Resisting the Impulse To Do Harm

And knowing when to cut a “friend” loose

Rivka Wolf
Fourth Wave


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I spent five months thinking my former housemate and I were friends and she actually liked me. The entire time, she was playing the role she needed to play to keep her place in my house.

As someone who has been homeless in the past, who understands the feeling of desperation and shame that comes with that threat, I have a lot of sympathy for this perspective. However, I am also aware of how much a person can be harmed when someone else pretends to desire intimacy and connection for their own personal gain.

There was a time when I was that person, pretending to like my housemates, pretending to care what happened in their lives. There have been multiple times when I expressed care and concern for somebody who I did not actually want to be around, simply because I needed access to the resources they could provide. As someone with multiple marginalized identities, someone who has indeed faced existential threats in my life, I have often been able to justify these actions to myself.

When your survival is at stake, you are willing to do just about anything to stay alive. Caring about your values and ethics seems like something to be done some other time, when life stabilizes, when things get easier.