I have a friend who is dear to me. In years past, I would share my heart with her. Maybe too much. She always listened, no matter what I was going through, she “got me”. The kind of friend that understands even when she doesn’t quite understand. She knows my heart, and she is there, just being someone I can tell anything, even when there was so much she would never know, she always would say, “you need some way to vent the frustration, and I can at least do that”.
Then one day, she misconstrued something the I one said. There were various attempts on both our parts, to try to straighten out the misunderstanding. But every effort we made, seemed to deepen the chasm that had opened up between us.
She lives in another state. We had met at church and we had gone on to become roommates in a shared apartment, both going through a transition at that time.
When she made the decision to move, to live with her sister, I drove her the sixteen hours to Sarasota.
She wasn’t a letter-writer. I always have been. I missed her really badly, but seldom heard from her after the move. It was before cell phones were ubiquitous.
My husband worked long hours in a franchise laser tag venue when it was, at that time, a brand new thing. He was manager, it was just getting established, and the busiest times were of course, nights and weekends.
I was an RN, doing full-time home health visits. Then we discovered we were expecting our first baby.
It was a rough pregnancy for me. I had morning sickness all day. I was kind of terrified about becoming a mom. The sacred honor, the awesome responsibility before God. Being in charge of a completely helpless little life, a human being I would be accountable for!
My parents were no longer living in VA and even so, they were raising two of their grandkids. Mom would have loved to share that all, but it just was not am option.
So it was a lonely time. My long-distance friend, who was still single, was one person I wanted to talk to and share the momentous life-changing development with, as good friends would normally do. But she was not married, and motherhood was not even on her radar yet. My other besties were not so much in touch at that time. One busy with her own substantial brood, aged (appx.) 7, 5, and 3 years old, and one that was 11 months, or thereabouts. A third lived in Boca, FL
I developed an upper respiratory infection that stretched from month 4 to 9, and got very little sleep. But I survived. I wanted this friend to be like an Aunt to my kids but it just didn’t work out that way.
Fast-forward about twelve years, she had married, and was Mom twice over, as I also was by then, and with that bit of background, we are back to the incident at hand, the big misunderstanding.
It was truly a strange thing. Somehow, we both seemed to be hearing things the other really hadn’t said, and taking them in ways that were nowhere near what we meant. That incident is the reason I came to believe that electronic communication is extremely vulnerable to the “principalities and powers of the air” scripture speaks of.
We we are dear to each other, but that seemed to be rendered irrelevant in this thing that became a falling out. We both came to the conclusion it was better to go our separate ways, than keep inflicting pain by trying to fix whatever had gotten broken.
I cried for months. She did too. We are like sisters. We both had been hurt, and felt misunderstood, each felt the other was taking things out of context or over-reacting.
My bipolar was being managed by then, but stressful emotional situations are destablizing and they also trigger my cataplexy episodes Any strong emotion at all will do that. Anytime there us conflict, crisis, high stress, I will suffer whatever fallout it may cause for my conditions. But clearly these things happen in life, for me it is a fact of life I have to work around. The blow-up was like going into a skid on an icy road doing 45. You watch it happen. You are horrified. You try to compensate, and correct, but by then, the crash is inevitable.
I was devastated by the loss of that friendship. After about 2 and a half, three years, (interim in which I got pretty ill, lost a dear neighbor, my dad had died, and my husband went through cancer, surgery and chemo) the friendship resumed where it had left off before the trouble. Restored.
It was all a huge misunderstanding but it cost us those nearly 3 years of our friendship. I had said something that she equated with having questioned her faith. The irony was, she did the exact same thing to me a couple of years earlier. When she had challenged me, it hurt, but then I didn’t let it bother me too much because I knew what I knew.
I think God sometimes lets someone do to us, what we did to someone else, to show us how that other person felt when we did it to him or her. In fact, I think that is what the verse is about in Matt 5 that says “agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison”.
