Does honesty really matter in friendship? Or could it be that I am just looking for something to snarl about in order to create a sense of friction as the groundwork for this post? I guess that very well could be my motivation … but it’s not.
Actually, I’ve been tossing this around my mind for quite awhile now. It started out innocently enough, well, as innocent as eavesdropping on a strangers phone conversation can be. However, in defense of my own scruples I ask you: Have you ever been in a room, a waiting room at that, and someone starts talking on their cell phone? uh huh, well then you know how L.O.U.D. people tend to be when talking on a cell phone. Well, that particular day my husband and I were chatting, minding our own business, while waiting for an appointment when the lady across from us answers her cell phone.
It was the audible frown she made when answering the phone that first caught my attention. Of course, as she started talking it quickly became obvious there was something frustrating her. And I didn’t just assume that from the way she rolled her eyes while talking on the phone. It was from all the things she said to the man sitting with her after she hung up. From what I, uh, overheard, oh alright, from what I listened in on as she related the whole story to the man (I later learned, and no, it doesn’t matter how, that the man was her husband), the issue had to do with this lady’s illness with cancer and an old friend – the lady didn’t feel there was honesty in the friendship.
She went on to talk about some of the reasons why she had started questioning the honesty in that friendship, however, I was no longer listening because I had started thinking about the role of honesty in friendships when something has changed the dynamics of the relationship – and that something is usually a serious illness or some other life altering situation.
I started thinking about all the times I have heard similar frustrations regarding the way friendships seem to change when an illness has become part of the mix – and honesty is a common concern. Something mentioned most often is the way they shared life as friends – or rather, what they no longer shared of their lives.
It’s bad enough to have friends basically drop out of your life – you see them just enough to remember their name – however, it’s really unsettling when you start to get a sense that the friendship no longer rings true. What’s interesting is how many said the questions started because they noticed, the few times they would see the friend, the conversation would be buried under all sorts of drama going on in the friends life. Now, I want to pause here to stress this is NOT about friends being under a lot of stress and, therefore, are needing to gripe, whine, and complain awhile.
This is about people that can’t adapt to the changes serious illness or any other life altering situation forces on their friendships. It’s about the discomfort, the uneasiness, to share anything wonderful going on in their lives, so, instead, they choose to go down the “woe is me” road. Only, it doesn’t stop there… and this is when the whole issue of honesty comes roaring into the picture.
At first it may seem like a petty thing – after all, does it really matter what friends share from the pickings of their daily life? I mean, isn’t it more important that they’re simply present in the life of an ill friend? Absolutely, yes to that last question. However, this is about honesty in the friendship and, whether it is something we want to acknowledge or not, honesty is what moves a friendship forward while deepening it. Honesty is so much more than merely having someone willing to tell you it’s really not that you have a big nose it’s just that your face is small.
In my opinion honesty is like the backbone of the relationship with a friend because of all the other qualities attached to it – qualities like trust, confidence, probity, integrity, etc. And of course, when we start talking about these qualities we are then talking about the character of the person whom we call friend. It is a friends nature, disposition, qualities – it is who and what they are at heart that, ultimately, influences how we connect as friends.
It really isn’t as complicated as I may have just made it sound – however, as is typical of most everything worthwhile in life, friendships take work. There are many layers to a good friendship – there will be times when the layers need to be peeled back to see if there are any areas needing attention.That is especially the case when illness or some other traumatic life change has become part of the friendship.
I must admit to having a difficult time understanding what it is about illness that can turn a friendship upside down. It’s as though, all the sudden, big black storm clouds started looming over my friends lives. At least, that is the impression when listening to them talk about life. That is when it hit me – our conversations have lost that easy-going, warm, engaging sense of genuine joy that friends have when getting together and sharing whatever is going on in life.
You know what I mean. Think about how it is when you get together with a good friend – there’s everything from the excited chatter talking about an upcoming trip or the laughter from stories of a recent vacation to the light, jocular chit chats covering decor, fashion or party plans. Of course, it goes without saying that life isn’t all sunshine and laughter, so, in the midst of such light-heartedness are the laid-back contemplative, reflective, pensive conversations. It is, simply, the quality of conversation that flows naturally when honesty is a healthy part of the friendship.
So, once again, I ask myself if I am just being petty? Snarky? You know, I really don’t think so, and, especially now at this point in my life. Why? Because illness has already taken so much from me I am very protective of the quality of my friendships. I can no longer be actively involved in my friends lives … I can’t do for my friends as I once could … so all that’s left is, well, what’s inside of me, of my heart – I can share my feelings, thoughts, dreams, hopes, ideas, opinions, etc.
It all may sound pretty hokey and, to be honest, there was a time I would have totally refused to share such thoughts and feelings so openly from embarrassment. However, I have discovered a high value on, uh, hokey feelings because they’re real, they’re honest… and when it comes to my life, my friends, those are two words I gladly use to define my friendships.