They Do Exist.

Confession: I Am A Terrible Friend

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Cassi Clerget. She blogs at clevernothings.wordpress.com and tweets at @cassiclerget! – Lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

Yesterday, my phone rang three times in the span of two minutes. I didn’t hear it since I had it on silent. But I’m an addict and check my phone every few minutes. So when I looked and saw that my best friend who abhors talking on the phone as much as I do called me three times and left a voicemail, I had to call her back.

Of course, I preface the whole conversation with, “This better be good.”

“I got bored,” she says. And that is why we’re friends.

We talked for about twenty minutes, which, for two women who’s relationship is primarily maintained through texts and the occasional Facebook post, is no small feat. We talked about coffee, her new teaching job, politics, the weather, and how I’m still single – –  until her boyfriend finally arrived to pick her up from Starbucks. In less than twenty minutes, we were up-to-date on each others lives, said our goodbyes, and probably won’t speak for another few months.

But the conversation left me feeling completely at peace. I felt happy. I meant enough to someone to warrant a phone call, and unless the call is from a collections agency, that is enough to leave me with a smile on my face.

Truth be told, I’m actually horrid at maintaining friendships.

Most of the time, I let the phone ring without the intention of returning the call. I ignore the texts, “don’t see” the Facebook posts, or am “too busy” to make plans. Most of the time, I’m quite frankly a terrible friend. Most of the time, I’m embarrassingly selfish and undeserving. Most of the time, I don’t pick up the phone to make the effort. And I’m the one who’s lost something because of it.

This morning, my sister came into my room and said I needed to drop her off at her friend’s house in a few minutes. I was reading and not all that excited to have to put on real clothes and venture out of the house. “Why?” I asked testily.

“Because she’s crying on the phone and I need to make sure she’s okay.”

Cue me feeling cold and heartless. I drove her over, and on the way asked why her friend was upset. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m going over to find out.”

I can remember the days when I would have done that.

I would have without hesitation jumped in my car, stopped by the store for tissues and a fashion magazine, and rushed to my friend’s side, demanding she get everything off her chest. I would let her rant, cry, yell, curse, or just sit in silence. I would be anything and everything she needed me to be, because that’s what friends do.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped being that kind of friend.

It became tiring, emotionally draining, and in some ways absolutely distressing. Part of this was because I had developed friendships with people who didn’t care about me as much as they cared about what I could give them. The other part was because I had become a sort of petulant child who didn’t get what she wanted. Life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, so I retreated.

The friends I had, the ones who were going out and living the life they wanted, were shining examples of how I was a failure. They had everything I wanted, so cutting myself off was some sort of ridiculous, immature form of poetic justice. If I couldn’t have what they had, they couldn’t have me. If I couldn’t have the education, the career, the marriage and kids, the success that my friends had found, I didn’t want any part of it.

There is no possible apology that could undo the unfair, jealous thoughts I allowed to run rampant in my mind during those couple years between my final year of college and the end of my first year of grad school. Emotionally, I was a mess. I’m lucky I didn’t run into the far reaches of the Olympic rainforest and become a sick combination of a hermit and cat lady. I was so lost.

I had made the mistake of cutting off contact with the only people who would be able to talk me down from my flights of insanity.

One thing I always tell my sisters is that investing in friendships is essential to being a woman. I say that from special place in my heart, because I’ve lived through the darkness of not having that close female friend you can call when the world seems to be closing in.

I’ve been in the place where you’re sitting on your bed, tears in your eyes and a hole in your soul and not having someone to turn to.

Someone who won’t judge you. Someone who will love you even when you aren’t all that sure you love yourself.

Women have a terrible habit of looking at other women as competition. We see them as interlopers first and friends second to last. They can sweep in and take everything we’ve worked hard for: our job, our man, even our other friends. A successful woman is a monument to our own inadequacies. Women see other women as the enemy, and nothing takes the joy out of life more than living it as if we’re constantly preparing for war.

What we don’t see is that if you are feeling this way, there are thousands of other women suffering under the same misguided, self-perpetuated delusion.

We’ve created walls to keep out the only thing that can understand what it means to be a woman in the less-than-woman-friendly society we have erected for ourselves: other women.

We should be each others greatest allies and closest confidantes. We should be there for each other, ready with chocolate and a listening ear when times are tough, or a bottle of champagne or shopping spree when life is good. We should share in each other’s success, not become envious that they aren’t our own. We should find value in friendships and the love and support they provide, rather than seeing them as stumbling blocks on our way to the top.

We shouldn’t try to do it all on our own because of some ridiculous sense of independence. There is nothing wrong with admitting that sometimes live is better lived and tragedy is better dealt with when you have a caring friend to walk through it with you.

Every time I walked away from a friend, I’ve lost a piece of my heart. Every time I was selfish, unkind, less than compassionate, and petulant, I hurt not only myself, but the unsuspecting targets of my dissatisfaction. Every time I put myself first, I was blatantly disregarding God’s command to love our neighbor. And I’m sorry. I’m truly, deeply sorry.

Maybe with God’s grace and forgiveness, and my friends unexpected patience, I can find my way back.

Perhaps it starts with returning a phone call.