If we wrongly accuse someone of something, or if they are guilty, and apologize and we refuse to forgive, that is to say, we won’t judge ourselves and we neglect to obey what we know God requires of us, then God will judge, and hand you over to the “officer” and the devil is given legal grounds to put you on the receiving end of the same treatment. You will be tormented in that until you realize it is happening to you because you inflicted it on someone else, and refused to repent.
When that fallout happened, it took me a long time to get over the hurt. My heart just stopped being willing to venture out and put myself out there with people.
I did eventually cautiously open up a little, and at a new church, met a lady near my own age, that really needed a sympathetic ear in something she was grappling with. She told me a lot. I shared almost nothing with her of a personal nature.. It was one of those “but for a season” friendship, but even that one did not leave me unscathed at the end.
I don’t know how it is for other people. I had never had a friendship failure like those before in my life.
I normally have remained close to friends once a friendship formed, starting from my first friend in first grade, who is still my #1 bestie. One also from Middle School. If we drifted, I never let too much time go by not hearing from them, before I would track them down and touch base.
After that second event,my outlet was my blog. I really isolated after that. The personal stuff I wrote about, from behind the safe barrier of faceless anonymity provided by a computer screen. I could share in ways that might encourage others, but at the same time avoid aiming anythimg I said at anyone specific. Sharing my thoughts, and whatever I was studying in scripture, plus prophecy news. I “met” a few people in that community. But of course, to truly get to know someone online, you will both have to be pretty open people, and converse a lot over a long period. Even then, if you were to meet face to face, interact in person, you would learn a good deal more. There’s so much can’t pick up through the web.
I guess I got used to that one-way communication writing a lot, with very little conversing. I heard from people, but it rarely got personal from their end, aside from 2 or 3.
I was bowled over by the viciousness that seemed to come out of nowhere when that 2nd (local) friendship came to an abrupt end. I knew something about her marriage that she herself had told me, and she should have figured out that her husband was reading her e-mails. She accused me of telling him her secrets. It was not my place to tell her what she was forgetting, frankly I was relieved when she had ” spoken her mind” and said this was the last contact she would be having with me. She had created a bit of a sticky web, and I did not want to be in it.
I still felt bad for her, because she was pretty torn up in the consequences, and I knew she had a horrific childhood, the kind books are written about, and also, had some pretty traumatic ones in adulthood as well.
And then came “strike three”. It was just as confusing and disheartening as the other times, and perplexing how badly someone can misinterpret something so much that a conversation about grace is construed as an attack.
When things become acrimonious, I have learned it is best to just disengage. In my life-guarding course in college, the first thing they taught us was how to get free from a grasping panicked drowning victim so you don’t both go down. Nothing good is going to come of a disagreement that gets that heated.
I actually appreciate when others help me understand what I said or did, by telling me in what way I have offended them. Then I also appreciate a chance to try to clear up misconceptions. Emails read out of order, or out of context, confused things even more.
Once the offended person arbitrarily concludes a wound was intentional, even if it wasn’t, there may be little or nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.
In the first incident, my friend irrationally insisted on telling me what I meant by something I had said. But she was so deep in defensiveness, if she had admitted I am probably a better judge of what I was trying to express, than she was, she would have to also face how wrongly she had judged me based on her wrong conclusion.
I know how torn up I get when I know anything is not right between me and someone I care about, so I try to acknowledge their feelings, and clear up the misunderstanding right away. Sometimes, though, the indignation of the offended party flares high and fast, preventing one from getting near enough to extinguish it. Others do the slow burn. They try to be generous and gracious. But they find resentment simmering when they think of it, and get mad all over again. At that point, it is pride at work.
I have fallen into each of those traps at times.
It really is enough to make a heart want stop trying to show compassion and support. But even Jesus, who is perfect, was misjudged! It didn’t bother Him though, because all he cared about was doing what His Father asked of Him.
