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Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
Our readers asked:

My friend got drunk and accidentally broke my mobile phone.  Should I expect or demand payment from her?

Neela Kale Answers:

brokenphone-flash3Let’s imagine that your friend were sober and broke your phone by sheer accident. Should she feel obligated to compensate you? Yes. She is responsible for the damage, much the way one would be responsible for breaking a dish in a china shop. The fact that she was drunk implies negligence and increases her responsibility, rather than mitigating it. (Consider how a drunk driver who causes an accident incurs greater penalties than a sober driver.) So of course she should apologize for what happened and pay for the repair of your phone. It is reasonable for you to expect that.

As far as whether or not you should demand payment, ask yourself about the nature of your relationship. Is it a strong friendship, which will weather this storm and emerge even stronger? Or is it a casual friendship, which will break under the strain? Is recovering the cost of the phone worth losing the friendship? Or is the friendship not worth keeping in the first place? As a Christian you are called to forgive – every time we say the Our Father we pray that God will forgive us our trespasses “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But forgiveness doesn’t mean that we have to let people walk all over us, so you would be wise to avoid loaning your phone to your friend again. Only you can decide what you want your relationship with your friend to look like going forward.

The Author : Neela Kale
Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Mike Hayes

    One can only control what they can do. Perhaps your friend should replace it but you can’t MAKE her do it. So forgiving her is one option certainly. Asking someone to make restitution for this, is another matter as Neela astutely points out.

    • Sarah

      Of course you CAN make her do it.
      Legally, she is responsible for the item, and considering the cost of smartphones and the 2 year legal phone contract for their owners they often come with, the financial loss involved is anything from negligible.

  • Ann-Marie

    Your friend should replace the phone, no question. If she doesn’t bring it up, feel free to ask her. If she can’t or won’t, then you know something about her willingness to take responsibility for her own actions. Forgiveness will only be possible if your friend admits that there’s something to be forgiven, and tries to make amends.

  • John

    I say you should forgive her. Get a new phone on upgrade or repair the broken one and let bygones be bygones. Just dont let her borrow your phone when she’s drunk, God invented pay phones for a reason.

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