My Husband’s Will Pits Me Against Our Daughter. What Can I Do?

I didn’t have a problem not mentioning it when I was hired at my current job, and that was directly coming off unemployment. Gut instinct says not to, but I’m still unsure. What should I do? Name Withheld

You have a perfectly good explanation for both of these job terminations. In the second instance, you have a court’s decision in your favor. A reasonable manager, given these explanations, shouldn’t remove you from consideration. On the other hand, if it ever comes out that you lied on the form — which, let’s be clear, is what you’re considering — they’d have reason to fire you for doing so. (This is an ethical, not a legal, observation.) Go with the truth and an explanation. It isn’t a serious offense to omit from your résumé a brief episode that would require lengthy context. It is a serious offense to lie about something you’ve been asked about explicitly.

I have an elderly friend who sold real estate until the market crashed in 2008. Although the market rebounded, she did not. She has no pension or savings and is struggling to live on her modest Social Security check, food stamps and handouts from charity organizations. She is not in the best of health, so getting a part-time job would be difficult but not impossible. I am in my 50s and doing O.K. financially; I saved my money, and I still work.

I have helped her out occasionally by buying her necessities and giving her money, but I’m becoming resentful. I don’t think she has done everything to help herself. For instance, she refuses to move to a subsidized apartment or give up her health insurance for Medicaid. She does have a grown son who could help her, but she doesn’t want to ask, because they do not have a good relationship. I have even offered to pay her to do basic bookkeeping for me, but she says she can’t work for a friend.

What is my ethical responsibility here? I have real concerns that she could be evicted and end up homeless. I want to be a good person and a good friend, but I don’t think I should have to support her. Suzanne Kolasinski

It’s often useful to distinguish between the question “What am I obliged to do?” and the question “What would it be good to do?” What you’ve done for her — offering her work, buying her necessities, giving her money — is what a friend would do, not something you had a duty to do. A lot of what’s valuable about friendship flows from our wanting to do things for our friends; doing them out of a sense of duty is at odds with this idea.

The strict answer to your question about your responsibility is that you’ve already done more than you had to. There’s a great deal more that it might be good to do, however. You don’t make it clear whether you’ve actually discussed with her the various ways you think she could be helping herself. You should. Helping her think straight about her situation could be a gift of friendship. She may balk at accepting your advice, as she balked at accepting your offer of work. But it can take a thoughtful analysis by someone who cares for us to get us to accept the realities of our situation. And unless you press these issues with her, your resentment may well poison your friendship.

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