Anguish and offense can be uncomfortable emotions, and they can act as guideposts.
Earlier this month, I felt very offended after Seashell's lesson appeared to reinforce rather than teach about racism. Two people with whom I discussed the topic suggested that anger decide a solution, a la abrupt end to conversations or try to get her fired. (Very quick to divide!) I decided to speak with someone else, someone who practices communication as connection.
To my surprise, she didn't have a ready suggestion. She did point out how some people don't view their biases as biases, that perhaps this teacher is unaware of particular viewpoints. So, I scheduled a lunch and decided to tell Seashell about my feeling of offense. I started out with, "When you taught about that topic, I felt offended," and then went into, "I'd like for us to find a different way to teach about racism."
I'd like it if Blue Sky had given me the same respect as I gave to Seashell, and I realize each of us does what we can in each moment.
Friend, I do not control you and I feel sad that you treat our friendship in this manner. You don't want to interact with me now. I understand and I don't understand. I request that you verbalize when you feel discomfort instead of storing discomfort inside and then using it as a tool with which to dissolve a bond. I like you, and I'd like to know how what I said mingled with your experience. I also see it as your responsibility to tell me when you feel emotions that relate to our bond so that we can discuss them.
Blue Sky's timing with this relationship action is interesting. You see, the day prior to Blue Sky's "I wish you well" email, I'd told her I felt offended after she behaved in a particular fashion. I felt concern because her actions displayed to me that she didn't trust me, that she didn't give me a chance to speak and instead put her words and thoughts into my mouth and brain. Which is essentially what she did the very next day with her email to me.
Her email contained accusatory verbiage, such as, "You blamed me." She wrote that if one of her decisions didn't affect me, then she deserves my support. Um, no -- I'm not a fantasy. I'm a human, and I have limits. When I hear of a decision that I don't like, I won't support it regardless of which position you hold in my life -- friend, relative, boss, coworker, acquaintance, lover. I can support you in the larger sense -- in that we're all part of the whole sense -- and, at the same time, not support a decision when I don't like that decision. She said she feared she'd have to quit telling me things out of fear that I'd hurt her. Nowhere did she take personal responsibility for speaking when she feels an emotion.
It was, "Oh, what you said hurts my feelings, now I'll have to quit speaking," instead of, "I'm responsible for me and how I feel. When someone says something that prefaces hurt in me, I choose whether to discuss my feelings with the responsible party." Instead of, "I value this relationship and want it to last, so I'll do what I can to participate with it in a healthy way," it was, "I feel offense. You said things that prefaced a sense of hurt in me. You are responsible for that hurt, and I must avoid you to avoid hurt. I send you thoughts of good wishes instead of putting in the effort required in face-to-face discussion."
Gosh, it hurts. One of my friends decided to end our friendship. I didn't know I'd offended her, and now she's told me that she doesn't want to know me because I offended her. Let's call her Blue Sky.
Blue Sky and I solidified our bond in a whirlwind. She faced a dilemma, I offered a solution, and she accepted it. Through our friendship together, we shared information about our lives and talked about issues we faced. I considered us good friends. Then one day she emailed me and said I'd offended her in the past and that she didn't want to be hurt anymore. She didn't tell me I'd offended her as the situation(s) happened. She waited, and then she put the offense together into a big ball of "Let's part ways." I'd like it if one day we could talk through this conflict, and I also understand how sometimes things like that don't happen for one reason or another.
This reminds me of a friendship I experienced in sixth and seventh grades. I was in a new school when I met Firewheel. I think she was new, too. We became good friends and spent time together. Firewheel and I created our own encoded language and passed each other notes in its symbols. We both were able to fluently read and write our language to the extent that we screamed at each other via symbols on a whiteboard in front of our language class one day.
I came back from school in seventh grade fully expecting that Firewheel and I would be good friends. Turns out, she befriended the popular crowd during our time apart, and she barely acknowledged me that year. I felt very hurt. We'd made fun of those people together, for G's sake! I went on to develop strong friendships with three or four other females. We got necklaces together. I think I have my piece somewhere. I kept in touch with one of the new friends, Lavender, off and on for 20 years. Then one day Lavender said some things that offended me, and I set her emails to auto-delete. I didn't tell her.
So, I understand anger and cutting out people who say or do things that preface a feeling of offense. It hurts to receive the action, and I've also expressed it with others. Deep breaths to you, Friendship's End.
Well hello there.