I’ve had a lot of those “friends”, you know the kind: they text you in the middle of the night, saying they have a problem. They spend hours on end talking to you about their problems, and for once in your life, you feel you have a purpose: to be there for people. You console them with your comforting words, you tell them it’ll all be alright, and you even do them the hugest favor: you believe it.
Then, only after you’ve spent an entire night talking to them, you do something utterly fatal, stupid, ugly. It’s a rookie mistake, but you keep falling for it, and it just kills you every time, like a stab in the back. If you still haven’t guessed, the mistake is: you assume that you’re now friends, or that, in the least, you share some kind of bond, some kind of psychological, maybe even spiritual tie.
Later, you pass them by in the hallway, at work, or maybe even cross them in the supermarket. You come to them with this indescribable joy of a soul that’s finally found a friend. You start off with a “Hi!”, “Hello!”, or, even worse, “Hey buddy!”. You expect that to be returned with a shower of conversation, some small talk, or, and when you’re expecting the least: one of those classic big ‘ole genuine friend-to-friend smiles.
But no, much to your shock, the result is a hygienic, almost forced “Hey”, or even worse, a nod, just a nod from the person you thought had suddenly turned into your best friend! No conversation, no small talk, not even one of those reassuring smiles, just their back to look at as they walk straight past you like they just crossed another office janitor.
After such tremendous disappointment, you’re often left with yourself wondering, “did I say something wrong?”, “were they just having a bad day?”, “do they suddenly hate me?!”, or even “was that conversation on the phone really that crappy!?”.
Speaking from personal experience, it gets worse. Next time they have a problem, they’ll call you again, you’ll give them the same kind of profound support; they know you’ll quickly forgive them for being so cynical with you last time, after all, you’re too good a person not to. You fall back into the same bear trap, because the next day, they’re even colder with you. And after a few weeks, when they’ve had no problems so urgent that they should call their personal therapist (that’s you) about, that cold shoulder, it just keeps getting colder and colder.
Occasionally, you try to reconnect, and all you get is a “Not now, I’m busy!”, said in tones ranging from calm to unforgivably abrupt.
I guess I’ve been on this roller-coaster so many times I can almost manage to answer this kind of routine confusion. The truth is, as cliché as it sounds: “It’s not you, it’s them.”
You see, what you hadn’t thought about was the possibility that to them, when their lives are going perfect, you’re not so much a life-saver as you are in fact simply nothing more or less than a box of insecurities. You’re not that awesome friend who saved them from their insecurities, no, you are their insecurities.
In some cases, the reason is indignation. They think you know too much (I thought that sounded sci-fi too). They feel like they’ve opened up to a complete stranger, and it almost stings them to see you pass by and have to feel like you can see right through them. So I guess they either feel so insecure around you that they have no way out but to reject you or ignore you, or they might just be attempting to set the record straight that they’re, after all, *not an insecure mess.
Back to that, you’re a constant reminder of their problems, sorry to say this but in most cases, you’re technically comfort food: those seven pints of ice cream sure look good to them when they’re depressed, but not when they’re just going about their daily routine. The next day, when they’re feeling better, they’ll cross that ice cream corner in the supermarket thinking “Ha! I don’t have to buy this soft, cool and fattening ice cream anymore! No Thanks! I feel better!”
So congrats! Now you know how seven pints of ice cream feel! One day you’re digging into them from dawn till the late midnight hours, the other you’re dismissing them as too calorie-saturated to consume.
However, it must be stated that a truly genuine personality does not refrain from helping others for the mere cause of being unappreciated. On the contrary, I believe a stubborn willingness to help those who do not value our help is part of what distinguishes good souls from the multitude. As a matter of fact, a few lines commonly perpetuated among Catholics say:
“Oh Father grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console.”
-from the Prayer of Saint Francis
And I believe they speak to good people of all faiths.
(Photo credit: Bert Kaufmann / Foter / CC BY)
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