February 13, 2014

"Some Friends Failed In A Crisis"

Friendship Village
Friendship Village (Photo credit: NYC-MetroCard)
The newspaper I received daily is "News & Observer", a local publication, in which there is a column called "Tell me about it", where people ask a therapist Carolyn Hax for help with their personal affairs. The one I read yesterday was called "Some friends failed in a crisis". The person who asks for help was in cancer treatment during which she/he found that suddenly most of her/his "best friends" failed to show up to offer support, which she/he certainly expected. Carolyn's response is wonderful. First she congratulates the person for her/his not holding grudge, then she suggests that she/he better to express her feeling openly, in case she/he is with those friends again. This is the beginning paragraph of Carolyn's response:
"Welcome to the weirdness of crisis, where your besties can vanish while casual pals surprise and sustain you."

This case certainly rings a bell to me. During the past several years (5 or 6), when my physical condition stayed desperate and chronic, when my financial situation and other aspects of my life seemed to collapse, I found I was left alone by almost all my several friends who had been hitherto keeping close relation with me. They all estranged away by different reasons. It was one of the hardest things in my life for me to ponder. However, after carefully "examining" those friendships, I believe I found answers, at least for my case.

I was an extremely popular personal during my teenage years and my 20s. I never intentionally chose friends because I was always surrounded by "friends". I think the reason for this was that I was an extremely agreeable person, and always put others' needs before my own. I was also a person who was fun to be with. I made people laugh all the time. It's a good thing, I suppose. But now I realized the negative side of it, that is, I was very passive in "choosing" my own friends. I simply let people choose me. I trusted everyone, I believe they treated me kindly, so they must be my friends. Upon the time I was ready to come abroad, there were a few people who made me their best friend. The consequence of this situation is, that after all these years, gradually, as our personalities and intelligence develop, I found I did not have much in common with most of my "besties". No doubt, as time went by, there was less and less for us to share. Plus my extremely health condition, which was hard for anybody to comprehend. So eventually, they chose to drop me off.

Humans are conscious animals. We better do things with consciousness, or so called "conscious choice". If we let others decide for us, we give others the power to judge us, to control us, or, to "trash" us. Of course, we should not judge others (By writing this post, I also do not mean to judge my old friends. As contrary, I respect their choice), but we do have right, and we should, make conscious choice to who we would remain contact with, or stay close. So this is the lesson I learned.  I will certainly try to do better in future.

(I also have thoughts on why I was such a passive person in terms of relationship, but that would be another day's work.)
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  1. I've had long-term friendships that have waxed and waned over the years. Just like intimate relationships, I think friendships that are built on expectation eventually just fall apart.

  2. One of our philosopher poets has said, 'it's good to have short-lived adversity: it reveals one's friends and foes vividly.' By the same measure, a long term calamity would put people around us in startling focus. Now of you speak to a psychologist, he is going to tick you off for 'expecting' from people, just as Kris has said above. That said, help comes from unexpected quarters sometimes.

    1. thanks uma! now i got some idea about what kris said "expectation". i do not think i am the type who expect anything from others, except the feeling. and on the other hand, i was expected by most of my old friends, which i did not know until then. that's why all these friendships failed.

  3. It's always when you are at your worst or worse
    that you find out who your true friends are. Sometimes you'd be surprised that the person in the background of your life, who you hardly interact with, is the one who steps up to the plate to help you, when you really need it.

    When things are brilliant you will always have friends, but when things are bad, you'll find out soon enough. Friends may have good enough reason to stay away but sometimes it's simply because they don't care.

  4. I also found out I had a few too many "Fair Weather Friends" when I went through a bit of a tragedy 10 years ago. I did not need any help from them in my situation, but for some strange reason the phone just stopped ringing.

    Real friends are few and far between unfortunately.

    1. that's right, PBScott. I did not need their money or other sort of helps neither, a few kind or compassionate words or emails once a long while could make huge difference.