I am, honestly, a pretty lousy friend. Not on purpose, I assure you; I’m just not good at it naturally. I didn’t get the socialization I needed when I was young, among other things, and so friendship is something I have to consciously think about doing right (vs. doing wrong).
I have made some pretty spectacular mistakes; but they were purely that, mistakes. I don’t use my shortcomings as excuses, just reasons, and I try to learn from the fuck ups I make. It is an effort that is sometimes successful.
One thing I’ve had to come to terms with, though, is that sometimes friendship isn’t about you. Sometimes people have their own issues they bring to the plate, and if you inadvertently trip one of those switches, then it doesn’t matter how long we’ve been friends or how hard I’ve tried to be a good friend, then they will write me off. It’s unfair. It’s also just human nature.
Recently, a friend I’ve known for a few years took something I wrote online, completely misread it, hurled accusations and hurt feelings at me, and then shut the door in my face rather than try to reconcile. To be clear: she destroyed our friendship based on something I DID NOT ACTUALLY DO. The end.
One friend was unable to deal with my periodic, depression-induced periods of social withdrawal and simply told me that I’m a horrible friend and she did not want anything to do with me. Which, to be fair, was not unreasonable of her. But her decision to write me off was more about her inability to handle being ignored, and less about the factors that put me into a deep, dark seclusion. In a better world, we would have met in the middle; but I wasn’t even given the chance to apologize or explain. The end.
Another friend, someone I’ve known since college and who was a stalwart support through my parents’ deaths, bizarrely and secretly decided that I was a double-agent, spying on her for her ex-husband and actively working against her. I made an expensive cross-country trip to visit her during her divorce, thinking she needed a friend nearby. She was distant with me, and I thought it was just due to stress, but no, turns out it was because she thought I was a traitor to her. Not long after that trip, she completely cut off all contact with me. The end. (Honestly I don’t really know why she came to believe this about me, as it was all completely untrue; I don’t want to think that she was mentally unstable, but I’m really left with no other explanations.)
True friends accept that people aren’t perfect, that they make mistakes and regret them and learn from them. I’m used to rocky waters and I do everything I can to try and fix what I did wrong, and my real friends understand that people can learn from mistakes.
False friends don’t care what you did, they decide your sin with or without your efforts (no lie, I don’t need the help! Jeeze). They don’t look at the whole weight of your friendship when they make their judgments, and they don’t stop to say, “Maybe I should ask if what I think is going on is true, or get the whole story.” They are comfortable writing off our friendship because, I suppose, their (mostly imagined) slights were more important.
I wonder if, for them, I was actually a person, or just a convenience or some kind of caricature. It hurts, but then I get back to the spiritual idea that everything happens for a reason. As a skeptic and atheist, I interpret this as “I chose…unwisely.”