Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Mad World

It's a strange, strange world when you can feel guilty for being someone's friend.

Right now, I can think of three people I "should" hate. Each of them has wronged a friend of mine in the past. I do not condone their actions, but I do not hold grudges against them, either. Two of them I don't even particularly like. I see no problem, however, with treating them like human beings. Isn't that why my friends hate them in the first place—because they didn't treat others well?

Three stories.

One. A bunch of college kids become friends. A girl and a guy in this group of friends start dating. Everyone knows this guy is a "friendly" guy. Eventually, he cheats on her. A few times.

Two. Two girls become friends. One shares her feelings about a guy that the other girl has just befriended. The first girl harbors secret feelings for years. The boy suspects, but doesn't return the ardor, and acts accordingly. A small, drunken betrayal occurs, and the first girl is heartbroken.

Three. A girl discovers her friend has been dating a guy who has allegedly cheated on her twice. The friend's friends all hate her boyfriend for this reason.

In story One, I am one of the "college kids." I was horrified for my friend when she got cheated on, and I was angry that the guy—also my friend—had done it. I wanted to be there for my girl friend, but I did not feel the need to shun the guy. I wasn't seeking him out, by any means, but I wasn't about to forget about the year of friendship we had developed. I didn't see him around for a while; he was giving my girl friend space. The girl's other friends started violently hating him immediately. I understand this situation, I really do; but is it necessary for me to end my friendship, too? Treating that guy like a leper wasn't going to help my friend's wounds heal, and treating him like a human being wasn't going to harm my friendship with her (at least, it shouldn't). Now, a year later, we run into each other, and he's surprised I'm still "cool with" him. It's still not over, though—some other friends of mine aren't fond of him and seem to lose words when I mention that he invited me to hang out. Why do I feel guilty for wanting to hang out with someone who has already been my friend for two years?

Story Two tells of a friend of mine who was hurt by someone we both know. I became friends with the guy much after the story began, but I have been here to witness the end, and the end is not pretty. Now I am caught among another group of friends who want to hate this guy with all they have (not quite as violently as the group in story One, but still). I am casual friends with this guy. I don't hate him. I think he acted like a jackass, and I'm sorry that he hurt my friend—very sorry—but I have nothing to do with the situation. Why do I feel pressured to hate him?

Story Three is about a friend of mine whose boyfriend all our friends hate. Am I the only only one who thinks IT'S THEIR OWN DAMN BUSINESS? If he did cheat and she took him back, that's her choice. She's allowed to date whomever she likes, even if he's not a great catch. I understand wanting to be there for her and wanting her to be with a man she deserves (rather, who deserves her), but I don't think it's "being a good friend" to continually talk shit about her boyfriend when you're only slightly out of hearing range. Sure, he may be a douche, and sure, maybe he did cheat on her, or whatever he is said to have done. Either way, I believe you can support a friend without supporting their decision. I think it is more loving to listen to a friend and help them out with their bad decision (read: be open-minded and willing to listen and advise) than to correct them without being willing to hear reasons. Hear reasons, not just learn them and trash-talk them. We all make dumb decisions. Making someone feel like they can't talk to you about certain parts of their lives is only going to make it worse if that decision does backfire. Why do I feel like my friends would hate me for wanting to support my friend, no matter what her choice is?

None of this is okay. None of it. The way the guys acted is not okay, but the way my friends react is not okay, either. I'm not saying I've never had a particularly insensitive reaction to someone who has hurt me or a friend, but I think I've grown a bit past that. Perhaps it's because of one of my best friends from home. She dated someone I was okay with for a while, but rumors of cheating began to arise and led to heartbreak. She has since still been somewhat involved with him, but I'm not going to stop being a good friend to her because of that. I want her to be happy, and even though I don't think that guy is going to make her happy, I'm willing to hear her reasons why she's willing to try. I would rather stay close to her and be able to help her up if she falls than to abandon her because I disagree with her choices. The pressure that I feel to hate all of the aforementioned guys is so intense, though, that I almost felt guilty for running into the friend from story One in public. I almost didn't want to be seen with him because I felt I would be judged and subsequently hated. Has anyone heard of forgiveness? Yes, heartbreak hurts. Yes, people make stupid choices over and over again. "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). We all know it. So let it go. Forgive. Forgive and let live, and support those you love, even if they're acting foolishly. YOU act foolishly; would you like it if your friends muttered hateful things about someone you cared about, or forced their friends to hate you for a mistake you made, or refused to hear about an important part of your life because they disagreed? How would YOU like it?

Don't put your friends in those situations. Don't demand hate. Let forgiveness suffice where injury stings. Forgiving may not satisfy the desire we all have for vengeance or calm our sense of self-righteousness, but it is the better way to handle wrongs. I'm not saying avoid protecting those close to you—by all means, let them know how you feel. Tell them you disagree, disapprove, etc. But don't push them away. Be honest, and let them return the favor. Open your mouth if you must, but never forget to open your ears.

Jesus saves.

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