We’re all familiar with the stereotypical freeloading relative. He’s usually depicted in the movies as an able-bodied but unkempt bum, who lives with mom or a more responsible sibling, refuses to get a job, and spends his days lying on the sofa, drinking beer, getting potato chips all over the carpet, and watching cartoon marathons. But in real life, few family freeloaders are so obvious. If only it were that simple to recognize the family freeloader, then we might be spared the conflict and guilt of kicking him out on his own to sink or swim. It would just be so much easier to start saying “No” to a blatant bum than it is to the much more talented freeloaders we usually have to deal with.
OUR freeloaders are professionals. They’re subtle. They’re versatile. They run complicated scams and convoluted cons on us. They always have their antennae up for any little clue they might find useful. Like the predators they are, they’re constantly sizing us up to see what they can get out of us. They’re looking for personality traits they can use against us, like gullibility, kindness, a trusting nature, or a soft heart. Even our pride is useful to them-because then they can employ flattery, or “gratitude,” to get what they want.
If you’re susceptible to guilt, it makes you an easy target. If you’re a sympathetic person, quick to feel sorry for those who are going through tough times, or if you easily empathize with others, then you’re an even better target. If you’re concerned about other people’s opinions and want everybody to think you’re nice, that’s like a flashing neon “Sucker” sign over your head. To a con man, if you have trouble saying “No,” that’s a sign of weakness which he can exploit. If we’re efficient, or pride ourselves on being “problem-solvers,” then the freeloader will give us a problem to solve for him. If we have a “rescuer” mentality, our freeloader will help us satisfy those urges. Freeloaders and con men are looking for “people pleasers.”
Is it important to you to give others the impression that you’re a “good Christian?” Or to prove to YOURSELF that you’re a good Christian? We presume that “good” Christians give to charity, but how do you define “charity?” Do you think you have to give to every hard luck case who asks? Does your chronically unemployed cousin qualify as a legitimate charity cause in your mind? Would it make you a “bad” Christian to say “No” to the sister-in-law who constantly imposes on you? If you equate agreeing to every request anybody ever asks of you or giving money to every person who seems to need it with being a “good” Christian, then once a freeloader gets a hold of you, you’re in for a long night……..
Some freeloaders will have the nerve to ask you for a lot of money, like the down payment on a house. But the talented schnorrer knows that requesting a small amount makes it more likely that you’ll feel foolish, guilty, or cheap if you turn him down. So he will gnaw away at you by “needing” little sums of money, small favors, or free meals, on a never-ending, constant basis. He’s the one who will show up, uninvited, just in time for dinner, knowing that you will be hospitable enough to invite him to stay. He’s the one who will go to the movies with you and realize, after you get there, that he left his wallet at home. He’s the one who will always be a little short of cash, who will just need gas money or cab fare, or a place to stay for just a few days. These seemingly inconsequential little favors will be requested again and again- from you and countless other “marks,” until, at the end of the day, they will add up to quite a tidy little sum……
A schnorrer never seems to get her life together. She is in perpetual need of one favor or another, and if you agree, she’ll completely take advantage of your good nature. She’s the one who will call you in a panic to babysit her three-year old while she runs to the school to pick up her seven-year old. Thinking she’ll only be gone a few minutes, you’ll leave your dinner in the oven and run over, only to have her come back from “school” two hours later, after making stops at the grocery store, bank, pharmacy, and a few interesting-looking yard sales. All while you provided free babysitting and wound up with a ruined roast. Oh, come on, stop complaining. What did you expect? You know how inconvenient it is to drag two little kids around to all those stops!.......
One of the most memorable conversations I ever had with a narcissistic freeloader was with one who was outraged at her entire family because they “weren’t getting the hints” that she and her husband had been throwing out for a holiday invitation. She was positively incensed that she and her husband and kids were “going to have to spend the holidays by ourselves” because nobody was inviting them. How DARE they not take her hints! With the usual drama-queen mentality, she took this as proof positive of what she had suspected all along- that her family didn’t care about her. She insisted that she was never going to speak to any of them again.
When I asked her why SHE didn’t invite THEM, she gaped at me, totally dumbstruck. I mean, after all, if she was so upset at the possibility of having to spend the holidays alone, wouldn’t that be the logical solution? And wasn’t it only fair that once in a while, she would take HER turn at entertaining the family? Her response to my suggestion was to indignantly insist that nobody expected that of her. When I asked how many holidays she had spent at her relatives’ homes in the past, she admitted that they had entertained her for many years. “That’s what we’ve ALWAYS done!” she whined, trying to make it seem like some kind of family tradition that SHE always has to be the GUEST and never the HOST.
