Welcome to this installment in the series REAL AND RAW – SOUL-STIRRING STORIES, a series focused on taking a candid look at life’s struggles as we journey to heaven. Being Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t suffer–in fact, Jesus promises we’re likely to suffer even more for being His disciple. But Catholics often feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in their relationship with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too. We offer these stories to let our suffering readers know they’re not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, who loves us and has a divine purpose for pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories give hope to readers…hope that there is help and that they will survive. And one day, they will make it out of the darkness and be stronger for it.
Friendships. Growing up, I heard the phrase ‘friends are like elevators – they’ll take you up or they’ll take you down’. My takeaway was “pick your friends wisely.”
But what do you do when a friendship seemingly takes more and more away from your own vocation?
As kids and young adults, it’s a different ball game. Friends were our all, so giving hours upon hours to that friend in need seemed the right thing to do. Why not? I’d want the same thing done for me and often needed that extra ear.
As I got older, and my family grew, I realized that some friendships were not a two-way street, whereby friends both took and gave equally. They didn’t automatically launch into their own goings-on without any regard for me or my latest. And I get there are seasons in friendships when one friend may lean more or harder than the other due to circumstantial reasons.
In the end, the friendship balance is still there.
What happened to me was very eye opening. What I ultimately took away was I couldn’t fix others’ problems and the cost of that thinking had deeply and negatively affected the relationships within my own family.
So, for that realization, I am grateful. The cost of a friendship put into perspective the deficiencies of my own relationships and helped me reprioritize what was most important…family.
Even to this day, I grieve the loss of that friendship, but I also know that I feel like I can breathe again, knowing I don’t have to be involved in intense conversations where I feel this urge to help, knowing that the hours of listening and giving advice fall on deaf ears. I would often feel like “What are you willing to do about it?” knowing full well, based on past experience, the response would be nothing. I became the shoulder upon which to complain…and nothing more.
Having dealt with our own life’s blows, I was very sympathetic to the situations, as I often am with friends. But, I like to fix problems after a certain point. We should be granted a period of time to grieve, work through, or process problems, for sure. But…at some point, we have to muster up the resolve (through prayer or action) to make changes for the better. Even if they are small steps. Some progress is better than nothing, right? But…doing nothing? Constantly being embroiled and enmeshed in situations that can certainly be avoided and wanting an ear to listen for hours at a time at the cost of that friend’s own personal time with spouse and children? That’s not ok.
And if you happen to be the friend doing all the taking, I must insist that if this speaks to you, please do not view what I’m saying as a negative. What I am saying is that we should cultivate an awareness of how the time we take affects our friends’ lives.
That long conversation on the phone or multiple times to chat about problems? It may well be coming at the cost of the friend not being able to spend some much needed time with her own spouse or children.
Let’s dig deeper. Did this story resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts.
- What was my spiritual life like before the experience of loss?
- How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
- How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
- Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
- How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
- How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
- If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
- What would I say to someone else in this situation to give her hope?