“Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender be” is a well-know English proverb. It warns us against the dangers of (a) borrowing money, and (b) of lending money. Both the borrowing and the lending of money are equally undesirable. This truth can very well be attested to by those who have ever in life borrowed money or lent it to some friends or relatives. Thus the proverb is an expression of a universal truth.
The borrowing of money is most undesirable. It makes the borrower extravagant. On borrowed money he lives much beyond his means. Gradually he acquires the habit of lavish living. Once a person gets habituated to a particular style of it, it is difficult to change it. One borrowing leads to another and then to still another one. The process goes on till all possible persons from whom money can be borrowed have been tapped. Debts keep mounting and when the borrower fails to reply them, he has to sell his assets. Even the residence, if he has one, and the ornaments of the wife, are sold to pay off the debts.
Not only does borrowing lead to financial ruin, it also leads to a total loss of social respect. Even close friends and relatives begin to avoid the borrower. He loses all respect among his colleagues and neighbors. Whenever he goes, he is looked down upon. Life becomes intolerable for him. There are cases on record which shows that borrowers when driven to the wall often commit suicide. In this way, the entire family of the borrower is ruined. The death of the bread-winner means misery and starvation for all those dependent on him for their livelihood.
The lending of money is equally undesirable. The lender is responsible for the wasteful habits of the borrower. He is entirely responsible for the borrower’s financial ruin and the misery and suffering of his children. Moreover, one who lends money loses both the friendship and goodwill of the person to whom the money has been lent as well as the money, which he has lend. If the money has been lent to a friend, the friendship comes to an end as soon as a request is made for the repayment of the loan. This is so also in the case of relatives. Thus the lending of money is most improper and harmful both for the borrower and the lender.
Thus there is much truth in the advice contained in the proverb. However, it will have to be admitted that there are occasions when it becomes unavoidable to borrow money or lend it. For example, in case of some serious illness in the family it often becomes unavoidable to borrow money even at exorbitant rates of interest. In such hard cases, one is to be excused for borrowings, and the lender for lending him the much needed money. But generally speaking, the advice of the poet is entirely correct. Mush misery and heart-burning can be avoided, if it is kept in mind in day to day life.