How To Be A Friend

August 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

heart on the beach

When I was eleven years old I participated in my first but modified Secret Santa.  The difference between the traditional game and ours was that; 1- it wasn’t Christmas and 2 – we had to add to the gift a letter letting our friend know our thoughts about them.

I don’t remember what my gift was but I remember what I wrote because of its consequences.  On a piece of paper I wrote the words “I like you. You are nice but not very smart.”

As an eleven year-old I thought if I told what I considered to be the truth I would be helping my friend.  I also felt an obligation to the truth itself.  Of course the result was disastrous.  After reading the note my friend no longer wanted anything to do with me and I was left with the guilt of having hurt someone.

Since that time I have struggled between my need to tell the truth – as I see it – and the effect it will have on others.  After many bad endings, self-questioning and diligence in changing my behavior, I can honestly say I have become a very diplomatic person.  I think the shift came when I realized that the way I was truth telling had a lot to do with my ego wanting to show how smart I was rather than a compassioned and selfless effort to help someone else.

I realized if I was truly interested in helping others that I would have to find a way to:

  1. Make myself as invisible as possible. Meaning whatever I have to say it’s not about me but about the other person.
  2. Find words that are non-threatening and find a way to deliver them.  We can all hear difficult things if they are said with love but if said with anger we become defensive.
  3. Give up in changing someone on the spot.  Learn to say what I think and then let go.

It is truly gratifying to feel we have been able to contribute to someone else’s betterment.  There is no real need for taking of any credit for it and that’s the truth.

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