You have a falling out with a friend. What do you do next?
(1A) Replay in your mind the many times over the years that she had opportunities to be a better friend and did not take them? The questions never asked about you and your own life, the “innocent” jokes too often made at your expense, the cutting little remarks that seemed to come out of the blue, criticism that reached you about people you love, the sense always that you were being closely observed and judged and found lacking in some large or small way.
(1B) Or do you feel gratitude for the times you did manage to be good friends to each other? The way she kept stopping by or calling when she was worried about you. The way he sought you out, because you were the one he wanted to talk to. The certainty you always felt that your words meant something to her, that she needed your friendship and depended on the constancy of your support and affection. How much you enjoyed his company and companionship.
And if you choose 1B, are you …
(2A) doing the right thing? Because, after all, to keep a wound open is simply to keep injuring oneself. More than that, we all must confront this aspect of what it is to be a human being: though we can be quite expert at seeing and sizing up the world around us, we struggle to see ourselves clearly and as others see us. So, if we’re unhappy in our jobs, is it really just our supervisors or work conditions that are the problem? If our students are not excelling, is it really that their parents failed them, that their entire generation is simply (fill in this blank for yourselves)? If a friendship appears to reach an impasse, is it really the case that you share no responsibility for that? So, yes, maybe the only truly honest and right position is the one that the father takes in that well-known Biblical parable of the prodigal son:
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
(2B) or are you letting yourself down somehow? Because let’s face it: not everything in this world of ours is equal. There are kind and not-so-kind people, aren’t there? Those who see the Right Thing and do it almost instinctively; those innocents who wouldn’t recognize the Right Thing if it walked up and slapped them in the face; and finally those who know very well what the Right Thing is and do whatever the hell they want anyway. Often with a wave of the middle finger, just to make sure the rest of us know that they know they are choosing to be a&%holes. And so when your mom or dad told you that there would be times when you’d need to stick up for yourself, they weren’t wrong. At stake is not just your own integrity or dignity (though I would happily welcome these old-fashioned words back into common parlance), but something broader than that: the social norms that offer guidance on how we are to share this planet with a modicum of mutual respect, restraint in the face of the needs of others, cooperation, goodwill, etc.
And if you choose 2A (maybe just because you suffer from terminal nice gal- or guyness) …
(3A) can you move on without bitterness or regret, remembering maybe what Miss Maudie tells Jem in To Kill A Mockingbird about his father Atticus, “I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us”? In other words, it can be unpleasant to forgive and forget (especially if you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve already done a LOT of that), but hey, somebody’s gotta do it (so stop waiting for someone else to come to the same inevitable conclusion).
(3B) or will you lie awake at night, tossing and turning, unable to sleep?
And if you “choose” 3B …
(4A) would Ambien help?
(4B) or do you think you could give 3A another try, since, after all, there may come a day (there has already come a day?) when you are not the father in the story but yourself the