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Archive for the ‘guilt’ Category

So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding Friend, The Unaware Friend, The Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend.  In August, we begin with The Guilting Friend.

Pack Your Bags, We’re Going on A Guilt Trip.

Have you ever felt like this is someone’s motto?  Or that you suffer under so much guilt that there is a stack of heavy emotional luggage by your front door?

Guilt is an emotion.  It has a specific place in our lives and is appropriate at certain times.  Guilt is the feeling we have when we have done something wrong or failed in an obligation.

Feeling guilt is like carrying a heavy suitcase.  Once you have this suitcase, you have to carry it wherever you go until you can get rid of it.  So, as you can imagine, carrying around guilt is a burdensome task that most of us try to shed quickly, even if it means we welcome another negative emotion like anger, bitterness or resentment.

There are two ways guilt shows up in friendships:

  1. You use guilt to motivate others.
  2. You respond to guilt used by others.

Why Does Guilting Work?

Living inside discomfort and awkwardness is very challenging.  I question myself, I feel alone, I feel sad and afraid.  Knowing that I have upset someone, knowing that someone does not approve of me and what I have chosen, knowing that these feelings won’t go away until I give in…that is why guilting works.

When I put my well-being, my happiness, my self-esteem into my friend’s hand, she becomes responsible for me.  Instead of me being responsible for me.  So, if I do something she does not like or say “no” to something she asks or wants, the way she responds to me determines what I do next.  This means she has more control over the flavor of my mood and my daily happiness than I do (because I gave it to her).

  • I change my schedule to accommodate her, otherwise she will be upset.
  • I say “yes” to too many activities when I know I do not have the time. I don’t want to argue about it.
  • I include a friend on all my activities because she makes me feel guilty if I don’t.
  • I don’t say what I really think and feel to avoid feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings.

The Removal Of Love, Approval or Affection

Two common responses when someone does not do what we would like for them to do is to remove something they find valuable or attacking the person’s character.  So, until my friend says yes to my subtle demand, I might

  • withdraw my love, affection or availability from her.
  • withdraw my approval so that she questions her actions/decisions.
  • put an edge in my voice or become a bit icy so that she feels the coldness of my behavior to her.
  • show my disapproval in my facial expressions, nonverbal language (sighs, huffs, raised eye brows, eye rolling).

If I can hurt her enough with my words, then I have succeeded in making her question herself enough so that her “no” turns to a “yes”.  My criticism is strong enough to hit her in a spot that makes her feel insecure or disappointing.

  • You are so ___________. (forgetful, selfish).

Dealing With A Guilting Friend

One of the best ways to deal with a friend who uses guilt is to begin with yourself.

It is easy to fall prey to guilt so that I can find quick relief from being alone, shunned, emotionally punished, shamed or hurt.  However, there is a cost to my giving in, a high cost.

When I give in and act out of guilt, I give small parts of myself away to this person.  Inside, my heart and my spirit lose stability because I have not stuck to my no, my instincts, my own wants, desires, beliefs – I have set those aside to avoid feeling guilty.  So I gain relief from guilt, but forfeit self-respect.

There are a few things to do within a friendship like this:

  • Practice.  The more you practice handling difficult feelings while honoring who you are, the easier it gets.  You also become more aware of when guilt and manipulation are used to get you to do what someone else wants.
  • Make sure you have healthy friends that encourage honesty and balance in a relationship.  A friendship like this allows each person to speak their honest thoughts and works with a “No” answer.
  • Honestly evaluate this friendship.  Without honesty and balance, is this really a friendship?  Is this a place you feel honored, encouraged and accepted?
  • Be aware of where you falter.  We all have weak moments and give in to being guilted.  Review the situation, have someone to talk to that can support you as you practice.
  • Confront.  We grimace at this and the discomfort it can bring, but talking to your friend is one way to keep the relationship honest.

The Lighter Suitcase

To take responsibility for my own okay-ness is a bigger task than most people think.  It means that I do not use guilt to motivate people to take care of me, but that I accept who and what they are right at that moment.  Even if I disagree or wish I could get my way, even if they withdraw their love or approval, I hold onto who I am. This is hard and often challenges me to actively withstand someone being unhappy or disapproving.

When I am not “for sale” and there is no haggling over my choices, I am free to be responsible for my own happiness.  I do not give anyone else the responsibility of keeping me happy, secure, whole.  My own actions help me lighten the  load in my friendships, allowing me to be me, you to be you in a space full of safety, openness, goodness, forgiveness and acceptance.

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I was shopping at an antique gallery in Los Angeles when the owner, who I’d know from years previous, came up.

She complimented my hair and called the women surrounding her (clients? employees?) and said, “Look at her hair, it is sooooo cute, isn’t it?!”

Photo Credit: Nina Leen, 1947

I don’t like being called cute, and I don’t like being a spectacle.

She started talking about her new paintings, and what she could do for me and I barely could contain my annoyance.

This is one of the types of women I just don’t like. I don’t want to be around people who aren’t genuine good listeners. And I just wanted her to leave me alone.

