Supportive Friends… and the Other Kind

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A few weeks ago, I had quite the learning experience.

I made a post that seemed to anger a lot of people, friends and otherwise. I was rather surprised by the responses I received. And I wanted to flush out a little bit about what I learned from everything that happened.

Offending People is Fine


First of all, I want to say the post I am referring to was the first one I ever took down. It pains me a bit to say this. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that I care about free speech above almost any value out there. And I feel that speaking my mind is worth it, regardless of any fallout that might come from what I have to say.

So I’ve made posts here and there that have rubbed some people the wrong way. But that’s OK. I really don’t care. And if people want to disagree with me, that’s their choice.

Learning from Friction


In fact, I like it.

I learn from friction. I gain knowledge and wisdom from people challenging me.

The world is filled with people who choose sides and pick a few talking heads to listen to. They then let someone else tell them what to think, and they fight wildly to maintain their extremely biased approach.

In some ways, I even envy such people. Life is simpler for them. It involves fewer decisions. A community is gained. And they can go to sleep at night, not concerned they made any mistakes. They are satisfied and content in their simple outlook.

Good on them, but I could never be that way.

On occasion, I’m going to disagree with some people. And I’ll step on some toes. And sometimes I’ll dig down into the position I’ve chosen. Other times I’ll do a full 180. And other times I am a work in progress, constantly figuring out what I want to believe.

I am evolving.

Supportive Friends


The post in question was deeply personal. And without getting into details (not interested in that again), I chose that it was in my best interest to remove the post. But I do not regret publishing it. What I learned from the brief time it was up was so important, it will always be entirely worth it.

The first thing I noted was how supportive my friends and family truly are.

The overwhelming amount of support I received was beautiful. People reached out to me, publicly and privately, to send their love. To wish me well. To offer words of encouragement, and some helpful words of advice as well.

And I couldn’t be more pleased.

Say what you will about my original post, this is something I would have never have received if I had just kept my life and pain private. And even though the matters discussed were deeply personal, after a few crazy decades on this planet, I have amassed a wealth of invaluable connections. And those people care about me, as I do for them. They reached out. They saw me in pain, and offered warm words. And I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Estrangement is Not What I Thought


Alongside of all the support I received, I gained a depressingly large amount of insights into the world of family estrangement.

Thankfully, I have a warm and loving relationship with my parents and siblings, and everyone gets along and always has. But prosperity has a tendency to breed a level of blissful ignorance.

I had no clue how extraordinarily common this was!

Dozens (yes, dozens) of friends reached out to me to tell me their stories. Some were estranged from parents, others from their children. Some for short amounts of time, others for decades. Some situations were resolved, and many others are still ongoing with no obvious end in sight.

And here I was, entering a world of information I could never have anticipated.

We all know that misery loves company, so this newfound knowledge had an inherent level of comfort. But greater comfort came from the words of hope and encouragement from those who had already gained some level of acceptance of their situations. Or those who have seen the other side, and assured me to never stop loving, and to just be ready to lovingly embrace if and when the time comes.

What are Friends?


Finally, I gained a little more clarity on the people around me.

Fact is, the modern world is very complicated. Paradoxically, we have more friends and fewer friends than ever before. We have more friends because we can actually point to a list of the thousands of people we are connected to in our various social media worlds. But more than anything, we have really just defined the lowest common denominator of what it means to be a “friend”.

And we’ve weakened the depth and profundity of our friendships by relegating them to a world of just liking images and periodically stalking Facebook pages.

But in that mess of people, some stand out as being truly there for you. They show that they care, not just by acknowledging that you put up a picture of your cat, but by deeply caring about you and the situations you find yourself in during your life.

I was hurting when I wrote my post. I still am. The wounds are fresh and I imagine they will feel this way for some time, perhaps until the situation is resolved, whenever that may be.

The caring people in my life understand this. Some didn’t like what I wrote or didn’t feel I was approaching the situation the right way. And that, of course, is fine. They reached out to me privately. Or they explained to me their issues in a gentle and friendly manner, while simultaneously acknowledging my pain.

They’re friends. True friends. I want them in my life, and you should want people like that in your life as well.

Friends… the Other Kind


But others were obnoxious. They were demeaning. They were self-righteous and maybe even a little cruel in the way they approached me.

I don’t run from conflict, and I don’t plan to start today. But sometimes it’s nice to put a magnifying glass on the people around you, so you can see who are the precious ones and who are the unsavory ones. And you can learn to cling to the former and keep the latter at arm’s length.

Life’s too short to keep people around who don’t recognize nuance. Who don’t see suffering when it’s right in front of them. Who have no instinct for when it’s appropriate to use kind and gentle words.

May we all find ways to clarify who are the people in our lives we want around, and who should stay permanently relegated to the backseat.

Sometimes it's nice to put a magnifying glass on the people around you, so you can see who are the precious ones and who are the unsavory ones. Click To Tweet

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