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Archive for the ‘responsibilities’ Category

So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding FriendThe Unaware FriendThe Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend, The Guilting Friend.  We’ll close with the Confusing Friend.

With the Olympics these last few weeks I’ve noticed how meaningful each country’s anthem, played in their language, feels to the gold medalist. They suddenly hear their language, unique and special to their identity.

In friendship, we all speak a language unique to us. And our family of origin or our spouse know it better than anyone else. The key to good friendships is finding someone who wants to learn our language. And I’m not just talking about love language, I’m talking about the specific words we use that mean something nuanced to me or you.

When my husband and I find our son with a tummy ache, our first response is, “I’m sorry.”  This is our family’s way of saying “I’m sad you are in pain. I wish I could make it better.”

But that’s just our family. When our babysitter hangs out with our son, she was intrigued that a two year old is so quick to say, “I’m sorry.” She’s surprised that he tells her, “I’m sorry,” when she scratches her arm on the hike.

She and most of the world use “I’m sorry,” to communicate personal responsibility in the pain.  But in our family it means something different.

This doesn’t mean that the way we use, “I’m sorry” is the right way.  It is simply our shorthand to empathize.

We all have ways to communicate unique to us, our language. But to others this dialect can feel confusing.

The longer you walk with a close friend the more chances you’ll have to face their confusing side.

We communicate one thing, but our friend hears something else.  The only way out of confusing-ness is to learn how to communicate, not necessarily better, but more appropriately. Friendship is nothing if not learning another language.

Each friendship gives us new ways to communicate. In the end we’ll both know another language.

Friendship is one way immersion. Each friendship is a two-way language course, with new confusing ways of communication crossing and hopefully forcing each of us to stop and evaluate how to communicate better. We’ll both leave changed, not just one of us.

If your friend requires you to do all the language learning and has not learned your ways of communicating, guess what?

You’re being treated as a foreigner in your friend’s country with no emotional culture or language to share.  Instead you need to be acting as two sojourners traveling to each other’s countries.

Sometimes it’s easier to spot these foreigner friends in other situations than in our friendships.  You see the mother who requires her child to fit into her life from food to bedtime to travel. She makes no accommodation for her child’s sleep schedule or eating needs. The child’s language is being erased by the mother’s. Or you see the mother who terminates all her work, interests and outside-the-home hobbies for her child. She forgets what used to make her feel alive, she stops having friendships outside of her children’s friend’s parents. She loses her own language for her child’s.

Both mothers are losing something precious.

The same with friendships. We each have friends who have required that we learn their language. The question that is key is how have your friends learned yours? How have you asked them to change their communication for your needs?

If your friend asks you to text her back immediately to show you care, how have you (say you’re an introvert) explained that you feel close when your friend doesn’t expect to see you each week. How has your friend learned your language enough to respect and speak your language (maybe an email instead of demanding a get-together each week).

Confusing friends are normal, but one-way confusion leads, inevitably, to an imperialistic relationship.  We don’t want to be the colony that our friend takes over and remakes her image.  We all need to know that our language, even if it at first feels like confusing communication, is cared about enough for someone to learn our native tongue.

But if you find yourself learning lots of new languages with your friends, but not seeing your friend’s learning your language… it’s time to find a better friends.

Good friends want to know how to speak with you, in your language. And they will make the effort to keep trying, even if their pronunciation is off and their grammar silly.

They will try because they think you are worth it.

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I am reading a book I highly recommend, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown.  Brown is a researcher and educator that lives in Houston, Texas and her work on shame and vulnerability is both needed and valuable.  View it for yourself in her TED presentation (definitely worth watching!) or begin stepping your way through her words.

As we wrap up Let Me Be Me and transition into our new, punchy website (out in September!), this August Tidbit focuses on what it means to Be Me.  Only certain types of friendships offer us safe places for “me to be me”,  to say what I really think, be afraid, try new things, to disagree, cry, or admit things I am ashamed about…to be authentic.

What does that mean: be authentic?  Brown makes these statements about authenticity:

…in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. (TED)

…authenticity is not something we have or don’t have.  It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live.  Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen.

