April 09

Witnessing the Titanic

I have long struggled with what to do when I see someone I care about making a really bad decision. In one case it was a friend marrying someone who was abusive. In another case it was someone afraid to pursue a dream and never allowed herself to reach her potential. Sometimes it’s someone with an addiction who won’t face it or someone who stays in a bad marriage because she’s afraid to live on her own. An intern of ours many years ago refused to take the state-of-the-art medication for her degenerative condition. In one sense it seems arrogant to even make the judgement that it’s a “bad” decision but some decisions seem to have nothing but downside.

I don’t know my role. Is the “unconditional love” part of a friendship include standing by while someone you care about runs her life in the ditch? Or is a true friend one who speaks the truth, even though there’s a good likelihood that the friendship will suffer? I would want the truth, but I’m not in the majority I think. Then again, some things that appear to be choices aren’t. Not everyone sees the choices in their lives. But I have always appreciated the truth-tellers in my life. When I was a frustrated landscape architect working long hours with a dying mother-in-law it was a very dear friend who told me, “I think it’s time for you to start a business of your own. You can do this. It’s time.” I had never considered it until she said that. To me, the difference between a colleague or acquaintance and a friend is that a friend tells you the truth, even when it’s hard.