4 Common Morals Designed to Keep You Poor

#2. Asking for Help Makes You Weak

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The Moral:

My ex-mother-in-law used to help us out quite a bit, just out of the blue. Usually it was in odd ways, like buying a swing set for the kids or bringing us unnecessary things she found while shopping. Mostly dildos. Sometimes things that weren't dildos but were shaped very much like dildos. But it was always useful in some way, even if we brought the unnecessary items back for store credit. We were always thankful for it, but the second we asked her for help, she blew up.

Honestly, I understand why, and I don't blame her for it one bit. Giving something freely to someone feels pretty awesome. But if that person asks you for more on top of what you've already given them, it's pretty easy to feel like you're being taken advantage of. You start to see the recipient as an irresponsible person who constantly needs the intervention of others just to function in everyday life. She had no problem letting us know that, both in words and in the look on her stupid, fat face.

From the perspective of the person in need, when you see those reactions long enough (and no, it doesn't take very long -- once is enough for most people), you learn that asking for help makes other people pity and resent you. You're not good enough to make the money that they make. You're not strong enough to put yourself in their position. You're weak.

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"There you go. Make sure you don't try to eat it, you dumb fucker."

So after a while, you do absolutely anything to avoid seeking help. Including murder. Well, OK, maybe not that, but you'd do quite a bit. Obviously, taking care of problems on your own is the most respected trait a person can have, at least on the financial end. And if you can't ever manage that, you'll never be respected or even taken seriously for that matter.

But That's Bullshit Because ...

Seeking that position of independence isn't a bad thing. In fact, that should be your immediate goal in life. But if you're in a tight spot and you can't make it out on your own, not taking advantage of the help that's available to you is doing nothing but hurting you.

Government assistance is a perfect example. We were on food stamps, welfare, and medical cards from as early as I can remember in life, right up until the day I separated from my ex-wife. As I was trying to adjust to the financial clusterfuck that ensued after moving out, many of my friends and family recommended applying for assistance through several programs that would have taken care of everything from my electric bill to food. But I refused. I had been on those programs my entire life, and no matter what the consequence, I had made up my mind that I would never be on them again. Even if it meant that I had to kill a man.

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Always be prepared. That's my motto.

Sorry, I'll stop with that. It's just so fun to say if you do it all dramatically.

For the next couple of years, I was completely fucked. And not in the fun way. I was trying to claw my way out of the hole I had created, and every time I moved up 5 feet, I'd slide back 4 feet, 11 inches. I'd ask for help only when I was about to lose a utility, which put the person I was asking in a ridiculous bind, trying to scrape up cash on a few minutes' notice. Which in turn made me look 10 times more irresponsible.

But I eventually learned that the hole I was in could not be scaled by myself. Not with my miniscule income and a hundred other factors adding weight to the climb. I needed wiggle room, a reliable boost that wouldn't just step out from under me when I was finally getting a firm grip on the walls (then giggle as I lay motionless, a broken spine rendering my registered-weapon feet useless for any chance at retaliation). Accepting that help was what finally got me out, and it took more strength to do that than many people can imagine. The weakness was the pride that kept me swatting away good, logical suggestions like mosquitoes. Murder mosquitoes. Sorry, there's no way I can stop doing that.

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That's why I'll never say shit to people who have to live on welfare. I've been there, and it sucks. It beats the shit out of your pride and makes you feel like you're less than human, feeding on the scraps of "normal" people who will always see you as trash. But not taking that help is doom. You're taking an already disadvantaged situation and making it a thousand times harder than it has to be in order to escape. The assistance is there for a reason, and submitting to the moral that accepting it makes you weak is just plain dumb. Use it, get the hell out of that hole, and never look back.

Of course, on the opposite end of that spectrum ...

#1. Saying No to Requests for Help Makes You an Asshole

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The Moral:

There was a weird cycle in my family when I was growing up where everyone borrowed from everyone else. They couldn't get around it, because when you're a week away from payday and you have no food left, you have to do something. But the thing that has always struck me as odd was that none of them stopped and said, "No, I can't, because lending $20 to you means that I'll be that much short next week." They just freely coughed it up, and then four days later, they were fucked.

They had to supply the help because there was a person in need right in front of their face, and they had that $20 in their pocket right there on the spot. Even if that $20 came in the form of quarters, because my aunt was a bad stripper. What kind of asshole wouldn't do that for another person, let alone a family member? It's not even a choice. Any stable, sane family teaches their children from birth that you put other people before yourself because you never know when you're going to need that help in return. It's just the right thing to do.

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"I guess just take, like ... um ... half or something? I can make more, right?"

But That's Bullshit Because ...

You cannot help people if you're putting yourself in the position of needing the exact same help.

My wife manages a store for a corporation that has been going through a slump. Wait, let me rephrase that: a corporation that is murder-fucked beyond repair. They are currently closing many of their individual stores, including hers, which means she's losing her job. Fortunately, for the first time in ... well, ever ... we are far enough ahead on bills that we can easily coast for the next few months, even without her working.

Up until this happened, we've been able to help out my relatives when they're in financial trouble, but not for long. Because as much money as we have right now, we will need that to supplement the lost income as she's hunting for a new job. Preferably a hit man or a bounty hunter. We are now in the position where paying one of their bills means subtracting from our own. Regardless of how much we want to help them out, we are not in the position to do so until that job is replaced. Maybe a space smuggler? Anyone have any good connections?

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I don't even know what a space smuggler would smuggle. Like comets or something?

Now, from any of their vantage points, I will look like the stingiest tightwad asshole in history. I can hear some of them right now, yelling in a panic, "What the fuck? I know you can help me out. Compared to what I have, you're fucking RICH! Family is supposed to help out family!" But until our income gets back to normal, helping them out means putting my own household in the hole. And putting us in the hole means that when we do get back to normal, I still won't be able to help them out because I'll be busy digging us out.

You have to be extremely careful in choosing when to give in to those requests because it can very easily grow into a financial black hole. Even if they don't understand the position you're in, you have to remember that the more you grow financially, the more you can help them out in the future. But the key term there is "grow." It's easy to sit back and bash Bill Gates for having $67 billion and not giving it up to single-handedly solve all of the world's problems and bring about a never-ending peace between nations. It takes a colder logic to step back and realize that maintaining and growing his wealth is what allows him to donate $28 billion to his own charity and continue to do so long after everyone else has achieved their final goal of "good-looking corpse."

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Given, Bill Gates gets paid in those chocolate coins, so it may not be quite as impressive as it sounds.

Look, I'm not saying that we have to eliminate these morals. At their core, they're nice guidelines to help keep us from becoming dehumanizing monsters. I'm saying that, just like everything else in life, they need to be closely examined and questioned. Because what works for a millionaire has no bearing on someone who has to consider eating their pets to make it through next Tuesday. Yes, there is a double standard, but much of it is as simple as a mindset. And you are totally in control of that part. Get up and fight your way out of this shit -- on your terms, not theirs.

John is a columnist right here at Cracked with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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