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27 Responses

  1. Wow, I feel like you and I are the exact same person. I've had the exact same experiences with the same response, although I've never ever been able to articulate it the way you just did: "Part of this was because I had developed friendships with people who didn’t care about me as much as they cared about what I could give them. The other part was because I had become a sort of petulant child who didn’t get what she wanted. Life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, so I retreated. The friends I had, the ones who were going out and living the life they wanted, were shining examples of how I was a failure. They had everything I wanted, so cutting myself off was some sort of ridiculous, immature form of poetic justice. If I couldn’t have what they had, they couldn’t have me. If I couldn’t have the education, the career, the marriage and kids, the success that my friends had found, I didn’t want any part of it."

    That is spot on for me. I too shut down during grad school and I've been on the mend since. 'm learning to put the petty feelings aside — the jealousy, the anger, the implicit surge of competitiveness that lurks beneath the surface– for the the most part, but I still struggle with the feeling that I don't matter to my friends as much as they matter to me. Perhaps it's a lie I've been told — that we've all been told — at some point in our lives, but there are times where I feel like the actions of even my closest friend confirmed my worst fears.

    I feel like over the years, the Lord has told me to love them deeply anyway, and to come to Him and Him alone for affirmation and refreshment. When I do that, my insecurities fade, but goodness is it hard to go to Him with my exhaustion when sometimes all I want to do is wallow in self-pity and pride for "not needing them like they need me." Sometimes I think the wallowing is more harmful than the insecurities that made the walls go up in the first place.

    Whatever makes you feel like a terrible friend — or in a relationship with a terrible friend — I'd say lay it at God's feet. I believe everyone we encounter in our lives on a personal level is no accident, and there is something we can learn from every relationship — whether it's love, patience, self-respect or kindness, and in turn with God's grace, teach others.

    October 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm

  2. This is so great Cassi. That takes a lot of humility to admit thinking those thoughts and acting in those ways, even though these are things I think all girls can relate to. This was convicting on several levels for myself and I pray other women can read these words and remember and cherish the true value of friendship in our lives. Thank you.

    October 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm

  3. Gwynneth

    In some ways I can relate. I had a good friendship with a couple of women since my early teens. It was very shocking and extremely hurtful to find out that my 'friends' were 1) envious of me because I supposedly lived in a better house and a better neighbourhood than they, and 2)did not care when I told them what they needed to hear when they were going through a rough patch, not what they wanted to hear (let's just say they liked to play the victim), and 3) throws my every effort at support and encouragement in my face. On second thought, I don't think that was a good friendship. I suppose I wanted to be optimistic, even when the signs were abundantly clear.
    After that friendship ended, I was floundering. It then became easy to just not make the effort to reach out to anyone, to be friendly with anyone or be a friend to anyone. I realise I didn't want to go through that whole drama again. And it seemed as though no one wanted to make the effort to reach out to me either. But I realise now that it shouldn't be so. The Lord has been showing me that we are created for relationships. It is how we show the world Christ's love and how we receive His love through others. And I'll admit it – I miss having that bond that comes with true friendship. So I'm slowly starting to reach out to other women. It's slow going – I was never one to make friends easily. But it coming along.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:27 am

  4. This was a very well written post. And I believe that everyone has felt this way one way or another man or woman. Those feelings mainly arise, in myself, when, like you said, how things in their life seem to be going better than yours and that the contact doesn't get made. In high school I felt like my "friends" we so busy being friends with other people and not giving me the time I needed that I thought and felt and acted like everyone hated me, because unless I was going to listen to their problems or help them with their homework or do something for them I wasn't important. But it took me until about a couple years ago to really realize the impact of me doing some reciprocating and initiating of conversations that things actually get done.

    I wonder how much of my life in high school I wasted feeling sorry for myself because of this.

    October 20, 2012 at 2:49 am

  5. Seeker

    I've felt hurt by imbalance female friendship where I felt like the one giving more for the friendship than the other party. Friendships is very important to me, and I believe, to many women too. I can identify with those people who've lost friends because of the lack of input from the other side. Not everyone knows how to take initiative in maintaining friendships, but I know we are called to love our friends anyway. And I choose to believe that deep down in our hearts, everyone loves her friends, it's just a matter of expressing the love. We all need to learn to express our love and to act out of love to our friends… sometimes we forget how a little act of love can make a friend's day. =)

    October 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm

  6. Joy

    I would like to deeply thank you for writing this post. You are spelling out in words things that I am going through right now. The knowledge that others have gone through these things is very, very encouraging. Honestly, I'm at a stalemate right now, and I'd like to hear more about how you went through this. thank you for your ministry!!

    October 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

  7. Anna

    Amazing. I've felt this way especially since all of my close friends have moved and I feel completely alone and isolated. I miss that friendship we had and I sometimes feel like they don't care as much if they don't call or text. But I guess I should start with that phone call as well.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

  8. margaretfeinberg

    thanks for the challenge to deepen and strengthen our friendships

    October 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

  9. Olive

    This speaks to me. It is not even about the competitive jealousy we women sometimes feel, but it was my reluctance to not even care. After a bout of heartaches, I automatically set a timer on my friendships. I knew what time to cut off immediately. Since after college I have realized its importance. Aside from my sisters whom are my besties, I want that non-family whom I can complain to. Someone who sees from the outside in. I was grateful to find some, I just wish I didn’t expect other friendships to self-destruct.

    October 23, 2012 at 3:00 am

  10. Caitlin

    This post honestly was exactly what I needed to read. God really used this to show me where I was lacking in my love. Thank you!

    October 28, 2012 at 11:53 pm

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  12. Julie

    I am literally sitting at my desk in tears reading this. If I didn't know any better I would say it was transcribed from my own mind. It's exactly what I needed to read, at the exact time I needed to read it. Thank you so much!!

    November 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

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