Friendship: It’s complicated. But it shouldn’t be, right? In my friend-related experiences throughout my life, there have been more than a handful of difficult situations, and it took me dozens of years to realize that I was a major part of the problem! (I know, call me dense… I am.)
The epiphany began when I realized that I expected perfection from my friends. In the past I told myself that I just had high standards, that I just wanted friends who were willing to put in the same amount of work I was willing to put in. Never mind the fact that I made mistakes (such as choosing guys over friendships, lying to spare feelings, etc.); my friends were held to a higher standard. It was almost as if I had a three-strikes, you’re out rule. I had this fierce love for my friends but also a strong sense of loyalty, and if I felt that trust had been breached, well, goodbye to them. There have been two major friendships in my life that I have walked away from because I held them to unrealistic expectations, and when they failed to measure up too many times, I walked away. Yikes. I cringe when I think of the friendship faux-pas I’ve made, and the feelings I’ve hurt in the process. While it is TOTALLY true that there are toxic friendships no person should tolerate (someone who puts you down constantly, abuses your trust over and over, etc.), we also have to remember that our friends are HUMAN just like us, and they make mistakes (just like US!). Is it fair to walk away because we feel we’ve been wronged a few times? In my case, I look back on my early friendship years and realize it was I who just needed to toughen up, forgive, and forget.
Now that I’m 30, a lot has changed; you could say I’ve finally started to grow up, even. (Sad that it took me this long, but I’m glad it’s finally happened!) There is a special person whom I think about with fondness, a person who I actually walked away from years ago for a time because of something I perceived as detrimental to our friendship. (It wasn’t. I know now I was the one with the problem.) Once I realized my mistake, she forgave me easily as the breeze, but after turning my back on her even for that short time, our friendship was never quite the same. There is no way I can ever completely fix what I essentially shoved in the dust. I created a permanent rift. It’s barely there, something someone on the outside wouldn’t even notice, but I know its’ presence, and I know it’s my fault. The funny thing is, after my divorce and my mini friend exodus (you can read about that more in a previous post if you are so inclined), THIS friend was one of the few who actually stood by me and with me in my muck and mire. Ironic, isn’t it?
These days, friendships are harder to come by for me. I’m a different person after my divorce; I’m much more cautious about who I let into my life. Sometimes I miss the old, social, bubbly, talkative me, who would let anyone in and love them with abandon. But whether we like it or not, time and life experience change us, for better or worse.
These realizations have actually helped me to change for the better. Understanding my own strengths and weaknesses can only be beneficial for when I enter a new relationship, for I know now that when things get tough, I need to open myself up to freely give out God’s grace, and spread wide my arms instead of closing them tightly.