About a year ago I received an email from one of my closest friends in the world. She started out by saying she felt she had to reach out because she had deep concerns about our friendship. I won’t go into all of the personal details but basically she shared that despite her best efforts to stay in touch – it really seemed like I wasn’t all that interested in our relationship and she was wondering if our friendship had run its course or if she’d done something to cause a rift between us.
My first reaction was complete shock. Of course I still wanted to be friends and no -she hadn’t done a thing! I frantically searched my memory for our most recent get together or email or phone call and it hit me – she was absolutely right. I had been a totally shitty friend. I quickly realized how brave my friend was for contacting me versus simply writing me off and I took the opportunity to apologize and sheepishly explain myself.
That email acted as a powerful wake up call for me. You see I generally consider myself to be a pretty darn good friend. Thoughtful and kind and present and practically perfect in every way ; ) But I’m not. And I’m willing to bet that you aren’t either. We mean to stay in touch but we don’t. We plan to go to that special event but we miss it. We want to bring muffins to a new neighbour but we don’t. We intend to make a lunch date or dinner date or pick up the phone but life gets busy and we forget. We want to support someone’s event but it conflicts with something else and we bail. We plan to visit but put it off because we are too tired.
A very wise friend once told me that “we judge ourselves by our intentions but we judge others by their actions”. So you see although I fully intended to stay in touch and make an effort and be thoughtful….I just wasn’t following through. I was skipping along thinking in my own mind that I was a stellar pal and all the while my actions showed otherwise.
Did I rectify the situation with my friend? You bet. Am I still a shitty friend from time to time? Absolutely. But I did learn a few things from that experience that (I hope) has made me a better friend and has (hopefully) made me more patient and less judgemental with the people in my life:
- Although it will make you feel extremely vulnerable – if you value a relationship and things have gone off the rails – it’s almost always worth it to reach out and clear the air.
- You may not particularly want to hear what a friend has to say but you can almost always learn a lesson from the experience (I can certainly vouch for this one).
- Some people come into our lives only briefly so don’t try to hang on to a relationship that has run its course.
- If someone drops out of your life and doesn’t want to talk about it then thank them for their time with you and move on. You can’t make someone spend time with you against their will. (another friend recently told me that sometimes the reason people leave your life is so hurtful or painful that they don’t offer an explanation to spare your feelings. Very good point.)
- Sometimes you will be a crappy friend. Sometimes your friends will be crappy to you. None of us is perfect so be forgiving and patient.
- If you truly value a relationship – stay in touch, show up and be present.
I think we all have that one friend or relationship where we wonder “what went wrong? was it me?” Relationships can be tricky and if you are anything like me – your feelings can get hurt very easily. That email sent from my friend changed my perspective on this issue quite a bit though. Instead of rushing to hurt or anger or righteous indignation (a personal specialty of mine) – I take a deep breath and remember that I as much as I try to convince myself otherwise – I am far from perfect. Until I line up my intentions and actions with pinpoint accuracy I will continue to look inwards instead of pointing fingers at others.
And that’s all I’ve got time to write for today – I’ve gotta get busy baking some muffins for the neighbours who moved in a year ago ; )