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.
I struggle with this, too, Weeks. It’s always been my opinion that true friends deserve truth, and the unconditional part of the love is that you continue to stay in their corner regardless once you’ve spoken out. Apparently, not everyone agrees! With some people, if you’re not “with” them, you’re against them. I’m now trying to at least keep my peace until asked for an opinion — not always successfully — but it’s very unsettling. Like somehow I’m supporting what I feel is a very poor decision rather than just being a supportive friend, if that makes sense. (Can you tell you struck a sore spot today?!)