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Archive for the ‘betrayal’ Category

Where Did She Go?

The Let Me Be Me “Tough Cookies” summer series continues!  So far we have heard about The Unaware Friend and The Demanding Friend. This week – The Disappearing Friend.  She was there, and now she is not.

We have all performed our own disappearing acts in friendships, even if it is just removing your real self or your emotional self.  Or you might have removed your attention, your response or your interest.  We can disappear in many forms and fashions, not just physically.

There are a few situations that might set the stage for a friend to disappear.

Someone “Better” Comes Along

Wow, this one can hurt.  Many of us might have experienced this as early as the elementary school playground and into adulthood.  Somehow, a good friend leaves you for someone else.  This might happen on the heals of an argument or disagreement, or it might be how a certain woman functions…simply hopping from friendship to friendship, into the next relationship that allows her to exist without challenge or depth.

Shame

While we often do our best to present ourselves as healthy, happy and stable to the world, our circumstances can get the best of us.  When there are issues of chemical dependance, mental health issues like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, or other health diagnoses, a friend can easily disappear.

One friend that is now both sober (alcohol) and clean (drugs) told me, “The fear of discovery was overwhelming.  If I showed who I really was, even to my closest friends, I was facing utter shame.  My closest friends became alcohol and my drug of choice (Adderall).  Love and acceptance – those were to harsh for me – how could anyone love me…this mess?  I had to disappear, because struggling alone was preferable – it justified my disappearance, allowed me to treat myself with shame and disrespect and allowed me to keep using.”

It doesn’t take alcohol or drugs to be ashamed – as women we can, at our core, believe we are not “enough”, that others are better.  Shame can result from poor decisions, low self-esteem, being different from others around us.

Boredom

Sort of like having the next new thing, women can “friend hop” out of boredom. Almost like the emotional high we get when first in love, discovering similarities and filling a schedule with a new best friend can be exciting…until a relationship reaches a maintenance stage.

Where’s My Protege?

Friendships based on “filling a space” rarely stand the test of time.  Some women cultivate friendships so that they can care for, be needed and nurture other women, but there are also times when women want a faithful clone.  In this type of relationship it takes two to tango, and when the protege seeks some type of differentiation, the glue for the relationship begins to break down.

It can feel so good to have a number of similarities with someone, constant affirmation of who you are and the choices you make.  All relationships, romantic and plutonic, all eventually face their own challenges, and a Protege Relationship is one that does not withstand differences, growth or change.

A friend, let’s call her Suzanne, recently told me that after removing herself as a protege/sidekick, “I knew something was off, but I had a hard time trusting my instincts!  When I wanted to do a few things on my own, or say no to something she offered, the relationships began to fall apart.  On this side of it, though, I have to consider why I landed in a friendship like that in the first place.”

Stop, Look and Learn

Photo Credit: Life Magazine                 Albert Einstein

Relationships are difficult; we hurt and get hurt.  After making a mistake, or misjudging someone’s interest in us, we have the chance to learn a bit about why we entered a friendship in the first place and how we can be healthier and wiser moving forward.  While it seems easier to point the finger, if we do not take the chance to put pain in our pipe and smoke it…we are likely to repeat mistakes and breed the hurt we so wish to avoid.

One Let Me Be Me reader noted about learning from a deeply hurtful transition out of a friendship,

I’ve learned that if I’m embarrassed or have to make excuses for my friend when I introduce her to new friends, something is wrong.  Looking back, I watched her be unkind and verbally abusive to others, but never thought it would be directed at me. I thought I was different.  I see now that if a woman is mean to other women, this behavior will eventually be directed toward me.  If she’s mean to others, why would I think she won’t eventually be mean to me?

Perfectionists Need Not Apply

Remember, you don’t have be an expert!  Jonalyn and I write on friendship weekly, and within the last few years, have both exited friendships that were unhealthy to one degree or another.

Can you think of other reasons behind relational disappearance or the importance of looking back to gain wisdom?

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When speaking on the road with Soulation, I’m often asked questions from teens and adults about how to deal with difficult people.

Last week a teen at Camp of the Woods, upstate New York, asked “Why do people make fun of me for being different?” My heart ached as I heard her.  Young, but already familiar with the painful road of unkindness.

This young person has lots of material for forgiveness.

And if you and I can be vulnerable with each, so do we.  We have a flock of petty, annoying ways other people have hurt us.  We also have two or three oceans of hurt, places someone damaged us in a way that changed us forever.  If asked about a friend who has hurt you, the person, the place, the pain rise up.

With my friends, I’ve found it much easier to assume forgiveness means I forget the offense and just “let the past be the past.”  I even can use religious maxims like, “God is the ultimate judge,” and “God will deal with it, I need to leave it in God’s hands,” or “God works all things out for good,” which, while true are actually a thin veil for dishonesty.

Sure, God is the judge and yes God can deal with all the pain in my life and yep, I know he can do good stuff with tweaked and twisted events. That’s what the cross in Christianity is all about.

BUT.

Forgiveness is not truly forgiveness unless we know how we have been hurt.

I like the story of Jesus telling a man to turn the other cheek.  As I understand this passage in Matthew 5:39 Jesus is recommending a counter-cultural way of responding to evil.  Jesus is saying forgiveness is better than fighting, yelling, grudge-holding or even forgetting. To turn the other cheek means you don’t ignore what happened, you don’t pretend you’re just fine or that it didn’t hurt (e.g. I’m pretty tough, it take a lot more than THAT to hurt me”). You don’t say, “Well, God will judge you” and walk away. You admit the pain happened, and you engage it creatively even stunningly.

For a turned cheek is almost as stinging a response as a slap in the face. (read more at “Emotional Slapping“)

But you cannot engage evil in this way unless you know the depth to which you’ve been hurt.  You have to know how big the mess of pain runs through you before you know how far forgiveness has to mop up.

Consider that forgiveness is like a sponge that chooses to use its absorbency to soak up a puddle of evil.  To be powerful enough to deal with evil in this miraculous way you need:

  1. an absorbent sponge i.e. it cannot be dry.
  2. willingness to survey and enter the pain.
  3. refusal to stop before the entire mess is soaked up.

Each step will be the last step if you rush into the believe that “Forgiving is forgetting.” Forgiveness is allowing yourself to get all soaked with the emotional pain of the hurt.  Because we all know dry sponges can’t mop up anything.

Forgiveness is not reconciling, either. Jesus never taught others to become buddies with those who were enemies.  He asked us to pray for our enemies, but not to invite them into our friendships. Notice that Jesus did not include Judas in his close friendship times.  He only included Peter, James and John.

And life experience teaches us that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things.

In a book I recently finished called When a Man You Love Was Abused, Cecil Murphey writes about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation (read my review).  We have an easier time understanding that a sexually assaulted individual should not reconcile with his abuser. We can see the forgiving the molester is not the same as inviting him to your birthday party.

And we understand. Perhaps because the offense was so horrific.

But while forgiveness requires honesty and refusing to forget, it does not always involve reconciliation.  In fact, I’d go so far to say it is impossible to fully forgive if you have never fully remembered.

Can you think of other misunderstood ideas about forgiveness that actually keep us from doing this healing act wholly?

Sally gave us a few:

Forgiveness is NOT:

  • erasing the event or hurtful memories
  • letting the offender off the hook
  • condoning, excusing, forgetting, justifying, calming down after a hurtful event
  • faux-forgiveness (just saying the words)

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We talk a good forgiving line as long as somebody else needs to do it, but few of us have the heart for it while we are dangling from one end of a bond broken by somebody else’s cruelty.

(Lewis B. Smedes)

We women can definitely hold a grudge.  We can also confuse being nice with avoidance and end up not addressing situations that warrant a good discussion, and possibly an apology and forgiveness.

When Is Forgiveness Important?

