Relationships can be so challenging. Obviously—I know. But the reality of that has been hitting close to home recently. One of my very best friends and I have had a really difficult season of friendship. I know so often we talk about romantic relationships and parent/child relationships, but for many of us, our friends become our family. We move away from home and attach to our new circle, so when a fracture happens to that relationship—a friendship you could never have imagined being so strained—you feel it. For me, it feels like fear—fear that I’ll lose the friendship, fear that we can’t repair the damage, and fear we’ll never be the same.
To me, just as with my family, friends aren’t expendable. And for me, as long as you’ll have me, I’ll be your friend forever. I wish I could promise to be a great friend, but I can’t. What I can promise is that I’ll always try. I’ll own my stuff and communicate what I’m struggling with (not always eloquently or calmly :/), and fight for repair. Because more than anything I want to make peace.
I was hiking recently and I heard a woman say to her friend, “If someone’s trying to make peace with you—you make peace.” I loved that because I couldn’t agree more. If someone wrongs you, and comes to make peace—make peace. Because it’s the repair that holds us together. I HATE the whole “cut toxic people out of your life” trend because I really think it’s people having hurt feelings and holding grudges…I’m getting off track.
Going back to what this woman said, “If someone’s trying to make peace with you—you make peace.” What if that’s all you want, but it doesn’t seem to be working?
It happened again. Everything was fine and within seconds we were yelling at each other. She felt attacked, got defensive, and attacked back, which is when I lost it. She said she was sorry. I continued to yell. She said it again. I wasn’t done. She said, “I don’t know what you want from me. I’ve already said I’m sorry!”
Have you ever gone off the deep end, yet you can still hear your rational mind trying to get your attention? Mine was very calmly saying, “She did. Why are you still yelling?”
Well, my dear, sweet, rational brain, because I was mad as HELL.
More often than not, the underlying emotion is fear for me. It’s mixed with sadness and rejection. This time it was rage. I haven’t been that angry in a long time. My fist tightened around my keys, I nearly threw them, and I’m 90% sure an insane sound came out of my mouth that grown adults who work in mental health should never make. (#welp)
She and I were able to talk it out and were even able to laugh at ourselves in the midst of it all (see, we’re healthy!). She was able to say, “I don’t know why I’m so quick to assume I’m being attacked”. To which I replied, “Because you’ve been attacked”.
I walked away from the conversation really thinking about the problem with “I’m sorry.”
If I punch you in the face and break your nose, and then say, “I’m sorry.” Your nose doesn’t magically unbreak. Those two words don’t have magical powers. The fact is, the damage has been done. My friend is prone to defensiveness because she’s been attacked…by me. I kept yelling after she said “I’m sorry” because the bleeding hadn’t stopped yet. We’ve both had broken noses. We’ve both taken hits. I’m every bit as guilty. The damage has been done and we can’t undo that. As much as we both want to make peace with all our hearts, we’re walking around in body casts, scared of the next blow. It takes time to heal and it takes time to feel safe with someone again. And in order to feel safe, we need to stop giving ourselves the opportunity to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s hard to heal when there are still blows coming our way.
My other take away was this: my emotion is my responsibility. After we resolved everything, I went home being very intentional about not letting myself get angry again, but it was hard. I could recognize there was nothing else she could do, which meant it was on me to deal with my emotion. I think this is what it means when people say “love keeps no record of wrongs”. I can’t hold something against her, especially when she’s made attempts to mend. The rest is up to me.
I’m pretty lucky, though. I can be confident in the heart of my friend. Her heart is good. I know that. She doesn’t blame me for everything. And she’ll keep fighting for peace—there’s nothing I could be more certain of. I’m lucky to have people in my life who can navigate the rocky waters of relationships. So many want peace, but they’re fighting the battle on their own. That can be a lonely and angry place to live.
Stop giving yourself a reason to say, “I’m sorry.”
Don’t keep a record of wrongs.
If someone’s trying to make peace with you—make peace.
Peace isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
*The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).