I escaped and started browsing for things on my list, feeling vaguely disappointed in myself.

I needed my husband’s artistic ideas before purchasing a few items so I called him and settled down into a corner where the hopefully  no one would find me.

I opened my book and read,

“Marriage partners (or friends) either call order and beauty out of chaos or intensify chaos.” (Intimate Allies by Dan Allendar, which I have not read, but which was quoted in: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women by Dan Brennan, a book I’ve suggested all my friends buy).

Friends notice their friend’s beauty. They call out order; they see goodness.

What beauty was I missing in the antique dealer?

Why couldn’t I see any good in her?

Why didn’t I even want to try?

I was calling out chaos in her.

My husband and son arrived in a matter of minutes.  We started looking around and the owner spotted my son, “Is that your son?” she wanted to know.

“Yes!” I couldn’t help smiling because of how she was smiling. “He is so beautiful.”

I paused.

She was willing to see beauty.

I tried again with her, smiling into her eyes and willing myself to notice order and goodness.

It doesn’t come naturally, but it’s beautiful when we try.

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We are in the middle of a series on tough cookies, those friends who snap and crumble and hurt. So far we’ve talked about the Demanding Friend, the Unaware Friend, the Disappearing Friend. This week, get ready to hear about the Unforgiving Friend.

If you’ve ever been close friends with an unforgiving person you will know. Unforgiveness cannot hide.

Unforgiveness is like a bee sting, it hurts much longer than the initial zinger. It swells and festers and, like a bee sting, hurts the unforgiving one the worst.

Unforgiveness, ironically, turns the hurt person into the initiator of more hurt.

Imagine that Cindy forgot to invite her type A friend, Rilla, to her wedding. Rilla is understandably distraught, hurt, angry. When Cindy apologizes, Rilla refuses to forgive.

Years go by, Rilla carries her offense into their twenties and thirties.

She was the stung, but she’s become the bee, stinging with her unforgiveness. Which woman do you relate to? Cindy or Rilla?

Chances are we’re both.

Imagine if Rilla and Cindy both shared what it was like to be unforgiven and to be unforgiving…

Dear Rilla,

I know I’ve messed up. I can’t believe I failed to invite you to my wedding… but do you know the phrase a bee in your bonnet?

That is exactly how I feel being your friend.  You have simmered and waited and then, zap. You sting.

You haven’t forgiven me and I realize now you probably never will.  It makes me wonder about what sort of privileged pedestal you think you live on.

You are not above the rest of us. Your record isn’t spotless, either.

We both need forgiveness from each other.

I know, you’ve said you’ve forgiven me. But the way you shared it was like a ringed hand to a groveling peasant.

I don’t want to genuflect in your presence, I want to sit at your table.

I hurt you awhile ago, but forgiveness isn’t something you poured out, it’s something you’re hoarding.  How can I be free around Scrouge? How can I laugh with a bee in my bonnet?

Wondering when I’ll be hit again,

Cindy

<>

Dear Cindy,

You hurt me. You didn’t act like a friend should. I was supposed to be at your wedding, enjoying that important day. But you’ve proven you didn’t want me at that special event.

And I don’t think you get it. You haven’t really felt the thing you did wrong.

I can’t move on until you get that. I can’t move forward until you show me you really understand how awful you’ve been.  You can show me with a couple of things

1- tell me you’re sorry whenever I bring it up.

2- accept that I don’t trust you when you say you want to hang out with me unless you prove it.

3- remember to remember me.

Until these are met, I can’t believe you really want to be my friend.

Feeling like you don’t get what you’ve done,

Rilla

<>

Unforgiving people are often unaware. But those who befriend them are not.

Most unforgiving people cannot share how deeply hurt and how deeply bitter they are…toward you. But when they do, WaHATCH out. Their list of demands will snowball into a serf/lord relationship.

That some mistakes damage trust, that some mistakes irrevocably alter friendship is undeniable.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means we refuse to punish, to stand as judge and look down upon our offender.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will be chummy again, but forgiveness does not socially shun, it doesn’t turn cold when you begin a conversation.

We can learn to cultivate the distance between us and unforgiveness, because it’s a vice that’s tempting to all of us.

Have you noticed how easy it is to nurse unforgiveness, to feed unforgiveness morsels of self-righteousness, to raise it up into a monster, until the unforgiveness is all you have left when you remember that one friend?

Yesterday I locked my keys and my phone in my car. When I walked, humbled, into the coffee shop and asked to use their phone the barrister exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve totally been there.”

She was full of grace.

Later that day our babysitter got stuck in Silverthorne, her car broken down. Since I had endured a full weekend of nursing my family through a horrible bout of fever, I really needed some time off.

Our babysitter had to cancel and I wanted to be bitter.

But my tired and unwell husband piped up, “It’s like locking your keys in your car. These things just happen.”

Jesus said it well, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

It seems our ability to forgive is directly related to our depth of awareness that we have been forgiven.

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We’ve been watching a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh lately. Throughout this 2011 movie, Pooh must struggle to help his friends or feed his rumbling tummy. Piglet makes the decision easy.

Piglet offers to reach into a swarming hive to get Pooh some honey.

When Pooh suggests catapulting Piglet up into the hive, head first, Piglet says the most unbelievable line, “Well, I’m sure you’ve thought this through Pooh.”

He then steps bravely to the board and Pooh teeter-totters him splat into the hive.

Pooh doesn’t apologize, instead Piglet calls out from inside the hive, “I’m sorry I messed up the plan, Pooh.”

Pooh is busy trying to find a large branch to bat the hive off the tree, meanwhile Piglet says, “The bees are really quite friendly as long as I don’t make any sudden movements.”

Then, Wack! Pooh batters the hive to the ground as Piglet genuinely asks, “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Pooh?”

Pooh reassures Piglet it is.

Piglet and Pooh remind me of myself. I can be the self-assured bossy Pooh who uses his friends to get what he wants and the naive and easily persuaded Piglet who sacrifices his personal safety and intelligence to to give his friends what they want.

The over-apologizing is something I did just today at the store, apologizing to people for their inattentiveness, apologizing when someone had to help me figure out the dog food I needed (I mean, come on, Jonalyn, it was their job!).

Next thing you know I’ll be apologizing when someone trips me.

Do you know what causes this abundance of apologies?

The belief that I’m responsible for other people’s feelings or actions.

By apologizing to the person who put my head in the bee hive I’m forgetting the one person I do have responsibility over: myself.

What about you, have you ever apologized to someone for their mistake?

or gotten into a sticky situation to help someone else get something they could have reached by themselves?

 

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In my work with Soulation women often email me asking for advice.  Sometimes close friends want to know my theological position on a controversial topic.  Commenting women come to my blog often wanting me to both connect with their question and connect with them.

Are these all my friends? In what way?

Photo credit: .kenokel.com

What are my responsibilities with each of these friends?

How do we make definite yes and no decisions about friends who seems kind, but for whom we just don’t have time.

I feel frustrated, regularly, by the lack of time I can dedicate to those I’m acting as a mentor, counselor and spiritual guide to. Each speaking trip and book sold means I will probably get more practice with this frustration.

As an extrovert I usually feel delighted and eager to try. And try I do.

But befriending for life every person who wants to connect is not a reality, nor is it kind to my life-long friends.

Each of us has had the difficult decision to know how to understand a friendship’s limits.

Sally gave some helpful distinctions between a Four Seasons Friend, a Hot and Cold Friend and a Seasonal Friend.  What I loved about her post is how she shared that none of these friendships are better or worse. Rather, you decide which friendships you want to invest your time with.

Dating the Wrong Guys?

The first step in deciding friendships is taking time inventory.  How much time do you currently have to devote to a new friendship? This is a tricky evaluation because after work or church or family or hobbies and friends we don’t have a lot of time.

But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re happy-busy. Just like a date Friday night doesn’t mean it’s a fun date. In friendship, like dating, it’s easy to waste time with the wrong peeps.

Photo credit: davidwygant.com

It’s been my observation that most women spend at least some of their time with friends they do not enjoy.  In fact, there’s something in women that keeps us hanging on to friends with drama, controlling tendencies, hot and cold patterns all in an effort to be “nice.”  It’s the good girl complex that keeps us from evaluating if this friendship is a life-giving place of growth.

Two years ago I wrote this in the post “The Recipe for a Good Friendship

Psychologist Jean Baker Miller writes about five components that make up all “growth-fostering relationships”.

Each person will feel:

  1. a greater sense of zest (vitality, energy).
  2. more able to act and does act.
  3. a more accurate picture of herself and the other person.
  4. a greater sense of worth.
  5. more connected to the other person and a greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in this friendship. In other words, frenemies drop away and friendship becomes more possible.

Friends who do not bring life can very easily book you up all week long.  No friendship ought to keep you from growth.

Put another way, keep your Friday nights free for someone else.

Top Three

I believe it helps to consider that you can only be really close to a handful of friends. Closeness requires awareness of the everyday occurrences.

Photo credit: Sex and the City

You already have close friends in your life. If they’re mothers, they’re the friends that you’ve already asked and found out how their Mother’s Day went.  Whether you like it or not, these are probably your besties.

I’ve found I can only be really close to two, maybe three friends. And I’m a high energy extravert. I entitle them to know how I’m feeling before and in more detail than any other friends.  Sally is one of them.

I reserve knowledge about my feelings for our conversations that (even if other friends ask) I do not share in this kind of detail.

I call to cry or rail or laugh or announce things to Sally and a few others before I post it online, before I share with others.

Even if others ask.

My Four Season Friends have priority.

Guilt?

Any time I feel guilty for not being “nice” which translates into devoting longer and longer emails or phone calls or play dates or information to friends who want to be closer I consider this question, “Are they in my top three?”

If no, then I give myself the freedom to not make them top priority.

By saying no to them, I’m saying yes to my three.

In fact, I can say, “No,” with quiet conviction because I now know nothing really compares to friends who can stand up through all the seasons with me.

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