I never know what it is that will take up residence in my mind, late at night, and make sleep an almost unattainable goal. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to my thoughts, except the lateness of the hour and the sleeplessness that follows.
So last night, as I was listening to my husband’s gentle snoring, I got to thinking (again) about a friendship of a few years ago that ended in an emotional implosion. My husband and I had many a discussion in the wake of this…attempts, really, to sort out the detritus left in the wake of several confrontational conversations with my (now former) friend. The details of those conversations are unimportant, of course, but they did serve to open my eyes…wide. And I learned…
- that her pervasively pessimistic attitude was infecting my own attitude…about everything.
- that her negative notions about men was impacting me negatively.
- that her unfavorable opinion of many (so-called) friends was unfavorably tainting my own opinions.
- that her incessant need to speak poorly of those with whom she associated was encouraging me to follow suit.
- that her loathing of her job (at our church), and her co-workers (our pastors and other administrators), was infecting my ability to think positively of them.
- that her need to be a victim of her circumstances was causing me to make excuses for her behavior and viewpoints.
- that her assumed right to make “jokes” at her friends’ expense was not reciprocal.
- that she needed to tear others down, insult others, disparage others, and hurt others in order to make herself look better.
- that she maintained friendships only when the balance of power was (always) in her favor.
- that she held her friends, co-workers, family, and even acquaintances to a higher standard of accountability than she held herself.
- that she did not allow for friendships to withstand missteps and mistakes.
- that she spoke the words of forgiveness, but did not engage in the act of forgiveness.
- that she listened to heartfelt and sincere apologies, but she exacted tough consequences…namely, the death of the friendship.
In the immediate wake of this incident, I grieved the loss of our friendship. I grieved for my role in its demise. While I didn’t realize at the moment of my thoughtless remarks & behavior that I was hurting her, as soon as I was aware that I had done so, I apologized…profusely, sincerely, repeatedly, earnestly, without equivocation. To no avail.
I have since had several years to periodically contemplate the impact of the experience…of both our friendship and its demise, and I am thankful for all of it, because I see that it has given me an increased sense of self-awareness about how my attitudes and outlook impact not only me, but those around me. It also taught me – in a stark and unrelenting way – the difference between saying I forgive someone and actually forgiving.
It is not an easy thing to ask a friend’s forgiveness and be told I was forgiven, but that like a judge and jury, a consequence must still be meted out to the defendent for the trangression. But I am thankful for the experience. A lesson was learned…about justice (and vengeance), but also about the grace and mercy of true, Godly forgiveness.
We are friends no longer. This is my choice now.
I bear her no ill will, but I know now that it was not a sustainable friendship, nor was it a mutually beneficial one. I also know now that the death of the friendship, even at my own hand, taught me some lessons I could have learned no other way. There are no regrets now, but rather a clear understanding of how God uses even deplorable behavior and painful consequences to turn hearts to Him.