Saturday, July 24, 2010

Enough About Me. What Do You Think of Me?

Objectivity in any relationship is a difficult concept to maintain.

When we connect with people, get drawn in to each others' lives, it's hard to remember not everything that happens to the other person has anything to do with us.

This question was posed by an acquaintance for weigh in on Facebook:
Would you keep a friend who knew the consequences of their actions and still chose to hurt you?

I don't know the specifics of the situation making it nigh impossible to weigh in appropriately. But a few things come to mind...

If the friend acted maliciously - say stole the stereo out of his car or kicked his dog or went to his boss and told bald faced lies about him in order to get him fired - that's not a "friend" anyone wants to have.

But rarely in friendship and in love are our choices driven by malevolence. More likely, choices are made based on self-interest and sometimes self-preservation and are occasionally stupid decisions that hurt other people unintentionally.

Right now, the person posing the question might as well be asking "But what about me? This is all about me." When, realistically, it is probable that the decision made wasn't about him at all.

What was the other side of the story? What were the consequences for his friend if he'd decided the other way? Did he decide based on what he perceived as a lesser of two evils?

Here's an example from my own experience.

Several years ago, I'd foolishly, impulsively agreed to move in with a good friend - a long time friend - before I'd seen the living space.

And then I saw the space. It was an old house - a great little house - with a wonderful main floor that'd been remodeled. But my living space was down in the basement where there was no natural light and barely enough room for my bed and a night stand.

At the time, I was living in a 900-square foot high rise apartment and had enough furniture to fill a living/dining room, an office, and a bedroom.

The staircase to the basement was so narrow, I would not have been able to get most of what I had down into the room even if there'd been somewhere to store it.

Standing in that room for the first time, I had an epic anxiety attack. I couldn't breathe. And I knew I would not be able to live there...ever.

It took me a few days to work up the courage to tell my long time friend that I would not be moving in. I knew it would hurt her. I knew it would put her in a financial bind.

I knew the consequences of my actions - for acting stupidly and impulsively and agreeing to do something before fully examining the situation - would possibly end our friendship.

But I had to make my decision based on what was best for me.

She has not spoken to me again since that day.

I don't blame her. I'm sorry she was unable to see my side of it. I'm sorry she seemed to feel as though I was deliberately hurting her. I'm sorry she's no longer my friend. I miss her.

But I do not regret my decision.

And her hurt rests on her own shoulders for the sole reason that she turned my decision into a decision that was all about her.

So, ultimately, to the poser of the original question, I would say that his hurt is not the responsibility of his friend in question. The decision likely wasn't about him. I'd encourage him to try to examine the other side of the coin - remove his hurt feelings from the equation and attempt to put himself in the shoes of his "transgressor".

Only then will he be able to make a sound, rational decision about whether this person is worthy of continued friendship.

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