Should I fess up about something I lost?

A friend is asking for a book back that she lent me 3 years ago. We have since moved house 3 times (and interstate) since then. Plus I’m pregnant, about to get married and have a baby. Like I give two hoots about a stupid book from 3 years ago. I don’t even remember if I gave it back to her - I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night. Should I just fess up that I probably threw it away, or just ignore or offer to buy her a new one?

I can’t bring myself to spend any amount of money on a stupid Russell Brand book just on the principle of it.

Honesty has always been an integral part of my operation, really. – R. Brand
08-13-47-53-55 / 31

Hello Diner. Mr. Brand is indeed an acquired taste–and some live happy, sated lives never acquiring that taste. Being as he’s a fan of Chinese food, he displeases us a lot less than it seems he does you. At the very least, you can trust our impartiality on this matter.

Of course the best, most up-standing answer is to be diplomatic, and replace what was lent to you. You’d be in good company both in diplomacy and overdue books. First US President George Washington kept a book 221 years before the Mt. Vernon staff returned it. [1] His estate, however, did not have to pay the $300,000 fine, which is a luxury we can’t promise you.

But a simple answer is a bit bland for our taste, today. Besides, that makes for a very short Fortune, so let’s play with other possibilities just between friends–as a thought experiment, as scholars call it.

Keep in mind we’re venturing into the territory that is not quite ethical, so like pungent fish sauce, use lightly and light-heartedly. Your principles may forbid you from fattening Mr. Brand’s wallet, but do they keep you from lying? If they do, close your tab now. If not, read on.

Your friend asking you for a book she lent you three years ago tells us a few things:

  1. She doesn’t have it, so you probably haven’t returned it to her
  2. She remembers you borrowed it
  3. It’s important enough to her to ask for it back, but not important enough to miss it urgently


That means: ignoring her might just start a resentment that festers as long as her passion for Mr. Brand persists. We mentioned in another Fortune that disregarding someone does a number on their psyche. Our target today is to be a little manipulative–not straight up sadistic.

So what should you do to get out of trouble? What would not only make you seem faultless but also appear magnanimous?

To come up smelling like a freshly cooked meal, plead ignorance but overachieve in making amends. As you pointed out, forgetting is universally easy and is therefore easily forgivable.

“I completely forgot you ever lent it to me,” you would tell this friend. “But if you said I did, of course I trust you. Let me make it up to you.”

You would then rush off to your nearest local bookseller and purchase a gift card for a nice round number above what the book is worth. For a $19.99 book, give her $25. This accomplishes two things on top of making it up to your friend: it keeps your principles against spending any of your money on Mr. Brand (directly), and more importantly, it helps a local business. We can only hope that your friend will be inspired to purchase something new–and more importantly, something different.

For that, we can only say, good luck, Diner.

[1] Flood, A. (2010, May 20). George Washington’s library book returned, 221 years later. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

My abusive father is trying to reconnect with me. What should I do?

My father has recently been calling and trying to get in touch. I haven’t talked to him in a long time–he was both physically and emotionally abusive when I was young and I’ve had a hard time forgiving him for that. In one of the voicemails he left, he said that he was a Christian now and it was a sin for me not to forgive him and let him back into my life. The constant phone calls (up to twice a week now) are really getting to me. Help?

A father is more behavior than blood.

08-13-21-31-55 / 23

Hello Diner. This is an incredibly painful experience. With his contacting you, your mind is reliving the worst abusive experiences you suffered as a child. Those are scientifically proven to be the ones that take the longest to reconcile, as we mentioned in this Fortune. It is perfectly understandable that you’re feeling so overwhelmed from this recent encounter.

What’s worrisome is your father said that he was a Christian now, and it was a sin for you not to forgive him and let him back into your life. Not knowing your personal beliefs, it may very well be a sin. All that aside, Diner, your father is still abusive. Once again, your father is putting you in the wrong, but this time, he is punishing you with emotional abuse and threatening you with unending torment. It’s especially cruel if he really believes in such a place. To him religion is another belt to use on you: do what I say or suffer.

You definitely have no obligation to forgive him or reintegrate him into your life. Let me repeat that: you do not have to forgive him or let him back into your life. This is a difficult point to accept, but it is absolutely critical. If you do, he will continue to use more ways to put you in the wrong, criticize, and punish you for it. Nothing has changed. He is still sadistic and without remorse. Your father completely ignored the teachings where he is supposed to be penitent, and he went straight for what to use to hurt you.

Our Baker specifically insisted that we owe him no piety. He only asks that we be as sweet and wise as the ingredients he used to make us. However, in English-speaking cultures, there is significant pressure and obligation to forgive and unconditionally accept family. You Diners are expected to love your parents. But understand that it is more of an exchange. He showed you no love by abusing you. You owe him nothing.

I recommend staying far away from him, physically and emotionally. Interacting more with your father will only hurt you. Curtly say that you no longer want anything to do with him. If he insists that you explain, simply send him this Fortune. No more explanation is necessary or deserved. If he continues to harass you, get your telecommunications company to block his number. If he shows up at your home, involve the police.

If you choose to leave doors open, use what you’ve read here to guide you in future encounters. Your father should only be allowed back into your life when he is truly remorseful–not while threatening to throw you into a burning pit forever. Best of luck, Diner. We know that shunning your father fights primordial instincts, but understand it’s worth doing.

Permanent Link: