The Benefit of the Doubt

Remember when I said (in my last blog posting) that I give my friends the benefit of the doubt because they are my friends?

Well, first, let me define “friend”. A friend is someone who loves you, someone who would be there if you really needed them, someone who’s honest with you, wants what’s best for you, and tries to protect you – sometimes from yourself. A friend is someone who’d come to the hospital if you were sick, someone who’d tell you – IF YOU ASKED – that yes, those particular jeans do make your butt look just a teensy, weensy, little bitty bit BIG. Ish. If asked, a friend might even ever so gently suggest that you re-think auditioning for American Idol seeing as how you’re completely tone-deaf, but hey, you’re a great dancer, so how about taking some classes and auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance instead? A friend is someone who would totally stalk your crush on Facebook for you, call with hourly updates, and never tell another living soul. But more importantly, a friend is someone you absolutely know wouldn’t intentionally hurt you. (“Intentionally” is the key word in that sentence.)

Inevitably, friends are going to hurt you, make you mad, or disappoint you, not because they want to or mean to, but simply because they’re different than you are. They react differently than you would, express themselves differently than you would, and generally handle things in their own way – which is, of course, not the way you would handle things. You would handle things the right way, right? OF COURSE YOU WOULD! DUH! Yeah, see, unfortunately that doesn’t exactly make your friends wrong; it just makes them different.

But different is good; different is interesting and valuable – you’re exposed to new things and a different point of view, right? I’ve learned all kinds of things from friends – how to dance the Carolina Shag, how to can vegetables for the winter, how to shuffle a deck of cards in the coolest way possible. My friends bring a lot of learning – and laughter – to my life. I enjoy them. I love them.

Which is why when a friend hurts my feelings, or makes me mad, or disappoints me, I usually give them the benefit of the doubt. This is how things go in my head:

Do you believe that Friend X loves you? Yes.

Do you believe that Friend X said/ did that just to hurt you or make you mad? No.

Can you let it go? Maybe.

And then I try. I try to let it go. If it’s something small – like a snarky little comment, I forget about it and move on. If it’s something bigger, something I can’t let go of, then I talk to my friend directly about it. Usually, we’re able to sort things out and move on with a better understanding of one another.

Occasionally, I learn that a person I thought was my friend really isn’t. That hurts. It always hurts. It’s always disappointing. But it’s better to know and move on, than to continue investing time and energy in a person who isn’t my friend either way. After all, I could be investing that time and energy in my family, or a real friend. So knowing is good. Mostly. Except for the heart-crushing hurt and disappointment part. Sorry about that. Really. So, so sorry.

On a happier note, I’m available for friendship. And I’ve learned – as I learn all things: THE HARD WAY – how to be a most excellent friend! So tell me, who exactly should I be stalking on Facebook for you? Oh, and by the way, those jeans look FAB on you! You are totally rockin’ ‘em. Totally.

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