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Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Paradise... Betrayed?
...Yesterday I spoke about true friendships and the happy side of things (If you're joining us late, please read Part 1). Today I talk about the dark side - when honesty comes into play and someone doesn't want to hear something serious, when they want to stay in their own little world, when they feel they have been betrayed.

Please note: This is a conglomeration of situations I've observed over time (past and current, now and then, forever and on). There's nothing specific that's happening in my life at the moment where a friendship is going south (that I'm aware of) that is feeding this. Remember also, this is all my own opinion and y'all could have other situations than what I offer here.

Betrayal of friendship is an interesting mistress. Some people can ignore it and move on. Others decide it's worthy of revenge. And still others let it pick at them, live with them, and be the focus of their lives. Betrayal comes in different forms too.

Remember yesterday when I mentioned the dark side of friendship? That has to do with serious honesty being shared between friends, and how sometimes you need to be blunt (or are terribly blunt because you let your mouth run because your head wasn't in gear) even when the other person doesn't want to hear it. Sometimes that honesty, that reality check, is too much for the other person to handle.

Some people don't take honesty well (blunt or otherwise), especially when it's something that they don't want to hear. You could take it one of two ways when you're on the receiving end - think about what they said and be grateful that they told you, and that you have this supportive individual (or several) to help you through the hard times. Or as you think about what they said you could see it as a sign of betrayal, and when one perceives that they have been betrayed by friends, things can get... nasty, depressing. This is where things get interesting (in a strange sad sort of way, instead of an "oh wow" sort of way).

Imagine having a perfect life - everything is going your way, you have a great marriage, wonderful friends, a healthy bank account. Then one day one of your friends says that they have something to say to you. Something serious. No matter how it's tempered the receiving end might not be too happy to hear it, whatever it is.

And so you brace yourself, but you know that whatever it is, it can't be that bad because it's coming from your closest friend. Your friend says that one of your employees has been embezzling from you and your business is going to be in trouble. They come with no proof other than their words. It's a loyal employee, someone you'd trust with your life, your children, your business. You don't want to believe it and you get mad, but you get mad at your friend. Because it's not something you want to hear, yet they felt you had to know out of concern for you.

It could be any piece of news, honestly. What if they told you one of your other friends was stabbing you in the back every chance they got? Or that they told you that your husband is having an affair with someone he works with? Or they give you some sort of reality check that's been long in coming, and you're not ready for it, either because you don't want whatever-it-is to be true, or you're not ready to handle it in your reality. You don't want to believe whatever it is they have to say - it's not what you want to hear in the reality that you've carved out for yourself. And yet, while it's the truth, suppose you let it irrevocably damage your friendship. I won't say that you weren't a true friend, or that they weren't. I'd say that you had a unrealistic expectation of the relationship.

People sometimes expect that their friends will always love them, and never criticize them. This is partly true. Sometimes you have to counsel a friend about their behavior - whether it's a new behavior or something that's been part of their personality for years - and they may not take to it well. You might tell them that they're too abrasive, or that they need to think before they speak because the things they say hurt other people, no matter how unintentional it might be. It's interesting to note that people will often take advice from someone like Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura, or some self-help book and not have a problem with it because they recognize that they have a problem. When they hear that advice from a friend, they feel attacked or let down or criticized. Honest criticism, delivered in a neutral way, is just that - it's designed to help you be better. But when you're unwilling to see the other side and only want things your way, then all criticism is an attack.

Suppose you made a decision that wasn't too bright, or involves something that's been going on for a long time or something that you've been against for some time and now have done a 180 on. Your friends are going to tell you that it's not a wise course of action, or maybe they'll ask you if you've finally lost it. That's not going to sound too supportive to you. You wanted everything to continue going your way. You wanted a "well, I don't agree, but I'll support you no matter what." Anything that your friends said that was in disagreement with what you had to say comes across as a denial of support for you, especially if you're already in a fragile state of mind/ego/self. They're not in your corner anymore, and therefore they must not love you as much as you think they did. You feel betrayed.

Some people just drift away and let that betrayal affect them. Others want to save face and put on a happy face and say that everything is just fine and that the friend was clearly mistaken/wrong/smokin' crack/etc. And yet, all your friend wanted to do was offer some advice, give you the honest opinion you asked for, let you know that they were concerned about your welfare. Maybe they gave you that advice because of concerns you had voiced in the past, convictions you stood behind, swore on, and then you did a 180 and changed your mind completely - and they expressed concern because the 180 was so swift, and so contrary to what you had believed or discussed or acted upon for so long. As if you're compromising your principles and beliefs - and they question that, but what you want is support. Unquestioning support, unconditional love, and assurance that you're doing the right thing.

But you don't get that. You get questions, you get concern, you don't get assurance but skepticism instead. And you feel betrayed and abandoned - not because they left you, but because you left them because you didn't want to hear the truth, you didn't want to deal with their opinions because either you're trapped into something, or you've made a decision and are going to stubbornly stick by it. You feel attacked, as if your own family turned on you.

Betrayal, as I said before, is an interesting mistress. She may cause you to withdraw and not speak to anyone for awhile (oh yes, betrayal enlists her buddy abandonment to help out from time to time). She may seduce you into vowing revenge against anyone around you; revenge taking the form of either living a great life, or something that's mean and spiteful. Betrayal can move people to do things that are terribly out of character.

But you continue to live in your own universe, blind to what's going on around you. Blind to the situation that you want to deny, or the hurtful comments you make, or the honest opinion that you really could glean honest advice from. You position everything as if it's everyone's fault but your own even though it is *your* fault the friendship fell apart. You don't want to admit you're wrong. You don't want to admit they're right. Or maybe it's not that anyone is right or wrong - but you don't want to recognize the other side has a valid point. You don't want to admit that you feel betrayed lest you come off as a ranting psycho when you do let it out in tears and screams. You certainly aren't in a frame of mind to discuss it rationally face to face. You don't want to admit that you exaggerated the original situation in order to get some sympathy or attention - no one ever wants to admit that because people will tell you that you need some counseling for such things. And that's an ego blow on top of the destroyed friendship that you can't take.

On the 'net it's really easy to convey a feeling of betrayal, to blame someone else for things. It's easy for betrayal to sink her teeth into you and compel you to write things and hit that post button or send button and never look back. It's easy to say things about people in a fit of anger that maybe you don't mean, or to say things that aren't true because you're venting in a fit of anger and sadness. Or to say something that you firmly believe, even without proof, because you're hell-bent on not seeing the other side of the story and admitting you have failings (after all, it's better to feel like a victim or a target than admit you might need a personality change, right)? Either way, it gets picked up and spread around quickly. Maybe it gets back to the people that you're talking about and they get just as angry wondering why they wasted their time and love on you when this is the way you treat them. All they did was love and care for you, and told you something that you didn't want to hear, told you something to try and help you, and you just slap them in the face.

There are lessons to be learned from any and all of this...

...tune in tomorrow for what I think they are and, yes, the final part