By Jim Selman | Bio
I think one of the saddest things I hear of as I grow older is when real friends become estranged. It isn’t that we can’t have strong disagreements and even periods of disengaging from regular conversations at any age. But when ‘falling outs’ become long-term estrangement, bitter memories, regrets and resentment people we once called friends become burdens or even foes. We pay a heavy price to hold onto whatever stories we tell ourselves to justify our position. Most people would rather be right about their point of view than repair the damage to their friendships or at least to responsibly ‘complete’ the relationships that cannot be restored and forgive themselves and the other person.
One of the primary reasons we become friends with people in the first place is that we experience some value from the relationship. We often admire or at least appreciate something about our friends and generally feel that this is reciprocal. In general, we also like or have some affinity for our friends (although I count among my friends several people that I don’t particularly ‘like’ but whom I can accept the way they are). The foundation for friendship should be trust and respect, not agreement or whether we like everything about them.
For most of us most of the time, our friendships constitute our primary relationships in the world. When one of our friends dies, it is a real loss—we feel it physically, emotionally and mentally (it can sometimes even leave a ‘hole’ in us spiritually). From one perspective, we might even say that we ‘are’ our friends. Friends can be a source of learning, straight talk, support, security, identity and love. There are, of course, friends who will just tell us what we want to hear. But real friends are generally honest brokers that are willing to stick with us in spite of ourselves and be as authentic as possible.
I am blessed with many friends, but it is the friends I have lost that weigh on me. For example, I have a friend (I can’t bring myself to call him a ‘ex’-friend) whom I have known for 30 years. To make a long story short, about a year ago, I brought him into a client situation and felt betrayed when he initiated (or responded) to opportunities to work independently for my client. I was angry and hurt and exerted what force I could to stop the conversations he was having and refused to include him in future working situations. From his perspective, I was being unreasonable, possessive of my client and over-reacting to what he thought was appropriate given my client’s people had approached him with opportunities first. After a week of strained emails, he accepted my request to cease conversations with my client and shut the door on further conversations.
About a month ago, I reached out to see if we could at least open channels for communication and was rebuffed. We both can acknowledge our responsibility in the matter, but the ‘chill’ remains. And I must now accept that I have one less friend in my life and ‘complete’ whatever is not complete on my part.
© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.