When I volunteered with the Y, one of the program leaders once said, “People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I see a lot of truth in this statement, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with recognizing that different people add value to different parts of our lives. The issues arise not from these levels themselves, but when we don’t realize their existence and when we try to force a relationship to be something that it’s not.
I’ve thought a lot about people coming through my lives both for a brief moment and for a lifetime. For some reason, though, I never focused too much on the “season” category. Until today.
To be a bit dramatic, I feel like I was broken up with today.
Someone told me they could no longer be friends with me, and from my perspective, it came out of left field. Sure, I’ve had friendships fade. People move, life happens, and drifting is normal. The strands that once connected a friendship continue to fray until they eventually break apart. But I’ve never had anyone grab a pair of scissors and cut the string before. That’s a new experience.
It helps that I can see their side. I may not like it, but I can understand and respect their decision. Which then leads me to wonder, what role did I play in helping them to arrive at that choice? And from there, what can I do differently next time?
It’s a tough balance to try to figure out what happened because I was true to myself and where I do need to improve. I can think of things that I could have done differently in the friendship, but those wouldn’t have allowed me to be me as authentically as I was. If I had filtered myself more, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. But on the opposite side, had I done so, would the friendship have mattered as much?
These questions are also compounded by a deeper understanding of myself that I’ve gained over the past year or two. I’ve learned to better recognize when and why I create walls in relationships, and more importantly, how to make those walls shorter (knocking them down completely…well, that’s a whole other story). I don’t want to say that this experience makes me want to revert to those castle walls completely, because that’s not true. But whether intentionally or not, I caused someone else pain, frustration, hurt – insert whichever emotion that best fits here – and that’s not something that I can be proud of.
We can’t live our lives around other people. Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” We can’t make everyone else happy, nor should we try. We are each given both the responsibility and the opportunity to create our own happiness. But, at the same time, we are meant to serve those around us and care for them. And sometimes, the two are in conflict. To truly care for someone may mean to act in a way that we don’t want to. To do something that we’d rather not. So how’s a mere mortal to figure out when to do what?
I think it comes down to intention, yet again. When we are aware of both our intentions and the intentions of those around us, we can better understand what they do. We put action into context and create a more holistic picture. Once we have that, we can use it to inform our response and our continued action. But, intention without action means little. Often, it’s when we ignore that intention or act without meaning that paths get crossed and misunderstandings blossom.
I think back to this friendship. Was I true to myself? Yes. Was I aware of intentions? Yes.
Were actions aligned with said intentions?
I take some responsibility for the cutting of the string, as much as I may not want to admit it. I don’t quite know how to avoid this situation in the future, but at the very least, I can better see the path we travelled.
They say knowledge is power. I disagree. Knowledge is useless without comprehension. Understanding is power. Understanding ourselves, others, the world in which we live, and more. When we understand, we are able to learn. And at the end of the day, that’s how the growth happens. Painfully, slowly, and sometimes imperceptibly. But every tree began with a tiny seed and had to fight wind, water, and all of nature to become who it is today. And maybe, just maybe, we’re the same way.