There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself. – James Lee Burke
I have a keen remembrance of the first thorough friend-dumping I experienced. I’d been close with my friend “Sally” since our early grade-school years. Our freshman year of college she handed me a lesson in rejection like a nothing I’d felt before.
I confronted Sally because I thought she was hurting herself (being purposefully vague here). Her response, after the emotional three-hour dorm room rollercoaster ride, was complete termination of our relationship. To the extent, that when I did finally see her again, she shook my hand. Yeah…shook my hand—like we were strangers. As our respective parties converged to say hello in the corner of a dingy college bar, she extended a hand and I robotically took it.
She might as well have round-housed me in the guts.
Despite efforts on my part, the relationship was never reconciled.
Relationships are tricky things. Aren’t they?
Any one person can only know what he or she knows. I realize that’s an incredibly philosophical sentence. My point is simple; we only know our own experience. Even if someone tries to communicate their point of view…it’s distorted by our own lens.
No one really knows what goes on in any one else’s relationships—a point I try to remember when I judge relationships I’m not in. Hell, much of the time I can’t explain what is going on in my own head, let alone have the omnipotence to understand what is going on in someone else’s mind.
I don’t know why Sally dumped me—why our relationship didn’t survive, or why my concern and communication was seen as unacceptable to the point of ending our friendship. But I do know several other important things thanks to that soul-crushing dumping…and the others I’ve experienced since.
- There is an ebb and flow to relationships. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1. My Bible reading friends may recognize that last quote…or if you listen to the Byrds. Either way, the words apply here. Some relationships are meant to last a lifetime, others decades, and others still, maybe mere months or weeks. Some relationships will survive time, distance, turmoil, and tragedy, pick up where they left off, and live up to the highest of expectations…and many will not. While in ending there may be pain, the existence—however brief, has value.
- No one is innocent when it comes to relationships. EVERY. DAMN. PERSON. makes mistakes…hurtful, arrogant, ignorant, selfish, self-serving, manipulative, obtuse, assuming, ungrateful…mistakes. Intentional or unintentional, mistakes will be made by all parties. Responsibility can be a wickedly jagged pill to swallow. Alas, it is one I must learn to gulp down if I want to create meaningful connections with those I love, care for, and wish to spend time with. Though I don’t feel I totally understand the “break-up” with Sally, I don’t have to. I can accept it, try to learn from it, and take responsibility for my part—the good and the bad, for I’m surely responsible for both. And that’s something…something valuable and meaningful.
- Sometimes I have to step outside myself and remember…it isn’t always about YOU. In fact, it’s rarely about YOU. People have crazy, busy, ever changing, complicated lives. Extend grace. Give the benefit of the doubt. It’s a distinct possibility Sally was going through something so difficult she couldn’t handle the stress of also dealing with my confrontation and the complications that would come of trying to address my conserns. Maybe she was drowning…and the lifeline I thought I was throwing, was to her, a weighted vest, which would only take her down faster. It’s uncomfortable to accept my version of concerned friend was perceived as a burden…but it’s a valuable lesson.
- I need to be my own bestie first. Perfection is a myth, but attempting to be the best, most honest version of myself is absolutely a possibility. And it’s most definitely something to strive for. If I can be honest, supportive, positive, fun, encouraging, loyal, steadfast, adventurous, helpful, understanding, compassionate, loving, and all the other characteristics I value in my friendships, first to myself, I will be that much better at offering them to others. Conversely, if I’m a shitty friend to me, you can bet I’m going to be a crap friend to anyone and everyone else too. Easier said than done. Truly being your own BFF means intensely honest self-assessment and continual effort, which most certainly is not easy. But worthwhile? Hells to the yes.
In the end, rejection, however doled out, dished up, or delivered…hurts. And honestly, I believe there is nothing wrong with wallowing for a little bit. After all, it’s there—in the yucky, tender, feelers-on-fire, painful part, that we often gain new perspective. And if it didn’t hurt, than it probably never really held value in the first place.
No, rejection isn’t easy. And relationships are complicated. But I’ll take the hard knocks every time if it means there was something real at the heart of it all. And if I learned something along the way too, well then, I can’t say it wasn’t worth it.