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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Value of a Good Friend

Earlier this Century, I broke up with my boyfriend: the guy I thought I loved and wanted to marry. And yes, I was the one who broke up with HIM, not the other way around. I took this drastic action because some guyfriends of mine made me realize that I was not loved. Or respected.

It wasn't in what they said, or even that they knew my situation. Rather, I was struck by the look in their eyes when these two friends in particular spoke of, respectively, whether their wife or their fiance', making it clear that this woman was the center of their life.

My boyfriend didn't even have that look when he looked directly AT me.

At one point, my own boyfriend had spoken of a past girlfriend of his own, and how he had broken up with her because he realized that she didn't think of him at all. Touche'. He did the same thing to me. It wasn't because he was bad to me; it was because he didn't think of me at all.

So I knew, thanks to my guy friends, that it was time to move on, because I deserved better.

(In fact, I'll always have a special place in my heart for men from Georgia, and southern gentlemen in general thanks to these two friends. Even in friendship, they treated me with the respect they would have given a queen!)

Shattered

That breakup was a very low point in my life, and made that much worse when I met the new girlfriend. She was astonishingly like me in many ways.

Actually, it was downright disturbing.

If we stood next to each other, we'd be mistaken as sisters. She had glasses like mine, hair like mine, an attitude like mine, a personality like mine. Her car...very similar to mine.

She was prettier than I was, though, and that lead me to the next point in my thought process...she was an "upgrade". My ex-boyfriend had taken a "step up" from me.

Yes, I honestly felt that way, which is something I'm quite ashamed to admit.

I still loved him, you see, and I truly wanted him to be happy, just as I desired to be happy. And I knew that I'd let him go for good reason, but it wasn't a hateful breakup. To this day, I don't "hate" my ex, although I'm saddened that I'll never get those 3 1/2 years of my life back. That wasn't entirely his fault. I was complicit in that relationship.

But I still felt like a doormat, and I was really trying to put on a brave face when I joked feebly, to my friends,"Well, at least he's upgrading from me. At least she's a step up."

But my joke was transparent to my friends, and they saw that it wasn't really a joke, and that I really did believe that she was better than I was in all ways. They knew how I had felt about him, and how devastated I really was, because, let's face it: it's never easy to break up with someone. Especially when we thought we'd spend our lives with that person.

I was trying to joke, but my biggest weakness betrayed me; I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. So I did even then.

One Sunday afternoon,the Sunday I learned via email that my ex was engaged to the "upgrade", my roommate and friend, Anne, couldn't take it any longer. I'd made another crack about my ex-boyfriend's now-fiance (at the time, 6 months after our breakup), while we were watching "When Harry Met Sally".

Anne hit the "stop" button on the remote and declared, "I can't take it anymore! You make me SO ANGRY!" She proceeded to confront me on my behavior and my self-denigrating comments and finished with, "Any step away from you is a step down!"

We were BOTH crying by that point, and even today that memory brings tears. I thank God for Anne, and for that conversation. All of us need time, sometimes, to wallow in a bit of self-pity, but when it goes too far, we need help to get out of that hole. She made me face what I was doing, and made me face the fact that I wasn't just hurting myself, but my friends as well, who cared for me and had seen this coming for a very long time.

She had courage to face me like that, and to make me face myself. A friendship like that...that's real. That's amazing.

That's what God intended

God doesn't give us friends who aid and abet us in self-destruction. He gives us friends that call us to holiness, to remember our dignity and our value. And He calls us to do the same thing for the people we claim as our friends. Maybe that means having hard conversations. Maybe that means the possibility of losing a friendship.

But if we don't speak up to those we truly love....who will? Sometimes we're all they have.

I can tell you this much: at that time, I didn't have any other friends like Anne in my life. She was my lifeline, and I think she's the ONLY one who saw clearly what I was doing to myself. Had she not spoken up, I don't know where I would have gone from there or how far I would have descended.

Look around at the people in your life, and ask yourself if God is asking you to be that kind of friend. You might be the ONLY voice of reason and love in someone's life. Don't miss that chance. A simple conversation, spoken in sincerity, can literally change a person's life.

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5 comments:

makemeaspark said...

Thanks Adoro that was a brave post but very true and challenging. I feel very lucky to have a couple friends like that.

There is some proverb about the rebuke of a brother--anyways i would say they are like gold--they are rebukes of love and care not to hurt you, and you are wise to heed them.

Adoro said...

Thanks, Spark. The proverb is true. Anne and I aren't in contact anymore, but from that one moment alone, if I get to the pearly gates I'll speak up on her behalf.

Coletta said...

This is a great post. I have been through a striklingly similar set of circumstances and reading your telling of this painful process was actually very healing for me.
Thank you for this.

Melody K said...

Great post, Adoro. You are so right about friends who tell the truth in love (we need them, and we need to be them).
Sometimes people don't even realize the effect their words have. I am thinking of a friend who once gave me advice that I have carried with me ever since. I doubt very much if he even remembers saying it. Like you, over the years I have lost track of him. But for me at times his words have been a spiritual life-line.

Monte said...

I ahve a freind who stops me when I'm putting myself down and says, "HEY, stop talking about MY FRIEND like that."

And I am grateful for having such a friend to make me realize that God loves me and so do my friends.