When a friend lets you down

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on May 9, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Being betrayed by someone you care about is one of the most painful experiences you will encounter in this life. But it is bound to happen. The nature of this existence is that we are constantly drawn to reach out to other people with whom we can make connections and give and receive the positive feelings that make life worthwhile.

However, no matter how cautious we are, the people we choose to connect with are still human and possess flaws that will ultimately cause us pain. In fact, one of the ways we learn and grow is through these relationships that hurt us, for each of them can serve as a mirror that reflects back both our Divinity and our Shadow.

While some people choose to withdraw and shield themselves from this type of pain by living very solitary lives, most of us need other people in our lives in order to thrive. So we are stuck then with the likelihood that sooner or later we will be let down. How should we react when things go wrong with the friends we love? Here are some pointers:  

  • Be realistic. From the first time you meet a new friend, remind yourself always that no one is perfect. This person, no matter how wonderful the relationship seems, has flaws that will eventually reveal themselves and cause some difficulties. Accept that fact from the beginning. 
  • Don’t make assumptions. Your friend might be behaving in a way that hurts you, but never assume that she wants to hurt you (unless she tells you that.) Most of our negative actions are controlled by our subconscious wounds and are not consciously chosen by us. We react without thinking and are often unaware of the effects our actions have on other people, including our closest friends. 
  • Communicate your feelings. If possible, let your friend know that you are hurting. He cannot be expected to read your mind and will not be able to set things right with you if he doesn’t know how you are feeling about his behavior. 
  • Don’t retaliate. It is very tempting to seek revenge when a friend causes you pain, but behaving in this way will only make things worse and will likely destroy the relationship. Even though, in the midst of your pain, you may not care about preserving the friendship, be careful not to throw away relationships that have been given to you for a purpose. Make sure you understand that purpose fully before you take any steps that will permanently sever ties with another person. (Of course, if you are in a relationship where you are being abused or endangered by another person, none of this advice applies. That’s a totally different situation.) 
  • Look at yourself. Recognize how you might have made your own pain worse by having unrealistic expectations of the other person, by doubting your own worthiness, or by judging too harshly. Friendships, as mentioned above, are mirrors that allow us to see ourselves from the outside in. Take time to consider your own actions and what you might have done better to improve the situation.

This existence on planet Earth provides us with many people whose lives intertwine with ours in many different ways. Some are meant to be only short-term acquaintances that will come and go with relative ease. Others are meant to be life-long entanglements that are likely to have many twists and turns and traumas. All of our friendships have something to teach us and deserve our attention and care. Sometimes we learn best by cutting ties and moving on, sometimes we are meant to learn by persevering through pain and disappointment and reconciliation.

No matter what the circumstances are, when a friend betrays you in some way, remember that this was given to you for a purpose and seek to understand everything you can about that purpose. Cherish those people whose lives have mingled with yours, forgive their brokenness and be grateful for the growth that has been possible through your connection with them.

Categories: Relationships, Psychology, Transformation

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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