By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
I get most of my mail at a PO box and only a few things come to my rural mailbox, which sits on the road at the end of my driveway. A few days ago I checked the mailbox, and there were several Christmas cards … including one from an EX-friend.
We had reconnected a few years ago. He was an old college chum, a guy that I had palled around with when I was in my first couple of years of nursing school. He is also a nurse, now retired. We had a lot of the same interests then and still do, so since he had recently moved to this area, we started going places together and just being pals again. This was really kind of fun to have a “running buddy” to go to auctions with. My son D had also known my buddy’s sons at scout camp, so it was a “family friendship” as well.
After a couple of years of this, he began to act kind of snarky and did some things that were frankly dishonest and stupid. One of the things he did was to break a small agreement we had made, nothing “serious” as far as money was concerned, just $56, but he just didn’t do what he said he’d do and it greatly inconvenienced me. I decided it was serious enough of an inconvenience that I would try to talk to him. We sat down in my dining room and I brought up how he had backed out on the small agreement we had made and that I didn’t appreciate it. He became absolutely livid, called me a liar, accused me of trying to cheat him, etc., so in the very middle of his rant, I told him “Get out of my house right now!”
Since that day I had actually seen him only a couple of times in various stores. This year at Thanksgiving he showed up at one of our living history events … and I just ignored his presence and kept going. He also saw me and realized that I had ignored him.
My son and I had seen his son a couple of times, as he buses tables at a restaurant we eat at once in a while and both of us had been very friendly to the boy and cordial. Neither of us hold any grudge against the boy for his father being a jerk.
So there was a Christmas card from my ex-friend in the mailbox, and inside was a note from him saying that the “cooling off period” between us had gone on for far too long and he wanted to be friends again. I laughed when I read it.
This man is not a psychopath, he is just a jerk without a great deal of understanding of social discourse. He isn’t going to burn my house, or murder me, or anything else. But he took the holiday as an appropriate time in his mind to try to “mend fences” —without the proper tools.
Why would I laugh? Well he obviously thinks that “bad behavior + time = pretending it didn’t happen and everything’s lovely.”
Well, it may be true that “tragedy + time = humor,” but it does not mean we “pretend it never happened.” Time passing does not mean that no recognition of bad acts and no apology + time means “all is well.”
I don’t hate this man, I’m not still angry at him. I have “forgiven” him, in that I do not harbor bitterness toward him, but I don’t want to associate with him, to go places with him, or have him over at my house, because I have LOST TRUST in him. While I can “forgive” him, without TRUST, there just isn’t any need for association, because being around people I don’t trust isn’t something that makes me happy.
Being a stickler
Why am I being such a stickler? It wasn’t a big deal, really. I mean, come on, it was only $56, and he just lost his temper and called you nasty names. You’re a big person, Joyce, can’t you take the “high road” and just get over it? Now that a couple of years have gone by, shouldn’t we just cool off and be friends again?
The answer is NO! I don’t want to be friends with this man, now or ever, even though he is not a psychopath, he is not dangerous, and overall most people would say he’s a pretty good guy. However, he flunked the “Ox Drover friendship test,” which consists of an apology. His apology should have had three parts:
- acknowledging that what he did in breaking the agreement was wrong,
- that he was sorry he acted like he did, that he had no right to call me ugly names, and
- that he would never act like that again.
However, because he shows no recognition that what he did was wrong, there is no (#1) He shows no remorse for what he did so there is no (#2). He is only extending his “olive branch” to me to “pretend it never happened.” And of course because there is no #1 or #2 in his “extended olive branch” there can’t be a (#3), which means that I can’t trust him to not repeat this kind of behavior. I also realize that he has a hot temper when he is crossed or disagreed with or when he gets called out on BS.
As the philosopher Nietzsche says “It doesn’t matter to me that you lied, what bothers me is that I now cannot believe you.”
I lost my trust in my now-ex friend that day when he broke his word, and then projected on to me the problem, then called me a liar.
At the time that happened, my boundaries with people who were “close to me” were still pretty shaky, but I was getting my “training wheels off” with boundaries and I made this one quickly and firmly and have not wavered one whit from that day.
I actually started to write a reply to him, because he isn’t a psychopath, and I thought maybe, just maybe, he would see the error of his ways. But I got to thinking about what I would write and realized I didn’t even care enough to tell him what a jerk he is.
The best part though, is I don’t even feel guilty about not replying, and I don’t wonder if I should have taken his proffered “olive branch” (sans apology).