The idea that we can choose authenticity makes most of us feel both hopeful and exhausted.  We feel hopeful because being real is something we value…We feel exhausted because without even giving it too much thought, most of us know that choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking.

As many of us hope for friendships that are safe and accepting, Brown’s words are an encouraging reminder that we all struggle with authenticity, with vulnerability, with showing our true heart, with allowing someone else to see.  And she’s definitely right about one thing –  it is a choice.

photo credit: Sally H. Falwell

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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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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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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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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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This is the second post in our Tough Cookies series where we address friends who make friendship hard. Last time Sally wrote about The Demanding Friend. This time . . .

It’s 10:15.  You’ve been waiting at the park for 15 minutes past. You text your friend who was supposed to meet you.  She texts back, “I thought 11. Getting ready now.”

It’s happened before.  You thought you were clear.  You’re left waiting thinking of all you could be getting done at home.

Photo credit: meditationbeats.com

You wonder if your friend is just unaware of time.

You also wonder if you’re unaware of how unclear you are.

******

You’re on the beach and your friend starts doing yoga in full swing. After reps of Downward Dog and Warrior, you start wondering how to point out the strange glances she’s drawing. You’re wondering if she cares as much as you do.

Is she just blissfully unaware?

******

You’re traveling abroad and find yourself at a ruin in Italy where all bathroom stalls are out of toilet paper. Your Type A friend always carries a roll. When you try to break her away from the group to privately ask for her stash of tp, she cheerfully pulls it out and hands you five squares. When you ask for the whole roll, she pushes you over the top by loudly demanding, “Just tell me how much you need?”

What do we do with unaware friends?

When do we share that their unawareness is bothering us?

Many of the unaware things we do (crunching ice, interrupting, popping our gum, monologuing, etc.), while annoying don’t necessarily mean the friendship is over.  We just need to evaluate how important the annoying things are… to us and to our friendship.

Every friend will do something that shows they’re not as aware of the things we care about. We do it, too.

This doesn’t mean we have a doomed friendship. But if we’re honest, we will admit to ourselves and God that their unawareness bothers us.  Pretending we’re not bugged only means our denial will spill out in “unintentional” hinting, which then becomes our unawareness bugging others.

We always need to admit it to ourselves.

Sometimes we need to share it with our friends.

So when do we bring it up?

Try using these questions to process:

  1. How much and how badly does their unawareness bother me? Is it keeping me from loving them well?
  2. Could your friend say of you, “She really lets me be me, even though I know we disagree or she doesn’t like it when I ….”? In other words, are you a safe person?
  3. Is your friend safe? When you want to bring up something that bothers you, how do they respond? Are they glad you noticed and shared? Are they insulted? Do they receive your observation with interest or curiosity or are they threatened and hurt? This will indicate how honest they really want you to be with them.
  4. It helps to think of the four seasons friends as the best to begin those honest conversations that start with, “When you do x, I end up feeling embarrassed or annoyed…”

Let’s say you’ve figure out your friend is

So how to your bring it up?

First, draw back into your memory of when YOU were that unaware friend, the one who didn’t know you didn’t know. Remember how blissful it felt to be unaware, for a moment.  Remember how ashamed you could feel when someone alerted you to your ignorance without bathing it in understanding?

This is our first lesson: If you’re going to let an unaware friend know, enlighten them kindly.

Think of how you like to learn you have spinach in your teeth. I don’t want to learn this from my bathroom mirror after hours on the town with my girlfriend. I want to be told, discreetly, ASAP.

For instance:

Direct approach: “Hey, you’ve got spinach in your front teeth. This one (tap your own tooth in a mirror so your friend isn’t digging around in her mouth for five minutes).”

Indirect approach: “I think you have something in your teeth, you want my mirror?”

Friendship works because our friends see the exceptional qualities in our souls that no one else can offer them. These are often the flipsides of the things that bother us.  So anytime you’re about to wallow in your friend’s unawareness think of the reason she’s like that.  My always-late friend, for instance, is never annoyed when I’m late. My yoga loving friend is someone I could never embarrass I’m public.  Your tp rationing friend is…. someone who….

Photo credit: redbookmag.com

well, that might be worth bringing up.

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