Sometimes it is only a terrible misunderstanding. I think that is exactly what happened. But I cried all day the day it happened. From the fact it happened, that she was hurt, even though it was because she misread my meaning entirely. And hurt because I was accused of pounding her, and told I was a really nasty person. That is not who I am, and I don’t understand, nut I do know I was not going to let it perpetuate.
I do not want to go through that another time. It is a minefield and I want to avoid further injuries to either of us.. If people who know one another well, can get each other so wrong, what chance is there for relatively new friendships.
I need feedback when communication lands discourse in the ditch. Otherwise all I can do is guess what triggered the mess. I am not a mind reader. And I am analytical, so I can make myself sick trying to figure out what happened to land us in conflict out of the clear blue sky.
Likewise, I like to figure out where the other party was coming from if someone hurt my feelings, which was the case in this incident.
I hate to hurt anybody. The only way I know of to clear it up is by discussion. The only way I know to keep boundaries safe, is tell someone they hurt me or are getting too close to a touchy topic for me. Hopefully, I would manage to do that gently.
But some situations are like approaching a wounded cat. The wounded cat, may not recognize that an approaching human is there in an attempt to help them. They just know they are extra-vulnerable in their wounded state, so they are apt to claw and hiss when the person reaches out.
In a situation like this, it’s not about trying to “be the bigger or better person”. It is more than that. We are obligated by the Word, to do all we can to be at peace with one another. We can’t offer God anything while we are at odds with someone else. If we offend, we are supposed to admit it, own it, repent, and make amends if necessary and possible. If we know someone else has an issue with us, likewise scripture says we are to go to them and try to get straightened out. Matt 18:15 and 5: 23-24. When you give them a clear opportunity to know how they effected you, that creates a chance for you to receive a sincere and specific apology. Just saying “sorry” without acknowledging the wound, is pointless.
I don’t like to toss around unspecified apologies. I don’t see much value in that, but without rational discussion, no meaningful apology can be made, and if it is withheld even while all is out on the table, and the offender understands the magnitude, and still is not apologetic, then I can walk away knowing I tried. That can’t happen if misunderstanding leaps to it’s own conclusion, and a fire of anger leaps right up with it.
I wanted to disengage, I was trying to do that. Ephesians 4:26: Be angry and sin not, let not the sun go down on thy wrath.
When name-calling and accusation became part of the mix, that is a personal boundary I don’t let anyone cross.
It also smothers any motivation to reconcile, and in my opinion, it signals that it is time to walk away. That is because I know how bad it can get, and frankly it is downright scary how bad it can get!
God knows each heart. The only one I have the power to do anything about, is my own. That doesn’t stop my wanting to fix the mess, I am a born fixer, as most nurses are. But I recognize I can’t. I am trying to learn to leave the things I can’t change, up to Him.
Forgiveness is mandatory but is not the equivalent of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is not mandatory, but is good if it can take place. it requires a desire on both sides to work through something.
Someone who has had nothing but “excuses” handed to them from people in their life whom they should have been able to count on, well, I can see how they might think any attempt at explaining is nothing other than excuse-making.
I have made that mistake before, after a long period of having been treated badly, when past still had way too much power over my perspective and self-worth.
Once I let the Lord heal my wounded heart, I could better recognize good intentions and not get on the defensive. It takes time to get there. The worse the abuse, the longer it may take.
Differences between people may not really be able to be “mended”, per se, but they can be worked around. If they are not, the same thing will eventually happen again.
Whether it is worth the effort, and walking on eggshells, that is something both sides have to decide for themselves. True friendships are valuable, and generally worth preserving. But that means investing emotional energy, which I already have to conserve. Whether others understand it or not. I owe that first to my own family.
This world is a dangerous place to have feelings in. But the only alternative is to feel nothing at all. I have been there too. The problem is, you cannot numb the potential hurt, without also making yourself numb to joy.