When do I forgive? The short answer is:  when you are hurt and when you are ready.  Indicators that there is a problem might be – avoiding being together, avoiding talking about the situation, awkwardness, talking about the friend with someone else repeatedly, etc.  Most of the time, you just know.  A few ways we respond to being hurt by a friend are:

  • fear and anger
  • sadness and surprise
  • justification or explaining
  • avoidance
  • retaliation or revenge
  • denial or pretending

Forgiveness Is A Gift

What is Forgiveness?

One main thing to understand about forgiveness is that it is a gift, to both the giver and the receiver.

 Forgiveness is cultivating empathy, sympathy and compassion following a hurt or offense.

    • Changing emotional attachment to a transgression
    • Choosing to remember differently
    • An act of mercy toward the offender, a gift
    • A learned skill and lifestyle

What is Unforgiveness?

When we don’t forgive, it is like having a cup of poison and drinking it ourselves.  We think we are hurting the other person by withholding forgiveness, but really, we only harm ourselves. Harboring unforgiveness can show up as stress in our bodies – tension, headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, etc….or in our moods – irritability, frustration, anger, resentment, negative outlook, etc.

My Brain Hurts!…My Body Hurts!…My Heart Hurts!

Not addressing hurtful situations can grow into unforgiveness, which can have an emotional and physical impact on us.  Basically, when we grow roots of unforgiveness, we are acting in a self-protective manner.  As humans we protect ourselves when there is a threat to our emotional or physical well-being.  Our brain takes in the information and dumps chemicals into our bodies to help us respond appropriately.  Through unforgiveness, unfortunately, we continue to respond as if there is a threat – even when it is unnecessary.  When this happens, those stress chemicals stay in our bodies and we adjust to living in a state of anxiety.  The result is a frazzled emotional system that interprets neutral or positive things as negative or threatening and a physical body that remains poised for fighting or running away.  The emotional impact living in a state of stress or unforgiveness is lack of trust, broken or strained relationships, anger, irritation, depression and anxiety. The physical results of living in a state of stress might be headaches, insomnia, tension, anxiety, etc.   Basically, living in a state of stress through unforgiveness is exhausting.

Forgiveness is more than:

~ Accepting what happened
~ Ceasing to be angry or hurt
~ Being neutral toward the offender
~ Making yourself feel good or better

Faux Forgiveness: It Looks Good But Is It REAL?

Forgiveness is NOT:

  • erasing the event or hurtful memories
  • letting the offender off the hook
  • condoning, excusing, forgetting, justifying, calming down after a hurtful event
  • faux-forgiveness (just saying the words)

Faux- Forgiveness…

hollow forgivenessperson verbally says they forgive but secretly harbors a grudge

silent forgiveness – person intentionally forgives but does not admit the forgiveness to the offender.  (like buying a gift for someone and putting it in a closet and never giving it to them)

What Steps Do I Take To Forgive?

Here is a great model to follow for practicing the art of forgiveness:  REACH.

Hint:  chose a small event first for practice!  The REACH Steps to Forgiveness are outlined in this document.

