I yelled at one of my best friends this year. Sue has yelled at me too. We are both going through rough passages in our lives and have both made difficult and controversial choices. We talk, about pretty much everything. I think some of the choices she has made in the last few years are not good ones. I have told her that. I try to soften my words and mix them with understanding, but more than once my loving message was met with strong feelings and sometimes anger.
Now my friend is a bit more plain spoken than me. She disagrees with some of my decisions too. She tells me what she thinks, plainly, without any buffer. She also makes it very clear that she is so blunt because she loves me and wants the best for me. I know that. But I don’t agree with everything she thinks, and sometimes I get mad.
Sometimes we have to hang up when we are on the phone. A couple of times we thought our friendship wouldn’t survive, but it does.
Sue and I can count on each other. And if our decisions don’t work out so well, we can count on each other for listening, hand holding and tissues.
We take risks with each other because we care how each others’ lives turn out. Our friendship is stronger because of this.
So why am I blogging on the subject? Because overall people won’t take the risk. Even when people see friends doing things that will ultimately hurt them greatly, they stay detached.
“I don’t want to offend him,” they say.
“I don’t want to be in the middle,” they complain.
“It might spoil our friendship if I told her what I think.”
The excuses go on and on.
In fact, we are so used to the avoidance of any form of confrontation, we often misinterpret any statement of concern.
We think the person is interfering or judging us. I may perceive that you see me as weak or incapable.
Not long ago I had a friend who had been hit by a series of real troubles. Offers of support were turned down soundly. I ran into a mutual friend who was aware of the situation and asked if she had seen this person at church lately. It was a casual question. I wanted to pass on a volunteer opportunity that they might both enjoy. I closed the conversation by saying that I worried about people I cared for who were going through a lot of stress.
The next time I saw the friend who had been going through rough times she told me that she was offended that I was “out there telling people she was not doing well.” It took some talking and apologizing to convince her otherwise.
Now getting involved does mean knowing when to back off.
I would never push a casual friend as much as I do Sue.
I might just make a casual observation, “I hope you are liking your new job. You seem to have a lot more stress now.”
They may say, “No I love the new one,” then they change the subject. And I better be sensitive enough to drop it.
They may share with me that the job is great but their teenager is driving them crazy. Either way I gave them something to think about and no friendship is damaged.
So be warned. If I know you I may say something a little pushy some day.
I may be right and you should listen and think about it.
I may be wrong and you can tell me that too.
Either way I will sometimes take a risk and get involved, because that is what a friend should do.