A couple of weeks ago I was at a party and a friend was telling me about the goings on of a mutual acquaintance of ours. I haven’t seen this acquaintance in a pretty long time, so I didn’t know anything at all about what she’d been up to. My friend off-handedly mentioned that this acquaintance would be moving soon, into a new, bigger house in a very exclusive neighborhood. The acquaintance had been living in a really nice house, so I made a comment along the lines of, “well, she must have made BANK when she sold her house – it’s beautiful!”
Friend, in a low voice: “Actually, they ended up letting that house go.”
Me: “Wait, what do you mean?”
Friend: “She, you know, let it go. It got foreclosed on.”
Me: “What? Why? Did she lose her job?”
Friend: “No, they just weren’t going to be able to sell it for what they paid for it, so they let it go.”
Me: “Then how did they buy another house?”
Friend: “It was kind of weird and I didn’t totally understand, but it’s something like the first house was in her name, but the new house is in her boyfriend’s name.”
Me: “But now her credit is trashed!”
Friend: “I don’t think she cares – they’re not going to move again.”
Me: “But she just screwed over her neighbors! Now the value of their houses will go down! This is practically fraud!”
Friend: *shrugs* “Oh well, her decision.”
Before I proceed, let me put this disclaimer out there: the truth is, I don’t know for sure that this is what happened. I heard this whole story second-hand from a someone who also doesn’t know the subject very well. And even if it is true, it’s plausible that there are a lot of mitigating circumstances related to the subject’s finances that I also don’t know anything about. I accept that these are possibilities. I should also mention that I know that there are a lot of people who have no choice – due to dire financial circumstances – but to be foreclosed on and that it is a heartbreaking situation, so my intention here is not to be critical of the people who have no other options.
But let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that the scenario outlined above is 100% true: someone I know had her home foreclosed on for no other reason than that she wanted to move to a bigger house in a better neighborhood. Let’s just say that this is the situation (I highly, highly suspect that it is, but again, I don’t know).
In my opinion, this is a truly fucked up thing to do. Sure, her credit is in the toilet, so I guess that’s a “punishment.” And yeah, what she did isn’t illegal. But you and I both know that just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. She is potentially screwing over the people around her – her former neighbors – for no reason other than that she just doesn’t feel like living in that house anymore. A foreclosure in the neighborhood affects everyone’s home values, not to mention the overall housing market. It’s selfish and unethical to do stuff like this, no matter if it’s within her rights as a homeowner or not.
So this train of thought got me thinking about people who are selfish and unethical in other ways, such as in romantic relationships, and the comparison between cheating and unnecessarily getting foreclosed on came next in the stream of consciousness. Like the foreclosure situation, cheating isn’t illegal, and its damage can cause serious ripple effects in a person’s future relationships, just like the unnecessary foreclosure causes ripple effects in a neighborhood. In both scenarios the perpetrator is looking out for their own best interest without regard for others; in both scenarios, devastation (financial or emotional) is usually the result.
I thought about this for quite a while, and eventually came to the conclusion that cheating is still worse. It’s a personal betrayal, whereas an unjustified foreclosure is an impersonal bad act. But I will say that I think a person’s ethical standards aren’t usually compartmentalized; if you’re sketchy with your money, you’re probably a sketchy person, and a sketchy person won’t be an honest partner. In other words, I probably wouldn’t date someone who “let his house go” because I’d be worried he’d treat our relationship just as carelessly.
What do you think? Does a person’s ethical conduct vary from situation to situation? Do you think shady financial behaviors portend shady romantic behaviors? I can’t wait to hear your responses!