R = Recall the Hurt

  • use a pen and paper, describe in detail what occurred – include all you can remember –  sights, sounds, smells, words said, etc.
E = Empathy (this can be hard but push through!)
  • Empathy is vital to forgiveness – it allows you to think and feel differently about the person
  • Empathy = seeing things from another’s point of view
  • Think of empathy as:  “I will not forget, but I will remember differently.”
  • Write the details of your empathy.  Writing down the other perspective is a great way to do this.
A = Altruistic (others-focused) Gift
Remember that forgiveness is a gift for both you and your friend that hurt you.  Empathy gets you ready for this giving this gift.
  • Offering forgiveness begins to relieve you of the burden and stress of unforgiveness.
C = Commit To Publically Forgive
Sharing your decision to forgive helps to cement your forgiveness process.  This helps to prevent a barrier when old feelings bubble to the surface.
  • Anticipate that wounds already forgiven will still hurt sometimes (see: What Forgiveness Is Not)
  • Symbolize your forgiveness:  a certificate of forgiveness, a rock placed in the garden, a planted seed that grows into a beautiful plant or any meaningful small token that represents your forgiveness progress.  Since forgiveness is a process, you can return to these acts of commitment when old feelings of hurt or anger resurface.
H = Hold Onto Forgiveness
  • Without the weight of negative feelings like resentment, bitterness, fear and anger – flashbacks and memories pack less of a punch.
If negative feelings persist, this might mean there are some unaddressed beliefs or emotions about the event that need to be readdressed.  This sometimes happens through seasons of life when an event might take on different meaning.  Build on the REACH work you have already done, repeat the process and pursue continued healing.
Read E. L. Worthington’s work on forgiveness – he offers some great research and information on the topic, including the REACH process.  Much of this post was adapted from his book Forgiveness and Reconciling: Bridges to Healing and Hope (2003).

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Let me tell you about a wicked cake.

We all want to make a great layered cake of friendship, but another rising concoction threatens our time and our love in friendships.

What goes into a frenemy relationship?

Terri Apter, co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships writes that “among female friends there is: a wish to offer support and see a friend thrive, on the one hand, and a fear of being left behind or out-shone, on the other.”

Women have love and unkindness mixed into every friendship.  Unkindness fueled by envy or insecurity.

Mix envy into kindness for a friend and you have a frenemy cake. This concoction happens almost spontaneously, rarely intentionally, always insidiously.  As Sally explained in A Gossipy Fine Line, frenemy behavior can be as easy as gossip.

Frenemy in Training

I see the frenemy cake rising in myself.

I come home after a long day spending time with a woman I don’t like. Actually she doesn’t like me, stinging me with little snippy comments, like nettles in my soul.  I hate being insulted without being able to put my finger on the exact insult. Women do that well, smooth as cream even when they’re working against you.

I loathed this woman more each moment I spent with her, wanting to not care, but caring deeply about what she thought of me.

I see layer one rising: insecurity.

I was bound by obligation to remain with her and yet longed to pull out my bag of thistles and give her a taste of my needles.  The battle I fought to not lash out left me mostly silent, often despondent and as my husband told me afterwards, looking like I was trying too hard.

Darn it all!  Why did I even bother trying to be nice when it feels like a losing battle?

Layer two rising on top: disgust with both myself and this “friend.”

So in the evening hours I took refuge in my hotel room with my books and music, my notebook full of observations for a writing project and a bag of cherries soothing my pin-pricked emotions.

I feel all the distaste for my own sex as I check emails, update on blogs, spend time lingering on friend’s updates thinking of things that are too embarrassing to admit.

Unkind things toward those I call friends.

Surely, not ME

Perhaps because I was hoping to outgrow it, I didn’t pay  much close attention to this spongy cake.

But now I’m sure, whenever I’m feeling insecure about who I am, frenemy cake is cooking in the oven.

One way to melt the power of frenemia, to resist the temptation to make my cake and eat it, too, is to throw open the door on the reality in my soul.  If you haven’t faced the frenemy in you, I can guarantee it looks a lot worse than you first expect. And like most messes I’m afraid it’s going to look a lot worse before it’s going to look better.

Confession

As I’ve written (I’m Worse, You’re Better), confession is all about owning things.

Confession is a lost practice.  We rarely do it, or do it only generally (“Yea, I gossip, sometimes).

Confession is like diving naked into a pool, it feels cold and stunning and in the end almost too good to be true.

One reason I follow Jesus is because he came for sick people he wanted to make clean.  As long as I remain convinced that I need to be cleaned up, every day, again and again, I can be a Christ follower.  Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

In one account of Jesus life I found this: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:

‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said,

‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:9-13).

Jesus praised the tax collector.

When I admit I’m insecure and unkind to friends, Jesus is right at my elbow, cheering me onward into honesty.

