The Friend I Thought I Knew

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence.~ George Washington

I have had reason to ponder this quote recently. So far my readers know I am a medically disabled mom who uses a service dog. I’ve also disclosed some of my philosophies about parenting. I long ago learned that friends come and go for various reasons and because of those experiences, I tend to not disclose very much about myself. You see, like many of you, I’ve had friends that for whatever reason decide they no longer want to be my friends. Some of those relationships ended up being downright poisonous. Others, well, they ended in less overt painful actions.

I learned to be courteous to all from my parents. I was raised to believe that all life has value and it is up to me to find that value then cherish and nurture it in the best way I can. Sometimes, it is a fleeting moment such as giving up a seat on a crowded bus. Other times, I find myself becoming closer to someone over the long-term and taking them in confidence. However, I have learned to guard my heart and the number of people who know me very well is small. Today, I have learned yet again that, as Oprah puts it, “everyone wants to ride in the limo, but few want to ride on the bus.”

I have watched my children stumble with relationships many times. Their fair weather friends have, unfortunately, been many. I am helpless to do anything but watch as yet another human being hurts my child. Some of them do it accidentally, but others seem to thrive on personal attacks. After these train wrecks, I am left to pick up the pieces. Much like my beloved procedural novel heroes, I try to figure out why. Inevitably, I end up looking at the adult role models for the bully and discover that it is a familial trait. I have long since stopped trying to talk to other parents as it seems I’m among the minority of parents who hold themselves and their children accountable for their actions.

You may be wondering what brought on this examination of friendships. It has to do with what I perceive to be my ability to be courteous to all. Some people take my courtesy to mean they know me, what is best for me and how to “be there” for me. Dear readers, the news is that I have hundreds of friends in real life. Yet, the ones who could actually give you my address number less than a dozen. Because of my willingness to listen, people assume they know me well. Then, when I break course, they determine I was never their friend. And the rumors start. Then the painful realization that yet another person dislikes me because I didn’t fit their mold sets in.

Over and over, yet I keep trying. My kids do too, probably because they were also raised to enter into a friendship with an open mind. They have started to learn not to open their hearts readily. I find this sad because at their ages, they have experienced so much hatred for being themselves that they no longer extend an open hand to everyone who walks into their lives. They are missing the richness that a diverse group of friends brings to life. They are missing opportunities to nurture others because they have been hurt so much they feel the need to not only guard their hearts, but put a moat around themselves as well.

I ask that each of you think about the impact your words and actions have on your friends. I want you to consider whether you are causing pain to others in your life. Think about your fellow humans and how it feels when you say or do something for your own personal gain at their expense. We all have feelings. Just think before you act…if you wouldn’t like it, what makes you think someone else will?

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