And of course, in a freeloader’s mind, we can never change what we’ve always done. It has to stay that way forever. Entertaining her is their JOB! They can’t just QUIT! They have to keep giving and giving, while she keeps taking and taking. Abusers always insist on maintaining the same rigid family roles that have benefited them all their lives. Why would they want to change anything?.......
Brian has gone so far as to ask people what they are “making for dinner tonight,” and then when they tell him, he will say, only half jokingly, “What time do you want us there?” Ha, Ha, Ha. Believe it or not, a lot of times this little “joke” actually works, snagging Brian and Judy a dinner invitation for that evening. Unfortunately, some folks are too afraid it would sound impolite to just go along with the joke, as in, “Very funny. How about right after that theatre date you’re going to treat me to? Ha, Ha, Ha.”…..
Most folks do Christmas shopping. Rhonda does Christmas conning. She will wait until the week before Christmas, and then she will choose her mark, usually a kind-hearted church lady or elderly neighbor. She’ll strike up a conversation, pretending to show an interest in the victim’s life. Then, in the middle of discussing the weather or her mark’s health, she will casually ask if the other lady has finished her Christmas shopping. This is the set-up. Upon hearing the answer, whatever it is, she will up the ante, making a comment along the lines of, “I haven’t even STARTED my Christmas shopping yet.”
Naturally, the mark will ask why, giving Rhonda the chance to go in for the kill. Rhonda will cast her welling-up eyes downward as if embarrassed, and then quietly whisper that she HAS NO MONEY to buy anything for her children. Dabbing at her escaping tears, she’ll add, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do this year.” Whereupon the pigeon will say, “There, there, don’t cry. Please let me help,” as she digs out her wallet or checkbook. Rhonda will weakly protest, “No, you don’t have to do that. That’s not why I told you. I just needed some prayer….”, but she’ll take the money anyway, with sad eyes and “sincere” thanks.
And that night, you’ll run into her and her family, eating out at the local bistro. The thing is, Rhonda won’t have had this “embarrassing, hush-hush” little conversation with just one person. After all, why waste a perfectly good scam by only using it one time? You see, Rhonda pigeonholed one mark after church last week, and another one this week. Never one to miss an opportunity, she conned one person before church and someone else after church. At the Women’s Ministry meeting last night, she scammed money out of yet another sucker. She’s good for two or three people at the church Christmas Party, managing to get each one alone and in private, drawing them stealthily away from the crowd and into a corner or another room…….
Sometimes, along with living a lie and continually having to fake poverty in order to sponge off others, comes a unique kind of paranoia. Rhonda and Jack are super-defensive about anything nice they might be “caught with,” quick to jump in with an explanation when no explanation is necessary, lest you think they really CAN afford the normal niceties of life without your help. If you compliment Rhonda on her dress, instead of saying “Thank you,” and leaving it at that, the first thing out of her mouth will be that her sister gave it to her, or that she bought it at a seventy-five-percent-off sale. If you happen to mention that her kids look cute, she will immediately start explaining that she bought their outfits at the thrift shop for five dollars…….
As we’ve already seen, many family freeloaders are married, and work in teams. There are many benefits to teamwork. Two sets of friends and relatives to con. Double the amount of fake illnesses, disabilities, job losses, and hard-luck stories. The ability to compliment each other and combine two sets of talents for eliciting sympathy and guilt from others. And the credibility of having another person to back up your tall tales.
Doug and Marsha have freeloaded off their families for years and are currently living rent-free, with the three children they decided to have even though they couldn’t support them, in a rental owned by Marsha’s sister and her husband. When Marsha’s sister and brother-in-law bought this house, they bought it as an investment. They needed the rental income. They were happy to rent it to relatives because they thought they were getting good tenants. When Doug and Marsha “fell on hard times” and stopped paying the rent, what could Marsha’s sister do? Throw her sister and her family out on the street?
It’s been eight years since the chronically under-employed Doug and Marsha have paid rent. But during that time, they bought a NEW, not used, car, took vacations every year, and had yet another baby. Meanwhile Marsha’s sister and her husband are on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. They are paying the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep on their “rental” property, which is generating NO income for them, and both have had to take second jobs to make ends meet, all while Doug and Marsha basically sit at home all day and play with the kids…….
