Tuesday, May 13, 2008
So, did you come back to hear about the day I fired my friend? We'll call her Penelope. I had known Penelope for years, met her in school. This was one of those very few people that I did stay in touch with post graduation. Penelope was really the one who stayed in touch, I was as antisocial then as I am now. But she was energetic and talkative and her phone calls kept us connected. We stayed in the same area so we got married within a year of one another and became a "couples" friendship. Penelope and I talked daily. Spent lots of time together as two young moms with a lot in common.
One of the things we did not have in common was that I was in a painful marriage and as far as I knew, she was not. This made me that much more grateful for her presence in my life, someone who was MY friend. Someone who wanted to spend time with me.
The truth is, I was selfish where Penelope was concerned. Because I didn't particularly like her. I didn't particularly want to be best friends, I just didn't want to feel entirely alone in the world. I wanted something normal in my life, something that was pleasant and during the play dates with our children I could pretend that my life was fun and easy and healthy.
Penelope did some things in my life that in hindsight I suspect were intentionally hurtful. I have my theories for this but it isn't really important. I was using her and she was using me; each for our own agendas. Having been friends for so many years, she fit easily in with my family and other friends. She was in the end a part of every aspect of my life. It was about this time that the Lord healed my marriage and the veil dropped from my eyes about a lot of things. There was a lot of responsibility for me to take in the hurts I had endured. It was time to grow up and use some wisdom instead of blaming other people for my problems and then expecting other people to fix those problems. I slid into the driver's seat and it seemed that Penelope was not willing to give up control.
The subtle things that she did became more apparent. There was a time when I would occasionally wonder at her motivation or I would be irritated with her but blame myself for being unkind. The stronger and more self-assured I became though, the uglier things got with Penelope. She wasn't celebrating my new life.
Just before God touched us, I finally came out into the open with just a few trusted people about our problems. I was desperate for prayer and help and Penelope was one of the people who I invited to sit in my living room while I exposed my wounds and my marriage. She was, as I knew she would be, compassionate and gentle with me.
Then within a few days someone heard her telling everyone about my marital problems. About my deepest secrets.
Not long after, I noticed these people starting to look at me differently. There was an obvious dislike directed at me from people I barely knew. Eventually, it was an all-out assault on my reputation and character with Penelope smiling sweetly and claiming ignorance.
That was when I fired my friend. I was so angry I could barely speak and I let her know it. I was so embarrassed I didn't want to show my face. There was no one in my life that Penelope wasn't connected to and I wondered how deep her damage to me had gone. I didn't know what to do and I prayed that she would just move on. It didn't happen.
Through all of this she was still calling me every day and pretending that I had turned on her. Well, in truth I had. I was avoiding her in my anger but not doing it quietly. In a way, I added fuel to the flames of her stories of my flaws.
Finally during one of her regular phone calls, I fired her. I told her that she was no longer welcome in my life or in my home. I told her that the only option I could see to combat the rumors she was spreading was to completely withdraw from her and respond that I had nothing to do with her. She tried to debate me with me but I finally told her that the only way I could avoid hating her was to not be in a relationship with her. I still heard stories of Penelope's version of what happened and who I was. But it was such a relief to break that relationship that I scarcely cared. I was free.
Several years later, I ran into Penelope on day. We caught up politely on what had happened in our lives. Some bad things had happened to her and I was truly sorry. Some good things had happened and I was truly glad. She said we should get together for lunch. I declined. I told her it was just better to keep doing what worked, and the distance worked. I wished her well and hugged her good bye.
So I don't regret firing my friend. Sometimes, the other person is to blame. Sometimes, the other person isn't out for our best interest and God provides a way out when he knows there is no cure. We need to stop wrestling with toxic relationships and let God sort us out. Sometimes we need to hang in there and fulfill his purpose. Sometimes we need to apologize and change. Sometimes the other person will finally find grace in our patience.
And sometimes, God says, "Go."
Go be happy. We can do this knowing that even the ones we left behind, he continues to follow. Let him take it from here.