certainly would not have given her the money.

In that sense these are not clear cases of charity. They are possibly cases of charity within the context of this agreement. It is a situation in which you are giving up something but only in the context of getting something back in return. This is not the same as feeling you are "entitled" to charity as this is within an agreement. Just on the side I would like to also say that even if my brother were to give my sister that money and it prevented him from buying something he wanted it would not nessasarily be a sacrifice.

Then perhaps there are some factual details of his circumstance that you decided not to mention, which would show that he was coerced into his actions, that he could not use reason in making better choices, or that he could not possible have known the outcome.

I don't get this statement at all. How was my brother to know that eating out so much was going to make him sick? The fact that he COULD know does not make him irrational for not knowing. Surely if he would have realized he would have got himself so sick he would not have eaten out so much. If you are walking down a path and fall into a hole that was covered up by some leaves and sticks and break your leg in the process does that make you irrational? No of course not, you didn't know that there was a hole there or that you might break your leg. If you knew that there was a big whole there and you walked into in, in most contexts you would be irrational but not knowing does not at all in the slightest show he was irrational. So no he wasn't coerced into his actions but he didn't need to.

The most perfectly rational human being is still going to make mistakes but they are not by default irrational for making them.

Now the idea that she would make him work at the grocery store is another interesting issue to me, because it would be like asking a child to pick up a car. It's not going to happen. There is no realistic way he could work any job much less a job where he is standing all day. He IS sick and does need time to eat right and recover. He has a very difficult time staying awake for more than 10 hours straight even if he was lying down. Now my sister knows this... But she believes he is just lazy. This to me however is very ironic because she is one of the highest paid lazy workers around. (Makes 85k a year as a salesperson and didn't sell more than 4,000 worth of products).

My brother is not short of job opportunites. Some very large trading firms (he was not a broker, he was a trader just FYI) have offered him a jobs with a base pay of over 200,000 a year.

So logically I think it breaks down like this: Like many families we have an unspoken agreemnt in which we all come to the aid of the other in return for them doing the same for us. By my sister acting the way she has she has shown that she is no longer part of that agreement (though she says she still is) and he actions have shown she is trying to work her own agenda on someone else when they are most vulnerable.

My end conclusion on this is that my sister in my mind is no longer part of that pact. If she needs help in the future she will not receive it from me because if the situation were reversed she would not seek to help me as I have helped her but rather to use the situation to achieve her goals of converting everyone to her religion.

