It’s best to avoid noble gestures.

Christopher-Reeve-2

oh goody! a chance for a noble gesture!

Readers of my first book, Pushing Rubber Downhill will recall a scene where I offered my resignation in the hope that it would prove my innocence. At the time I intended it as a “noble gesture”. The problem with these noble gestures is that other people rarely see them as such. Instead, they view them as an opportunity to grind your face into the dirt.

A friend of mine has been having some drama associated with his impending divorce. Of course the words “drama” and “divorce” go hand in hand, like “progressive dyke” and “blue hair”. But this was drama of a different kind. It came as a shock to him when his estranged wife announced that she was declaring bankruptcy. As far as he knew they didn’t have any debt at all. It turned out that she had secretly taken out a lot of debt while they had been married.

Understandably he was upset by this. But things got worse. She had taken out some of the debt in his name and without his knowledge. And in order for her to successfully declare bankruptcy, he needed to declare bankruptcy as well.

I don’t want to go into any other details of the situation out of respect for his privacy. The point of this exchange concerns his thinking on the matter. While obviously confused and angry about the situation, he thought that the best way to proceed was to give her what she wanted. In this way she wouldn’t be heavily punished for her actions and he would have “done the right thing”.

Needless to say I wasn’t in agreement with this plan of action.

My argument went along these lines: while his noble gesture might make him temporarily feel better, it would be viewed by authorities as an admission of guilt. So far, all he knew of the situation was what she had told him. But if she had lied to him to that extent once then she could well do so again. In other words, how did he know that this was all of the debt? It could well have been a test to see whether or not he would fall for the bait.

He could find himself standing up in front of an arbitration judge who would not care about the nuances behind his noble gesture. The judge would only look at the facts presented. And the fact that he agreed to declare bankruptcy would be clear evidence that he was a willing partner to the debt. Including all of the potential additional debt which she hadn’t revealed to him.

Us men have a habit of doing that. All of us, whether we like it or not, are at some point susceptible to the trap of the noble gesture. The degree to which we are vulnerable is limited by our personal wisdom and experience. Because often these are things that you need to learn for yourself. It is extremely difficult to talk a man out of the noble gesture when he has convinced himself that this is his best and right course of action. The problem with the noble gesture is that most often your troubles are only just beginning.

And my friend? He is a rare bird. He listened to my advice. Which genuinely surprised me. Life is full of surprises.

5 thoughts on “It’s best to avoid noble gestures.

  1. Allen

    Overheard at the feedlot today, “I just bought this pet pig, what do I feed it?”

    I would advise all men to consider a pre-nuptial agreement before marriage. At a minimum, if you should divorce, it can provide for handling of debt incurred during the marriage. If it’s not advisable (attorney’s advice) to do that, at least find out from that attorney what your financial obligations are under the relevant family law. If you have real property, a retirement or savings account worth one year’s salary, you definitely should consider one.

    This will entail a serious financial discussion with your bride to be. If she hits the fainting couch, says her friends don’t think you need one, or any other such thing it’s time to hit the brakes. Mature adults handle these things calmly, even though it can be difficult.

    “What does it eat,” after the fact, can be a recipe for disaster.

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  2. I knew a guy whose ‘noble gesture’ was to not talk shit about his horrid ex-wife. That made sense. He didn’t lose anything from it and it made him appear honorable – everyone knew he was struggling to keep access to his son but he nevertheless would stoically say nothing at all about the woman we all knew was a malevolent bitch.
    As for the noble gestures you describe – yes, madness.

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  3. Carl-Edward

    ‘Noble gestures’ are, if not borne of unconscious masochism, a pose.

    I remember a story of Maugham’s wherein the chief protagonist – a would-be gentleman – sacrifices his life in a fire, attempting to save his rich, social, wife’s dog. (He became the character he had played for so many years.)

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  4. Pingback: Word from the Dark Side, 8/25/16 | SovietMen

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