Several months back, a loyal Friend, the “building up of others” kind, very lovingly and wisely counseled me to clear the air with another friend. She gently but directly pointed out an infraction – moreover, the kind we all hate – the passive-aggressive kind (ugh) – which I was guilty of towards said other friend. Honestly, my first instinct was to feel defensive. I wanted to explain or justify myself. But I knew Friend’s no-nonsense advice was right. Taking her Truth to heart, and recalling my 2015 resolutions (which, ever well-intending but not-so-at-executing, need to be kept more consistently), I had to pause and wait for my heart to calm ’til it was in a loving, open stance, pray for wisdom and a gentle spirit, and then meet with my other friend. We took turns explaining what had been on our hearts, what had miffed us, what her Truth was, what mine was, and figured out that part of the problem (as so often is the case) was misunderstanding and incorrect assumptions, part failure to address injuries earlier on, and part just not yet fully knowing and “getting” each other.
These are some of the harder things in friendship, in life, especially as a woman. But I think they make some friendships – the ones that survive – richer and better. You never know how these difficult and initially awkward talks will turn out, and you can’t control how the other person will respond, but you can still make the choice to overcome the fear of confrontation and meet the other in love and compassion, with the hope and trust that the friendship is strong enough to survive each others’ Truths. (Relay them with vulnerability, sensitivity and counter-receptivity and you’ve improved your odds significantly.)
Of course, another challenging aspect of female friendships is learning to recognize and respect the variations in how different women deal with (or sometimes don’t deal with) conflict, hurt or disappointment in friendships. For instance, after we cleared the air, this particular friend admitted she’s never favored or felt comfortable “talking things out” or addressing interpersonal conflicts. Her natural inclination is simply to move on and not look back. Which kind of threw me. For, wouldn’t some salvageable friendships end needlessly, over misunderstandings or resolvable matters? The risk didn’t seem to bother her.
My friend’s perspective was foreign to me – I, who will toss and turn at night and develop a bad case of heartburn when I’m not right with a friend. If I’m hurt by, angry at or gravely disappointed in a friend, or if I think a friend is upset with me, it just eats at me, day after day until there’s resolution. I feel a desperate urge to do something about it immediately – confront and talk it out. Because if I don’t, I may end up brewing in my thoughts, letting assumptions (possibly misassumptions) fester, and then handle it unwisely (e.g., passive-aggressively or resentfully) when all could’ve been handled more gently, calmly and sooner. Meanwhile, I imagine we all have friends (or maybe we are that friend) who need time to sit in their thoughts, and keep away or be alone for awhile, in order to come to a calmer, more receptive stance. And then, there are friends like the one I mentioned above, who may not want to deal…ever, and would prefer to move on. Friendship can be the cost of a conflict, and sometimes it’s not in our control to fix it. That is something I still need to work on understanding and accepting.
At the end of the day, it was a hard day but a good day. I learned to better appreciate two special women in my life — a peacemaker, and a brave one who stepped outside of her comfort zone to “talk it out” with me.
Be we young or old, navigating female friendships can sometimes be a daunting, painful and confusing journey — and yet so worthwhile. When the boat rocks, you’ll see who’s looking out for themselves and who’s helping or encouraging others. When the storm passes, you’ll see who regroups and rebuilds. When the seas are calm and life is good, you’ll see who shares and celebrates your joys alongside you. And when the ship docks, you’ll see who stuck with you to the end.