Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Things seem to hum along swimmingly until that moment that you realize that you’ve crossed a line, offended someone you care about or joked about something that is actually deadly serious to your listener.

I never realize how on solid ground I am until the moment it is liquid underneath me. A few weeks ago I offered unwanted, unnecessary and inappropriate advice to a friend. The negative reaction was immediate and the opportunity to immediately apologize was not available. Actually, I’m sure had I jumped in right there with a “oh so sorry” it would not have been helpful. Stepping back and letting my friend cool down was the right thing to do. I have acknowledged that I was an over-opinionated jerk and things seem smoothed over. Some folks want to talk it out and tell you how wrong you were, this person seems to want to move on. I will respectfully take my queues from them.

I’ve shared other friendship missteps I’ve made. The infamous cancelled camping trip to Idaho is one where my actions were perceived as malicious and I was never really forgiven. Although, circumstances have rendered the situation moot. The person who was holding me responsible and moved me out of her friendship circle has tragically passed away. Her husband has accepted my friendly overtures, genuine encouragement and support without much reference to the previous situation. I told him that what had happened didn’t matter anymore. I think he appreciated my stance and thankfully we haven’t needed to discuss it. I was very hurt at being accused of something I did not do and then having everyone else involved be forgiven. I had to accept the situation because I had no choice, but the injustice of it still stinks. I have said before that if I could have it back the way it was with my friends wife mad at me, but home with him I’d do it in a heartbeat. That’s not the way it is. She felt like she was doing the best thing for her family and talking it out wasn’t ever going to happen. It stung a little to hear everyone at her service talk about her generous, forgiving spirit and know that I wasn’t worthy of that from her. Actually, I was moved out of the friendship circle and think I was promptly forgotten. Obviously the loss was not felt as deeply on their side as it was on mine. I don’t think she harbored lingering anger or blame toward me, but did not miss my friendship. What matters now is that I’m one more person who has fond memories of her and can remind my friend when it’s needed that he’s not alone. I think he finds it comforting to talk about her with people who knew her, I know I would. The injustice of what happened to our previous friendship will never be resolved. We are making a new path and that’s ok.

In situations where I feel like I’ve crossed the line my reaction tends to be consuming. I replay the interactions over and over and analyze what was said, how it could be resolved, whether that person will ever trust me again. Will I ever be able to relax and simply be me again, or will I need to be “contrite” girl forever? I don’t have the ability to maintain the contrite stance for long periods of time; my remorse and apologies are genuine, but at some point you can no longer be on pins and needles. I think if you can’t eventually return to being your relaxed self, then you have no business being “friends”. With my unwanted advice situation we may have reached the point where I need to relax and stop trying to prove my value, but since I still feel horridly about my comment the timing is hard.

I know I’m not alone in dwelling in that obsessive state after a misstep. Other friends have mentioned the inability to sleep while waiting for replies to phone calls or emails. I’m sorry that anyone finds themselves in that situation, but I’m thankful my reaction isn’t 100% unusual. Do men over analyze their interactions too or do they say “sorry man” and move on? Is it a girl thing?

I recently counseled a friend who had offered an apology to a third party and hasn’t had any closure that it is ok to let it sit for a while. If the friendship is meaningful to both sides a well timed lunch invitation will likely get things back on track. We 40+ year old working moms are damned busy these days and the friendship drama is certainly unwanted. The hard part is that these offenses are never intended and thus kind of hit whenever rather than when we have the time and energy to “make it right.” Asking for forgiveness is important, being a consistent friend while the other party ‘gets over it” is also important. After a while, you also have to forgive yourself. None of us are perfect and our humanness results in unfortunate interactions from time to time. We all need a little forgiveness.


Anonymous said...

I can't speak for your other friends, but I would be willing to accept the return of the $2000. No questions asked. No need for you to fret any more than you already have. Let's move on.

pnb_dave said...

Obviously I can't speak for all men, nor for any women, but based at least in part on my personal experience I think most men do acknowledge our stupid mistakes as screw-ups and move on, whereas many women do obsess or over-analyze, as you put it. As to the question of WHY we men are more forgiving of ourselves than women are of themselves? Maybe because we have no choice; we screw up more often and we have to learn to deal with it.

tp_gal said...

"Maybe because we have no choice; we screw up more often and we have to learn to deal with it."

I doubt that is true, I think "we girls" have more of a need to be likeable, and conflict with friends puts that in jeopardy.

The 'niceification' of girls starts very early in their lives. Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what girls are made of... so don't get pissed and speak your mind, it isn't pretty.

WOW - tangent.