Recently, I came across this article written for the Huffington Post five years ago about a broken friendship. It was one of my first pieces for Huffington Post and it wasn’t one of my best, but somehow it spread like wildfire. Thousands read it; hundreds commented. I hit a nerve. Female friendships are land mines. So many of us have been blown up by one friend or another that it is hard to maneuver one’s way around it.
After rereading it, I realized I could have done a better job emotionally. I told the story with the war wound of being abandoned, a sting that wasn’t fair to her or me. I was new to the world of 750-word writing and I went full throttle on the ‘I am hurt’ meter, not understanding the power of my own message. Looking back, I wish I had written it through a more compassionate lens. I was young and inexperienced when I wrote this piece. Even though I struck a cord with thousands of readers who liked and commented on my writing, it would take me the next decade, and a few more friendships lost, to understand that it’s really OK when someone you invest in decides to walk away.
There is a great book called The Four Agreements written by teacher and healer don Miguel Ruiz. In it, the author cites four pillars that we all should live by: be impeccable with your word; don’t take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; and always do your best. Without this code, we can be robbed of joy and create needless suffering for ourselves, he says. Wow. When it comes to friendships, this little book is a game changer.
Recently, two women I have known for a long time were angry and did something hurtful. It was confusing because the anger came out of nowhere. In the past, I would have considered blasting out a text or email, or writing a very different article. This time, however, I took a breath and thought about what don Miguel Ruiz said. I didn’t take it personally and I didn’t assume it had anything to do with me. I had done my best by offering them an invitation to dine at my home. The joy of knowing that I was true to my word and followed this code of sorts helped me take a moment to reflect and not do any more damage to myself or to others.
I ran into an acquaintance at a party a week after the incident happened. Since friendship was on my mind, we talked about some of our past experiences with women being less than kind, shattered relationships and lessons we had learned. She enlightened me with something she tells her own children when relationships get rocky: “At the end of the day, if someone is being mean or says something that hurts your feelings, tell them they you will pray for them. You have to remember that happy people are kind. If someone is mean, maybe they don’t feel well, maybe they are sad on the inside or maybe they uncomfortable. Always give them the benefit of doubt and pray they become more comfortable with themselves, their environment and ultimately choose to be kind.”
I woke up the next day with these words in my head. Compassion, in its purest form, is stamped all over what this woman tells her children. It will give them a better leg up when friendships go awry. Imagine if I had this advice five years ago, when when I wrote my Huffington Post piece? Imagine if I had read the Four Agreements then? Would it have had a different outcome? Would she and I have had better closure on our relationship? Would we still be friends?
Now as I think about the two women, and this person – all of who were such good friends to me at different times of my life, I think of them with great compassion. I think of our relationships as helpful building blocks to put me in a position to know what I want out of my own friendships and how to give the best of myself. I am human and I still mess up despite knowing more about what a quality friendship looks like. However, I keep trying to get it right. Not all people were meant to be in my life forever, and that is OK. I’ll always have a bit of regret for writing the first article the way I did. I just hope that sharing this one I can give others a way to find compassion when future friendships go awry.
Mimi L. Golub is the Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Living the Second Act, an online magazine for women in their 40s and 50s who are seeking the truth. Mimi has written for numerous publications including The Huffington Post. She is the author of the someday-to-be-published novel, Boxed In. Mimi is also the writer and a staff editor of From Our Kitchens, a nonprofit cookbook that was released in 2018. In her spare time, Mimi loves to workout, drink tequila, and volunteer with many local causes. She lives in Newton, MA, with her husband and has twin girls who have left the nest. You can find her former work on: tequilainbed.com
Follow Mimi on Twitter @mimigolub