But poor Stephanie was in for a big disappointment. Beaming with glee and expecting her daughter to jump for joy, she explained to Erica that she had saved up some money for her wedding. Overcome with emotion, she couldn’t stop the tears from brimming in her eyes as she handed over the check. For a moment there was silence as Erica looked it over. Stephanie thought that maybe she was in shock, and it would take a few seconds to absorb what it was. But slowly, a look of contempt crossed Erica’s face. “What am I supposed to do with THIS?” she sneered. “My dress alone is almost $20,000!”……
Let’s look at this logically. It’s not that Billy CAN’T AFFORD to support himself. It’s that he has other priorities. At roughly $8.50 a pack, Billy’s three-pack-a-day smoking habit is costing $25.50 every day, $178 every week, $765 every month, and $9,307 every year. His daily case of beer costs $18.00. That’s $126 a week, $540 a month, $6,570 a year. Every couple of days, he knocks off a twenty dollar bottle of vodka, so rounding that out in his favor, let’s say he goes through only three bottles a week at a cost of $60. That’s another $240 a month and $3,120 a year.
So when we do the math, we see that Uncle Billy has no problem at all blowing $53.50 a day on alcohol and cigarettes. That’s $374 a week, $1,605 a month. More than enough to PAY RENT, or at least significantly contribute to the expenses in the house HE lives in. But instead, Billy wastes a grand total of over $19,527 a year, which literally goes up in smoke and gets flushed down the toilet, while the rest of the family gets angry at LISA for no longer being able to pay his bills, instead of getting angry at HIM……
A perverted twist on the Pity Party is some statement to the effect that “bad (or evil or sinful) people get away with everything,” accompanied by a wistful sigh, a meaningful glance, or maybe an exasperated eye roll. The implication being, “I’M good, so I always get nothing…”, or, “If I wanted to be bad like everybody else, then I’d have a better life, just like them. But I can’t do it! I just can’t be bad….” If you hear a tiny little implied threat here, you’re very perceptive. You wouldn’t want your relative to have to “turn bad” in order to live well, now would you? You’re supposed to appreciate your sociopath’s determination to be a good or honest person, even if it means he’s going to suffer. You might even admire his courage and moral fortitude in the face of such adversity. Oh, pul-leaze, cry me a river! This diversion is meant to disguise the fact that your sociopath IS BAD, just like “them.” In fact, HE’S WAY WORSE……..
Most narcissists trot out their sob stories just for attention. They’re always poor, sick, in trouble, or have somebody mad at them or picking on them. No matter what anybody else is going through, they’re going through worse. They want you to feel sorry for them, and they thrive on being the center of attention. They will do whatever it takes to stay center-stage.
But the sociopathic schnorrer, on the other hand, tells his tales of woe with yet another purpose in mind. He wants more from you than mere attention. He wants favors, invitations, gifts, or money. When someone is dishonest, lies, and cons you in order to get money or favors from you, he is STEALING. Remember the eighth commandment, THOU SHALT NOT STEAL (Exodus 20:15 KJV)? Well, that’s exactly what your con-artist relative is doing every time he takes from you under false pretenses.
Are you a little surprised that I consider freeloaders to be sociopaths? Well, now let’s see. We already know they’re narcissists, because, no matter what might be going on in anyone else’s life, everything is still always all about THEM. Then, they take it one step further by having absolutely no conscience and no remorse for the hurt they cause you, even if they break up your marriage, ruin your credit, and destroy your life. And THAT’S what makes them sociopaths……..
If you turn down your freeloader’s request, you are likely to be lambasted as cheap, mean, uncaring, and unloving. If that doesn’t work, she might pull out the big guns and accuse you of being A BAD CHRISTIAN. And she will also be sure to trash you to anyone who will listen. There will be no appreciation for all the favors you did for her in the past- only anger at your refusal to accommodate her current request.
If you simply ignore the schnorrer’s broad hints without coming right out and saying “No,” she will most likely repeat them for a while, using slightly different versions each time, and then become passive-aggressive- sulking, pouting, snapping at you, deleting your e-mails without reading them, or not returning your calls. If you ask what’s wrong, she’ll either deny that she’s angry, or go off on you for not “helping” her. Either way, you will pay for your lack of sympathy, “family loyalty” and, oh yeah- Christianity, too. She will get her message of resentment across to you with blatant emotional blackmail. You have some nerve not giving her whatever she wants!........
FROM CHAPTER 16- WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GIVING TO THE POOR VERSUS SUPPORTING A BUM?
EACH MAN SHOULD GIVE WHAT HE HAS DECIDED IN HIS HEART TO GIVE, NOT RELUCTANTLY OR UNDER COMPULSION, FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER….2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV.
I AM SENDING HIM-WHO IS MY VERY HEART-BACK TO YOU. I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO KEEP HIM WITH ME SO THAT HE COULD TAKE YOUR PLACE IN HELPING ME WHILE I AM IN CHAINS FOR THE GOSPEL. BUT I DID NOT WANT TO DO ANYTHING WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT, SO THAT ANY FAVOR YOU DO WILL BE SPONTANEOUS AND NOT FORCED….Philemon 12-14 NIV.
