Paper as a metaphor!

Dear Amy: I am a single male in my early 30s. After law school, I met “Judith,” and we became best friends. Judith and I were both competitive athletes in the same sport, the same age and knew some of the same people.

The friendship was always strictly platonic. Honestly, I considered her my best friend.

We had a falling-out over something quite petty, on its face: After a fun party weekend in the mountains, I felt compelled to ask her (and her boyfriend) to pay for part of the lodging expenses. It really wasn’t about the actual money, but I couldn’t help but to feel used. It embarrassed me to ask her to contribute after the fact, when I had assumed that they would step up without asking.

Anyway, the resulting (text) conversation we had was insulting. She brought up topics from the past that were completely unrelated and out of line. I felt hurt and betrayed.

This happened more than a year ago. She has reached out multiple times to apologize and try to mend fences. For the most part I do not respond.

Most recently, she reached out to ask if I considered the friendship over. She wanted to invite me to her engagement party. I do think her attempts to reconcile have been genuine and she understands that she was in the wrong regarding our falling-out.

The thing is, I don’t want to be friends with her. I feel like once the paper is crumpled up, it can’t be perfect again.

I can forgive her for the petty argument, but I will never forget how it made me feel. The way I view her as a person has been forever altered.

Do I need to rethink my approach regarding friendship? Am I wrong to think it’s fine to move on from friendships when they prove to be broken beyond repair, regardless of all the positive memories associated with the friendship during an important period of life?

— Disoriented in Denver

Disoriented in Denver: In a perfect world, we would never need to smooth out a piece of crumpled paper to reread what’s written upon it; we wouldn’t need to accept an apology; we would never face the necessity of forgiving someone.

However, the world is not perfect. No one’s story (yours included) can be read on pristine paper.

I think it’s possible that “Judith” has changed. She is being honest, contrite and apologetic. She is extending a hand. You have firmly anchored to your disappointment. I wonder if this is the kind of person you want to be.

In short, yes, I do think you need to rethink your approach to friendship (this one, and perhaps others, as well).

This reevaluation doesn’t mean that you must reenter Judith’s life, but most disappointments offer opportunities for growth. Judith may have grown. Have you? (c) Ask Amy

So much I want to say about this. You can never assume that your friends will foot some of the bill. The reason for this is that society doesn’t have a standard money dividing policy. One person might say to split everything 50/50. Another might have the letter writer paying 1/3 and his friend and her boyfriend paying 2/3. (If we assume for hypothetical reasons that no one else went on the trip.) Still someone else might say that whoever invited the other party should pay for all of it, with the hopes of future reciprocation. So this law-school graduate made some major errors in judgment.

And since he says it wasn’t about the money, the best option (which he didn’t pick) would’ve been to have taken a loss and hoped for future reciprocation. Now, if they never returned the favor, then I’d be fully in his corner that she’s not the best friend (unless a situation for a similar trip were to never arise, etc.).

He really put his friend on the spot for splitting the funding after the fact, which is the sort of thing that can cause embarrassment, awkwardness, uncertainty, and mixed communication. I’m not surprised that sparks flew and words were exchanged. So just right off the bat, I’m not in agreement with the letter writer that it was all her fault. Taking misunderstandings and poor judgment and weak communication skills into account, we could maybe go 50/50 on it. [Shrug.]

But the heart of the matter here is that this letter writer apparently struggles with maintaining relationships after the… how’d he put it?… after the paper is crumpled up. Ouch. I have this same fear, but from the other person’s perspective. Like, yikes, I’ve gone off the deep end of insanity… will my friend still want to be friends with me? It scares me. The letter writer’s attitude scares me. People are imperfect, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be well-intentioned. And thus intention becomes a lot since perfection is impossible. (I.e., I want to never go off the deep end of insanity, but I’m imperfect, and it is what it is.)

There’s also something to be said for having an attitude of letting bygones be bygones. If something goes wrong between two people, and the blame could more-or-less be evenly distributed or ambiguously distributed, then you just have to accept it and move on. Not move on from the friendship–geez! Move on from the incident. But even if the incident is closer to 100% one party’s fault, you can still forgive them and move on, which again goes back to human nature’s imperfections. It would be different if you’ve got someone who has a pattern of repeatedly mistreating you, but we’re talking about occasional things going wrong here–miscommunications, occasional meltdowns, errors in judgment, etc., etc.

You should never write off a friendship over that. 

Being a paranoiac, with new friendships of a close nature, I often go through a period of not trusting the person and questioning his/her motives and wondering if he/she is just pretending to like me. Like, maybe it’s all an act, or maybe he/she doesn’t know enough about my dark side yet to be sure he/she likes me.

Typically, this insecurity of mine expresses itself somehow at some point. (It’s becoming less of a problem lately because I’ve been gaining confidence thanks, in part, to having so many great friends. Shout-out!) And when it expresses itself, the paper doesn’t just get wadded up, it gets lit on fire and burnt into a pile of ashes. (Way to kill a metaphor dead, Meg.)

Any friendship still standing after that point is one that I’ll become fiercely loyal and devoted to. And in my mind, there’s a purification process that returns the paper to a brand new sheet of 8.5 x 11 typing paper that’s as pure as the driven snow. After that point, it’s possible that I could go for the rest of my life without having any major arguments or disagreements or meltdowns with that particular friend ever again.

I hate to sound judgmental against this letter writer, but I really think he’s pigheaded and shallow. I personally need people in my life who understand that I’m not perfect. And this letter writer’s attitude is representative of someone who’d be unable to be a friend of mine.

I can forgive her for the petty argument, but I will never forget how it made me feel. The way I view her as a person has been forever altered.

Geez Louise. I can hold a grudge until the cows come home, don’t get me wrong. But I hold them against people who had no remorse for hurting me. If someone feels bad about what happened and/or they clearly didn’t intend to hurt me, there will ultimately be no grudge. There might be some sadness and regrets, though, as well as an inner awareness that it was probably largely my fault.

Like with my former best friend, Kristi. Actually, what went down between us was entirely on her end, which is rare. Usually, failed relationships are my fault, but in this instance, I truly believe it was on her. Speaking broadly (since I’m already writing a book here), she vehemently expressed her views that lying at any time and for any reason is morally wrong. And I was shoved into a corner where I could’ve backpedaled about something I’d said that had upset her, but… it would’ve required me to lie. I respected her adamant stance against lying too much to be able to lie to her. Thus, our friendship died. Darned impasse anyway.

Do I hold a grudge against her? Gracious saints, no. I actually sort of miss her. The people I reserve grudges for are people who never cared about me and had it out for me from the get-go. Like my minister of youth, for example, when I was in high school. She reported my mom to CPS, and she didn’t do it to help me. She did it because she was sick of hearing me complain to her about my mom. (I was a very troubled fifteen-year-old.) She did it to shut me up and get me out of her office. Yeah, that merits a grudge. But when something goes wrong between me and someone I really care about, sadness is more of the emotion.

I think this letter writer needs to do some serious soul-searching about people, relationships, value, priorities, perfection, imperfection, human nature, and expectations.

2 thoughts on “Paper as a metaphor!

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