According to the dictionary, a friend is “a person you know well and regard with affection and trust.”
I think that it’s significant that the definition includes two parameters, affection and trust.
All too often we have affection for people we cannot trust and want to think of them as friends. You can love someone and have zero trust in them and their ability to do what they say, follow through, etc. So you call this person your “friend” and because you have such strong affection for them you continually extend the hand of trust – only to have it consistently and regularly smacked and bruised.
You do this over and over again – because affection is a powerful emotion – until one day you realize, “I’m never getting any reciprocation. I can’t trust this person.” At that moment, you realize that this person is no friend to you – at least not at this point. Your have two options:
- Ignore this epiphany, keep calling this person your friend, and continue to get hurt as your trust is abused.
- You reset your expectations, step back, and realize that this is not a friend to you at all.
The hardest part is when you allow “extenuating circumstance” to validate this person’s behavior. “He had a hard childhood.” “He’s seeing a therapist.” Eventually you make excuses for his behavior and even assume some of the burden of the problem, “I know how he is – I have to accept him for who he is.”
Wrong. You don’t. If someone is going to call you “friend” there is a certain minimum expectation. Friends can, and will, hurt each other. They will fight. They will argue. They will disagree. They may even disappear for years at a time.
There’s also one other thing that all friends do: they TRY.
When you continually try to keep a friendship alive and the other person rebuffs you over and over again – it’s time to stop being a friend. It’s like an abusive relationship – familiarity and fear of the unknown keeps you tied to an unhealthy situation.
Until the day you decide you don’t have to take it any more. Then, you just reset your expectations. You say to yourself, “this person isn’t a friend of mine.” And you move on – you find a friend that will try – that you can trust. If you’re like me, you don’t do it silently – you tell your “friend” that you’re moving on and you tell them exactly why you are doing so. You tell them that life is too short for false friends and that you’re going to find a true friend and stop wasting your time with him.
And they’re out there.
The problem is – you’re so incredibly sad when you do this. You hope against hope that this, final, gesture will open his eyes and that he will step up and start being the friend you always hoped he would be.