The Bible teaches us that we are to give cheerfully, not out of compulsion or because of pressure. Paul illustrates this point by sacrificing his own needs and desire to keep Onesimus with him; instead, sending him back to Philemon, because he did not want to take advantage of Philemon’s generosity.
Sisters and Brothers, I would imagine that if you were cheerful about the idea of continuing to subsidize your schnorrer, you would not be reading this book. The inability to be happy about being taken advantage of is not a character flaw on our parts. It is normal. We’d have to be insane to feel good about being exploited and stolen from. Our freeloaders’ constant demands, sense of entitlement, lack of appreciation, dishonesty, and emotional blackmail take all the joy out of giving to them. If we do help out the family con-artists, it is only possible to do so reluctantly and under compulsion, because we know we’re being lied to, used, played for fools, and forced to help someone who refuses to help himself. Their sneaky, underhanded, manipulative, and evil tactics make it impossible to give to a schnorrer with a cheerful heart- and God does not want us to give if we cannot feel cheerful about it.
The Bible tells us to set a limit- to decide in our hearts what, if anything, to give- and stick with it. We are only to give freely, not because we were forced or pressured to give. We have absolutely no scriptural obligation to a freeloading relative. And since we are no longer going to come to his rescue, what will become of our family freeloader? Well, for starters, he WILL find someone else to bum off of. You and I are not the only game in town. But the Bible has more to say on this subject:
THE SLUGGARD’S CRAVING WILL BE THE DEATH OF HIM, BECAUSE HIS HANDS REFUSE TO WORK….Proverbs 21:25 NIV…………..
FROM CHAPTER 15- 21 WAYS TO SPOT A CON:
2. When you ask a straight question, you will never get a straight answer. You will get plenty of vague, evasive answers, diversionary tactics, and contradictions. That’s because your freeloaders are LYING….Once you know enough to look for it, nothing ever seems to add up or make sense.
One week a con-artist will tell you that the doctor said something drastic, and the next week she’ll forget what she said the week before and tell you the doctor said something completely different. If she’s trying to weasel out of doing her share of the holiday cooking or taking her turn in the carpool, she might grimly inform you that she has to go for a biopsy that day. But later on, when you ask how the biopsy went, she will look at you as if you had two heads, and tell you it was “only” an MRI. If you wait another few days and ask about the results of the MRI, she will again look at you as if you were nuts, and declare that it was “just a blood test!” The story is always changing. It will usually start out as high drama, and then fizzle out when it’s accomplished its purpose or you start asking for more details. Your schnorrer will also try to change the subject when you put her on the spot. She will be unapologetic about the discrepancies in her tall tales; instead, her attitude will be that YOU must have misunderstood or that YOU must be imagining things, not that SHE ever said anything different.
3. Many schnorrers are what I like to jokingly refer to as “Toppers.” No matter what problems you have, they have WORSE problems. If you’re getting tested for cancer, they will have the same symptoms, or worse. If you have the flu, they’ll have pneumonia. If YOUR headaches are migraines, THEIR headaches are from a brain tumor. They’re notoriously poor listeners and have absolutely no empathy for others. No matter what crisis you might be going through, as soon as you start to tell them about it, they will always change the subject back to themselves. It’s an automatic, conditioned reflex…..
….. If you tell a freeloader you lost your job that day, don’t mistake that momentary hesitation for her trying to think of something appropriately sympathetic to say. What she’s REALLY trying to think of is a way to hit you up for more money- quick, while you still have some. Schnorrers will always be SICKER than you are, and they will always be POORER than you are…………
12. A clever schnorrer will be sure to mention when someone else helped him out, even if it was decades ago. He will be so humbly grateful to that person and God that he just has to give credit where credit is due, and let you know about the other party’s generosity and kindness. But showing appreciation to the other person isn’t the freeloader’s true motivation. He is playing to the “herd mentality” in human nature. He knows that everyone wants to be part of the “group.” Giving the impression that others view him as a legitimate charity case or a worthy cause provides him with credibility, and makes YOU more likely to give him money or do favors for him, too………
16. People who plan to start asking you for favors will often try to obligate you to them first. Be suspicious of someone who is always offering to do favors for YOU, especially favors you never asked for, didn’t realize you needed, don’t really want, and feel uncomfortable accepting. Does this person presume to know what you need? Is she pushy about it? Does she buy you a gift or force a favor on you without even asking you first? Does she become insistent or “offended” if you say, “No, thanks?” Does she ridicule you for being too “suspicious” or “paranoid” to accept her offer? Does she manage to make you feel guilty for turning her down? Do you find yourself APOLOGIZING to HER for NOT accepting her “offer?” If so, then she has succeeded in making you feel like you “owe” her anyway, not because she DID something for you, but because you “hurt her feelings!”……..