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If your definition of charity is "something given to help the needy" then I would agree but it's not as simple as that.
I would prefer "someone in need", since the term "needy" has lousy connotations of destitution and being habitual down on your luck, which would not be applicable to your sister's problem. The root concept behind "charity" is "caring" -- it's an act that you perform because you care for someone (perhaps not very deeply and you might not even be acquainted with the recipient, for example the victims of a disaster, but it is an act given because those people are of some abstract value to you).
The essence of this issue comes down to a common unstated agreement that many families have even though it's not always explicit. That agreement is that the other members of the family will be there to help them in return for thier help when needed. In that sense what you have is an agreement almost like an insurance policy. If my brother would have thought that if the situation were reversed my sister would not have helped him he certainly would not have given her the money.
This really does wrong to the concept of an agreement. There has to be a limit on these unwritten, undiscussed, unknown "agreements". If your brother really would not have lent your sister money without the belief that she would unconditionally reciprocate if he needed to call on her in the future, then he should have said that explicitly. Your family may be strange and it might be reasonable for you to assume that receiving charity binds you to unconditional, open-ended reciprocation, but at least in my family (and most other families that I know), that would be an unreasonable assumption. Supposing this were a straight-up quid pro quo -- 5 years later, your brother needs to borrow $20K (let's assume his assets are tied up for a couple of years), and it's clear that he can repay -- then within the bounds of normal family relationships, and assuming that your sister had the cash on hand, then I would also expect that she would make the loan. But the situation you're talking about is radically different.
I don't get this statement at all. How was my brother to know that eating out so much was going to make him sick? The fact that he COULD know does not make him irrational for not knowing. Surely if he would have realized he would have got himself so sick he would not have eaten out so much.
As you originally described his behavior: "However his lifestyle of eating terrible caught up with him. It turned him into the most sluggish laziest person around. He was once a man who could work 20 hours straight no problem but it got to the point where he can hardly make himself lunch. In the mist of all this, his effort at work started to decrease and in stock trading that can be devestating. He went broke and ended up in debt. But now he was broke and too tired to do anything. He visited a lot of doctors and most told him he needed to take some time and start eating right and pretty much give up his bad habits." References like "his lifestyle", "eating terrible", "most sluggish laziest person around" and so on tell me that his acts were volitional. I don't understand your brother's problem; if he has a rare medical condition like Venzuelan Jungle Parasite Syndrome which he got through no fault of his own, then your sister would be being a swine for blaming him for his condition. If you want to represent his situation differently, that's fine (I'm not encouraging you to publish your brother's medical records: I am encouraging you to take a hard and close look at why your brother needs help, and try to figure out how being an enabler is not a good thing to do). Given how you yourself represented your brother's actions, the conclusion is clear that your brother was acting irresponsibly, and a generous (charitable) reading of your sister's actions is that she is telling your brother that he needs to start behaving responsibly, and he needs to take control of his life. Your brother does not seem to be able to conduct his life on his own -- he is becoming a parasite. Somebody needs to get him to stop this. I take it you have been unsuccessful in persuading him to change his ways, so it falls on your sister. If it's just a matter of him having a crash pad, why doesn't he move in with you? What exactly has he been doing to get his act together?
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This really does wrong to the concept of an agreement. There has to be a limit on these unwritten, undiscussed, unknown "agreements". If your brother really would not have lent your sister money without the belief that she would unconditionally reciprocate if he needed to call on her in the future, then he should have said that explicitly. Your family may be strange and it might be reasonable for you to assume that receiving charity binds you to unconditional, open-ended reciprocation, but at least in my family (and most other families that I know), that would be an unreasonable assumption. Supposing this were a straight-up quid pro quo -- 5 years later, your brother needs to borrow $20K (let's assume his assets are tied up for a couple of years), and it's clear that he can repay -- then within the bounds of normal family relationships, and assuming that your sister had the cash on hand, then I would also expect that she would make the loan. But the situation you're talking about is radically different.

Agreement is just a off the cuff term I used which may or may not have been used incorrectly. There was no need for my brother to state this explicitly as I have said it was a standing issue between our family members. I can't think of any family that is close where members do not look out for each other in that manner. Now I agree that him loaning her the money doesn't give him a "blank check" so to speak to get whatever he wants from her, but she is certainly not acting in any way to help him. That is the issue.

I also did say that at present he is the "most sluggish laziest person around" however that I do not believe is his fault. He is completely tired all the time, I seriously doubt any person who is in such a situation would be capable of much productivity. He is lazy not by choice but because of his medical condition (which remains unexplained specifically). He certainly tries his best but he breaks down physically so he has become sluggish and averse to work.

My brother does not have a rare disease but rather a condition that as far as anyone can tell has been brought upon himself by eating so badly. His eating so badly as I stated it was from my perspective looking back on the situation. I don't think he was thinking "Gee I am eating so badly but who cares I am going to do it anyway". That is besides the point.

I think in this situation my sister has taken this arrangement and opted out of it and still used it to her advantage. I don't see that she is helping him to do a single rational thing like you have stated. "Hey get a job you can't keep and come to my religous services". Not much I see there that is all that rational do you?

This situation is one where my brother made a mistake but not an irrational one. Now him continuing to eat bad (which he has tried his best to avoid and 9%% of the time he does) would be irrational.

(Formatted the quotation-softwareNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd
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