Debt is not a moral failing.
Most of us are forced to take on debt to have the very basics of a dignified life—housing, food, education, healthcare. It is not your fault if you are in debt, and it is not your fault if you cannot pay. Creditors use the shame we feel against us, to make us feel alone, guilty, and disempowered. But we are not alone, we have no reason to feel guilty, and we have power.
You have rights — use them!
Your debt exists within our system of laws, and that system gives you rights. It gives you the right not to be harassed, the right to know what you're being charged for and why, and, sometimes, the right not to pay. Creditors try to use our feelings of guilt or shame to stop us from using our legal rights. Resist this tactic! We have rights for a reason and it is okay to use them.
We are stronger together.
Feelings of shame or guilt around debt can make us feel alone and powerless, like our entire lives are reducible to what we owe and can't pay. But you are not a loan, and you are not alone. Most Americans carry several different kinds of debt, and most of us will struggle with it at one point or another.
There's an old saying: If you owe the bank $100,000, the bank owns you; if you owe the bank $100,000,000, you own the bank. Separately our battles can feel hopeless, but there is power in uniting, working together, understanding our shared struggle, and taking collective action.
“If history shows anything, it is that there's no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt—above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it's the victim who's doing something wrong.” - David Graeber