Like a woman who confessed at a recent retreat “Lord, forgive me for my one-upmanship”, we all can agree we have that problem, too.

Take a moment and consider what provokes you to cook up a frenemy cake in your soul.

What’s your first layer of insecurity?

Your second layer of unkindness?

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I’ve always had a thing for guys with freckles, brown hair, blue eyes.   It wasn’t a phase. I married a guy with freckles, brown hair and blue eyes.

But back in grade school, Colin Benner (not his real name) had all three, a fact that was not lost on me.  I nursed a crush on him in secret from second until fifth grade.

Dale with baby Finn (who also has dark hair and blue eyes, no freckles, yet)

One afternoon in the Spring, Natasha Brown (also not her real name) came over to my house to play.  She and I lay on the large green hill in our front yard, inhaling the eucalyptus air and telling secrets.  I don’t think she asked me right away, but soon enough she said,

“Jonalyn, who do you like?” she asked.  I sat up, very serious and looked into her blue eyes, round as buttons, full of interest and attention.

“You cannot tell anyone!” I said. “Do you promise? You won’t tell anyone, especially him?”

“Oh, of course not, I would’t do that.” She was sitting up now, too. “I promise!”

“Okay.” And I reluctantly told her.

The shock of disclosing my crush left me feel exposed. I can’t remember anything else we said. I know I felt both closer to Natasha and more at her mercy, sort of like she held a power over me that could make us better friends.

The very next day, during P.E. our class ran the mile.  I noticed that while I was pushing myself ahead to get my best time, Natasha had paired up with Colin for the entire run.  That bothered me, more and more as I noticed Natasha never once looked at me as we passed each other. Those two ran side by side, preoccupied with talking.  I began to pray Natasha would remember her promise.

During dismissal, where we all stood in the box marked for fourth grade waiting for our parents, I hoped for the miracle of my mother arriving on time, even early.

Waiting an interminable amount of time, I watched Colin walk out and instead of standing with his tribe of guys, he walked up to me. Perhaps you will remember how in fourth grade you can crush on a guy for years without ever having talked with him.  As he approached me I began to tremble.

Colin asked, not unkindly, but with chutzpah that undid all my composure,

“Jonalyn, do you have a crush on me?”  No prefatory remarks, no “Hey, how did you do on your mile?”

Straight for the heart.

I was horrified, embarrassed, disgusted all at once.  All my anger surged at Natasha.  How could she? How could she totally sucker me in and then lie to me?

I remember responding with one inadequate word, “NOOOO!” my face beet red, my emphatic answer betrayed by my own blush.

My mother mercifully appeared at that moment to take me home.  I fled into the safety of our Volvo and must have looked so wretched that my mother inquired into my day. I started to sob and told her the whole story. That was the one and only time I recall my mother driving through the dairy and treating me to an entire candy bar, of my choice.  The Butterfinger I devoured soothed my tears, but it could not undo the mark Natasha Brown had left on me.

I never talked with Natasha again. She never apologized, and never invited me to play.

I returned the favor.

I vowed that day, a promise I kept for more than ten years, that I would never trust another person with my secrets, especially where cute boys were concerned.  No matter how much I was teased and prodded into the wee hours of slumber parties, I never told.

My fourth grade vow molded my friendships, even where trustworthy friends came into my life.

We get betrayed usually during formative friendship years by girls we thought were our friends.  I’d imagine you have a hamper of stories where girls have hurt you, laughed at you, made fun (subtly, of course) of you.

My solution was to cut my friend off as unsafe.  I also learned to hunt for safe friends, ones I could take baby steps to share my feelings and then watch like a hawk to see if they kept my secrets safely hidden.  Natasha made me very aware of gossipy friends and helped form what I want in my target friendships – those in my inner ring of privilege. In some ways she helped me choose better.

Can you think back to grade school and the vows you made?  Do you have any stories of hurting or being hurt? What do you think your childhood friendships taught you about friendship?

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