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Archive for the ‘honesty’ 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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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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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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If I Had Known…

Right now, I am knee-deep into the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  This novel was recently made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks…and is one of the better books I have read this year.

The main character Oskar is a young boy who plays the tambourine incessantly and is an encyclopedia of facts..but has trouble socially.  He is also deeply grieving the loss and death of his father. These words come after meeting his upstairs neighbor, an elderly gentleman whose colorful and adventurous life stopped after his wife died.

How could such a lonely person have been living so close to me my whole life?  If I had known, I would gone to keep him company.  Or I would have made some jewelry for him.  Or told him hilarious jokes.  Or given him a private tambourine concert.

Where friendship is concerned, I like Oskar’s immediate response…he does not deny his own pain or reality, but seems to just move within it, being himself in the moment, knowing he has something to offer someone in their loneliness.

While it does not hurt to be kind of other drivers on the road, the man or woman at the checkout, the barista or the surly teenager, we have the chance to move beyond “If I had known…” and work within what we do know as we grow in friendships:  We are not made of steel and we could all use a private tambourine concert.

If you are not the “performing type” or are short on hilarious jokes, there are still things that you do have that you can offer others in just being yourself.  These are the things that help a friendship move beyond “If I had known…” and  into a relationship that acknowledges who both women are and where their own lives might have stopped.

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SUMMER SERIES: TOUGH COOKIES

Let Me Be Me is writing a Summer Series!  June starts our Tough Cookie series off with “The Demanding Friend” (Sally) and “The Unaware Friend” (Jonalyn).  July and August will bring some more examples of the difficult types of women women we can be (oh no!) or run across.  To whet your palate…you will read about The Unforgiving Friend (aka: Grudge Holder), and The Guilting Friend…and a few more!

THE DEMANDING FRIEND

Hiding in Plain Sight

Getting straight to the point, a demanding friend is one that requires you to behave a certain way to keep them “okay” and keep the relationship in tact.  In such a relationship there is a lack of freedom and safety to be who you are. Demanding friends find sanctuary in relationships that do not challenge who they are; they prefer relationships that do not threaten their inner-secrets, their bad behavior, their immense sadness, their insecurities, their self-aborption.  These relationships usually have a feigned sense of closeness and usually last until one person is not able or willing to meet the demands of the other.

Built On…

A demanding relationship is built on similarity and unspoken agreements about relationship roles.  Most people feel comfortable with similarity, and we can find similarity everywhere.

  • skills and interests
  • spiritual beliefs
  • religious practices
  • personal history
  • eating styles and practices
  • emotional health
  • eating styles, preferences, practices
  • hobbies (e.g. reading, cooking, writing)
  • marital status
  • political views
  • sexual practices and beliefs
  • work and career

Unspoken Agreements: People set up unspoken agreements all the time…its the ones that restrict freedom that get us into relational and emotional trouble.  You call me, I don’t call you.  You seek me out.  You let me care for you.  We don’t talk about the real me, we don’t talk about the real you.  You must not change.  I am never wrong.  I dominate discussions.  You need to agree with me.  I am strong, you are weak (or vice versa).

Supply And Demand

In a healthy relationship, there is a balance between individuality and connection.  If one is more than the other, one person is likely to have lost some individuality.  When one side of a friendship is more demanding, there is less freedom to move with your own thoughts and feelings, similarities and differences, share and speak freely, or say, “No.”.

Photo Credit: Sally H. Falwell

An interesting thought on this account is that freedom is always there for the taking…if I give into the emotional demands a friend makes on me, it is not only that she takes my freedom, it is that I let her have it.  (Yikes…chew on that a bit!).  This is where the “supply and demand” play on words fits in – two women’s unhealthy ways fitting together like puzzle  pieces – one supplies what the other demands.  In healthier relationships there is no need to fit like puzzle pieces, both women can maintain their individuality without being threatened by their differences, there is room for more than one opinion, both champion the other…more like holding hands, rather than fitting like pieces.

Who Me?!

Me, demanding?  No.  Absolutely not.

But truthfully, we all do it.  We all use other people to keep us emotionally stable.  Many of us can correct or apologize for ways we demand others to care for us, but demands can also get out of hand.  For instance, if I am high on the demanding side and prefer not to hear things about me that hurt or bother other people, I will likely respond with coolness, sharp words, interrupting, explaining myself, punishing responses (e.g. I am no longer available for our weekly tennis game and coffee), instead of listening and absorbing, discussing and learning.

So in essence, if you poke around my sensitive areas, if you upset me, if you hang out with someone else, if you don’t invite me –  I respond in ways that demand that you return to normal behavior that soothes me.  I demand that you keep me happy in this relationship.  Your hurt and your experience,your wants and needs,  your input and your insight are much less important, since my asserting control over areas I feel insecure becomes my main task.

To regain control, I might talk about you behind your back, swear off the friendship, get a new “bestie”, not return your calls, pout passive-aggressively, say ugly things to you that hurt your feelings or pick a fight with you…  I might be subtle in my actions, or I might be loud.  Anything to help us return to our “normal” way of being.  Then, we will probably not talk about what happened, so that honesty and reality can be kept at bay.

What Does A Demanding Friend Look Like

  • focused on getting their way
  • uses words or tone of voice to change your mind
  • reacts with anger or coldly to bring me closer or push me away
  • the relationship runs hot and cold, on and off again
  • minimizes my role in the relationship, my thoughts, feelings, my decisions
  • strong preferences, strong reactions
  • codependency
  • reacts if you are not “there for them” or available…they emotionally faint without support (i.e. so they require relationships to hoist them to stronger positions)
  • the friendship centers around her needs, her schedule, her house, her skills, her interests…or – during times of stress, the friendship entered this territory and is less balanced and inclusive of both individuals.
  • Can exist in any type of female relationship – family relationships (e.g. mother/daughter, sisters), church or religiously-linked friendships (e.g. spiritual mentor), long-time friends.

Uh-Oh, My Friend Is Demanding…What Do I Do?

Relationships that grow who we are are relationships that let us be, and encourage us to pilot our own lives (which can be quite scary at times).  Friendships that do not have these qualities are worth looking at and deciding your next steps, your level of involvement and commitment.  If you are on the other end of the demanding friendship, over-offering yourself, constantly giving in, losing your individuality to keep the peace…consider that this friendship gives you something to do, offers you a feeling of being needed, a special significance (i.e. supply and demand).  But the counterpart to that is a murky self, a lose sense of value in a relationship.

There is always the option of confronting a friend, which is scary, difficult and revealing.  Most people want to confront someone as much as they want to drink sour milk, but there are strong, loving ways to confront.  If the relationship is heavily unhealthy or borders on codependency, a “break-up” might be in order.   Any change in a relationship brings risk, and with risk there can be loss; you may have to grieve the loss of a friend.

Ready For Something New

If I am moving out of a demanding friendship, I can remember that new friends await me.  Not all women are demanding, not all women require that you be other than you are.  A genuine friendship is quite valuable and requires effort, openness and patience, and sometimes as an adult the task seems much more daunting than it did on the first day of second grade.  I might also need time to heal, and getting support is always an option.  Confronting myself can be as challenging as confronting someone else, but the rewards are indescribable and my relationships reap the benefits of how I take care of myself.

One of the most beautiful, prized things on this earth is who you are. A gem, a masterpiece.  Another person does not need to fill you up, it is not necessary that you, the masterpiece that you are, be hidden under someone else.

Resources

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life

Please Don’t Say You Need Me

The New Codependency

Forgiveness and Reconciling: Bridges To Wholeness and Hope


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