Dear Frustrated Friend,
UUUUGGGHHHH! I can hear it in you already. Your friend just shared something with you and all the alarm bells are going off in your head. They have either told you about something you have already warned them not to do or they are making the same mistakes anew. It’s incredibly frustrating.
You are allowed to be frustrated.
I almost feel like creating a secret space for you to let it all out. A place where you don’t feel as though you are betraying your friend. Maybe you could call me up anonymously, vent to me and I’d nod my head and say “Yep, they are crazy” and then we’d hang up and you’ll feel better. 🙂
It’s so hard when you see friends making bad decisions, because you want to be there for them and let them know that they are making a huge mistake. What is a friend to do in those moments? Let’s look at the options.
Two options: Say something or say nothing.
Both of these options have positives and negatives and your preference will mostly depend on how you view your role and responsibility in friendships. Some of you will always say something, while others will always keep silent; whatever you chose is fine with me.
I find for my own personal sanity, my preference is to lead people through questions which challenge their thinking or motivations rather than pointing out obvious blunders. I’ve always felt that if people find the answers themselves, they are more likely to take it onboard. Honestly, no-one really likes to be told what to do. I’m probably more gentle than I should be at times, but that’s how I function best. I have tried it other ways and it usually didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.
No matter the style we adopt, we should always remember that whatever our friends go through, their decision to listen to us is not about us. We can’t control and never should control others – even if it would be easier at times. 🙂 I’m joking… I am not responsible for other people’s choices and I refuse to be. I have carried the imagined burden of responsibility and I ended up with heart palpitations, so I stay far away from that one now.
Regardless of what happens, remember that now is the time when you will demonstrate exactly what love looks like. You can love someone and disagree with their choices. You can also love someone and place a boundary around what you are willing to discuss with them. So how do you love them well and keep your own sanity?
Two Options: Stay close or love from afar
Let’s pretend you (or others) have spoken to your friend and they didn’t listen and it’s so very frustrating. Why do they keep you around if they don’t value what you say? It might actually hurt too much to see them blindly or willingly walk into a bad decision.
You can choose to keep the door open, keep the communication flowing so that if and when they fall, they know you are a safe place. This will take time, patience and a loose grip. You won’t be the one to say “I told you so”. If you get the urge, just call that frustrated friend line I mentioned before and tell it to me 😉 I’d nod and say “Yep, you were right”. I will then encourage you to hold onto you empathy and know your limitations.
As upbeat as the song above is, there can be certain friendships which push you beyond your limits. May I suggest, if you can no longer stand it anymore, that you can actually love someone from afar. You don’t have to stay up-close to witness the mess of their life. It doesn’t mean you have stopped loving them, it’s ok to step back… it really is. You may need to start the slow pull back because it’s too hard to watch as they blindly walk into more seemingly obvious pain. It is totally fine to step back and it can be very wise.
Sometimes to love a friend and look after yourself you need to stay, and sometimes you need to leave.
At the end of the day I know that your heart is good and you want the best for your friend (seriously, you are reading about friendship). Hold onto your love no matter what you do. Hit me up for an imaginary phone call and I’ll validate all your frustrations while you navigate the best way forward in your friendships. Trust your instincts on how to move forward. You’ve got this.
Love Jess xxoo