A Good Lashing

Hello, friend of my dear friend.

Please, have a seat. Would you like any water? No? Great, then let’s talk.

So X, our beloved mutual friend, has been telling me about some problems you’ve been having lately. She’s worried for you. Of course she is; she cares so much about the people in her life. We’re both lucky to know her, don’t you think? Yes, I think so too.

My deepest sympathies to you in your struggle. I hope you know that X and I would be happy to do what we can to help, and I’m sure she’s expressed that to you. In fact, I know she has. In fact, that’s why I called you here today.

X told me how you’re reacting to this problem in your life, and I am here to tell you: if you don’t stop putting your problems on other people, those people won’t want to be around you much longer.

Listen, I know it sucks. And I know how much friends can help in tough situations. Sometimes they have ideas you never thought of, or sometimes even just talking to them about it helps you figure out what you need to do. I think we’ve all had issues during which we’ve hoped that someone would swoop in, wave a magic wand, and fix everything, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you have to realize: In the end, your problem is yours.

Your best friend didn’t get you into this. (Unless she did, and then it’s really a joint problem.) Your coworkers are not responsible. The people who care about you are going to want to help, but at the end of the day you’re the person who needs to work through this.

I’m sick of seeing compassionate, empathetic friends get upset because people they care about have a problem, turn to them, and say, “Fix it!” Because of course, unless the issue is a broken air conditioning unit and you’re the one who went to HVAC training school, the third-party listener can’t fix it. The best they can do is suggest ways in which YOU might fix it, and you need to be grateful for even getting that much.

I’m not saying that you’re not ever allowed to lash out. It’s not a cool thing to do, but it’s human. Sometimes you’re upset and you react harshly to something that is meant well. A good friend will understand that you were upset about the situation and not at them, but you still need to apologize. I’m saying that you do not have the right to throw your problem onto someone else and then get mad when they can’t make everything better in the snap of their fingers.

On a related note: If the person who is trying to help you suggests a course of action, you are not allowed to summarily dismiss it without considering it. If you know from experience or you have a good reason to believe that it will not work, you’re allowed to mention it. But no saying “No, that’s stupid,” or “That would never work” or “You don’t understand.” It’s possible that this person doesn’t understand, but if that’s the case, it’s on you to help clarify to them. And it’s on you to try what they suggest if you’re insisting that they be the one who comes up with a solution. Maybe it won’t work perfectly, but maybe you’ll learn something about what would actually work by doing it.

Look, I’m sure that most of the time, you’re great. I’m sure you and X have a good, healthy relationship nine weeks out of ten or whatever is a better statistic than that, and I’m sure that you’re always there for her when she needs you. That’s why I’d hate to see her give up on your friendship. Because if this continues, and she has to keep dealing with your crises as if they’re hers, I’m going to tell her that that’s what she needs to do.

Want that water now? Maybe a beer? Good. We’ve got plenty.

Now get out of my house.

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