One of the most emotionally daunting experiences for me over the past few months has been losing people who were once my friends. This is particularly so because for someone like me who is extremely slow to make friends, losing the few that I have can be quite heart-breaking.
Why did I dissolve those friendships? Simply put, they weren’t able to confront me and call out my missteps when I made terrible mistakes; they simply kept mute, overlooked it, or gave me the silent treatment.
You see, I am a very flawed human. Too flawed, almost. But I am also very passionate about personal growth and learning from mistakes. Living at the epicentre of this dichotomy can sometimes make me seem like a hypocrite. Especially when you juxtapose my actions with the beliefs and values I supposedly uphold. But, for what it’s worth, I believe that there is more potential for learning in our failures than in our successes. My friends know this; or are supposed to, at least.
For me, this year so far has been a patchwork of meritorious successes and disastrous mistakes. I have achieved things I never imagined and I have also made some terrible decisions that I will forever live to regret. In my successes, my friends have always been there to cheer me on, support me, and push me to consistently outdo myself and aim for even greater heights. But in those moments when I crumbled and exposed flaws in my character, not all of my friends stuck around to counsel me.
Some of them simply cut me off because they were either too disappointed or too sanctimonious to be associated with such. In those early stages, parts of me kept yearning to reach out to them to apologise and try to mend things. But after much thought, I stopped myself.
I came to the understanding that it is in those moments when we make unforgivable mistakes, experience terrible losses, make catastrophic judgements that we find out who our real friends are. In those moments, a true friend will sit you down and scold you, counsel you, yell at you, or slap some sense into you if they must. Why? Because they are personally invested in your development as an individual and, in other cases, as a professional.
They stick with you through these rough times and rebuild you from the ashes of your many errors. Why? Because they believe you can do better; they know you can do better! These people will do whatever they can to make you a better version of you.
True, your friends reflect you and, as a result, you would want them to possess traits that sit well with you. But if one of them begins to show traits that you do not want to be associated with, don’t walk out on them immediately. Talk to them, show them the light, get them to improve. If they resist, only then do you have the justification to let them go.
In the end, the yearning to reach out to those friends who chose to walk out of my life ceased. I let them go. If they could walk out on me when I fell and needed them the most, sooner or later when I make even worse mistakes (hopefully not) as a result of my naturally flawed humanity, they would most likely still walk out on me. If they couldn’t have those difficult conversations with me when I went astray, then there was no point in sustaining a friendship where we are unable to reprimand one another when we err.
As someone who is passionate about building my friends from their successes, struggles, and failures, it is very important that I also be surrounded by people who are equally passionate about building me.
Maybe I shouldn’t have let those friends walk out. Maybe I should have pursued them. Maybe I was also a bad friend since I couldn’t sit them down and have a conversation about how I felt as a result of their response to my mistakes. Instead, I simply decided to write a posthumous article about the entire experience — which they are probably reading now.
I guess that explains why I am no longer in their circle of friends and they are no longer in mine.
I am, clearly, also not perfect.