Friendships come and go as we grow into adulthood, but if you’re lucky enough to have found at least one or two people who you can call a lifelong friend, then chances are you’ve already been through some big ups and downs with them over the years.
But what do you do when you find out that one of your closest friends (or even a family member) has done something so completely shocking and unspeakable, you can hardly even wrap your head around what they’ve just done?
I’m talking about something really unethical or immoral that totally takes you by surprise, but wasn’t targeted at you and only affects you indirectly — like, if your friend randomly called you and said, “hey, I’ve been stealing / lying /cheating / hurting someone /doing something illegal, and I need all the support I can get right now to try to fix this and get throug it.”
Do you freak out?
Do you try to offer them advice or tell them to get help?
Do you simply brush it off and try to ignore it?
Do you end the relationship, right then and there?
Even if your friend or family member never meant to directly hurt you by doing whatever they’ve confessed — whether it’s drug addiction, an affair, shoplifting, some form of abuse, an unwanted pregnancy or whatever else — it’s still normal to feel somewhat betrayed and hurt by what they’ve done.
As you may have guessed, something like this recently happened to me.
It was a big slap in the face, but I think I handled it well, and now I’m just figuring out what to do as I move forward with the matter.
I know that every situation and every relationship is different, and sometimes, things just don’t work out.
But coming from my own experience, with a friend who I’ve been through A LOT with, I feel like I have a thing or two to say about this kind of stuff.
So, here are few tips that may be useful if someone you really care about ever drops a huge bomb on you so unexpectedly.
Before you start getting super judgmental about the terrible predicament your friend has put himself/herself in, you need to become fully aware that you must seek to understand what they’re going through.
It’s called empathy.
The thing is, we’er all too quick to judge other people, and we usually do it right away without even realizing it.
I know I was a little judgemental when I first heard what happened in my situation with a friend, but at the same time, I made sure to recognize the fact that I have no way of knowing exactly what goes on in my friend’s own head.
I am not my friend, so I can’t possibly understand what goes through his head and triggered him to do what he did.
It’s so easy to think, “wow, I would never do that,” because only you know yourself best, but when it comes to somebody else, you can never know the exact reasoning and process their brain took to get them to where they are now — no matter how close you might think you are to that person.
This, I think, is the first step in avoiding negative judgment and freaking out too soon.
Try to get the full story, ask questions, and listen.
This is probably a really difficult thing to do for people who talk before they think (*cough* extroverts.)
I’m a naturally born problem solver and wildly intense introvert, so I’m always inclined to go searching for as many answers as I can get before can actually form a real opinion about something.
Ask questions — even the uncomfortably awkward ones.
If the other person refuses to answer something, then that’s their problem.
Which leads me to my next big point…
Offer to be there for them, but don’t feel obligated to solve all their problems for them.
When someone does something terrible, there’s never a more important time to reflect on who we all are as human beings and remember what we’re all trying to achieve in life: happiness.
From time to time, we all end up suffering in our own unique ways as we try to achieve our own definition of what it means to be happy.
People who develop serious alcohol addictions or have affairs or steal $5,000 from their disabled grandmothers aren’t necessarily “bad” people who are out to get us — they’re really just struggling to find their own sense of hapiness in life just like rest of us.
Remembering this subtle detail can help us cope better with the chaos and drama that we often get swept up in during these crazy times.
If you’re feeling confident enough to offer help or advice to that friend or family member who is struggling, then go for it — just be aware that you shouldn’t feel like you need to somehow be the bigger person by taking over that friend’s problems for them.
In a lot of cases, just being there and offering to lend an ear to listen to can be enough.
Be supportive of those who you care about the most.
Relationships are weird.
Sometimes they’re not worth it.
Other times, they really are.
I’ve let go of a lot of friendships in my life that eventually turned sour because of the stupidest situations, but that’s probably because I was a kid/teen who hadn’t developed a lot of longlasting friendships yet.
It wasn’t until I was about 19 or 20 when I discovered who my real friends were, and still are today.
Now we’ve all got adult problems — some more serious than others — but nobody jumps ship from the social circle when something gets totally out of hand.
We don’t judge, we ask each other questions, we all practice empathy, and we all offer to help out when needed.
I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I have such an amazing small group of close friends who are always supportive, even in the worst of times.
I’ve learned that friends do some really stupid things sometimes. (Oh, do they ever…)
But this is the real world, and even though we all have some pretty major flaws, I’ll stick by the people who mean the most to me, because that’s the kind of person I am and that’s the way I’ve chosen to behave in life.
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