In honor of my best friend Brooke’s blog launch (check her out at Books Distilled: Helping You Discover Books You’ll Love!), today’s story is about…my best friend, Brooke.
Brooke and I met when we were freshmen at Vassar College, but we didn’t get to be close friends until sophomore year. We bonded over books, editing each others’ papers and encouraging one another to keep writing. Everything was going along swimmingly…until a pattern started to establish itself. As the friendship grew, one person started consistently showing up late.
I’m sorry to say that the person was me. I was late for coffees, editing sessions, and, one fateful day, late for lunch.
Of course, I always had a ‘good reason’. There was always an excuse for me to be late. And I was never late by ‘a lot’, so, I reasoned, it wasn’t a big deal.
I had a (self-imposed) punctuality disability. I pretended to myself that I was incapable of showing up on time…and I had no clue how this lie was affecting my friendships.
But on the day I was late for lunch, something changed.
I met Brooke on the steps of ACDC (the All Campus Dining Center), panting some lame excuse for being fifteen minutes late.
And here’s the beautiful thing: she got mad. Constructively, truly mad. I saw frustration, disappointment and anger flash across her face…and then I saw her contain and utilize that anger, using it to fuel her truth.
When she spoke, she said something like this:
“Cari, when you’re late, it makes me feel like you don’t value our time. It makes me feel like you don’t value me or my friendship. And that hurts. I know you don’t mean to be hurtful. I know that’s not you. I know you don’t want me to feel like you don’t care about me. But that’s the way I do feel whenever you’re late.”
What did she do? She told me, gently but frankly, how my behavior affected her. She told me the truth about how my tardiness was impacting our friendship.
Do you have a friend whose behavior is negatively affecting you? (Are they always late, constantly gossiping or forgetting to pay you back?) What would it take for you to tell that person your truth?
A true friend will call you out when you’re treating her poorly. And she’ll do it in a way that draws you toward positive change. Hearing Brooke’s words felt like swallowing medicine…the kind that tastes horrible, but helps immensely.
“B,” I said, “I am so sorry.” (We were both choked up at this point.) “You’re right. I’ve been inconsiderate of you and of your time. I didn’t mean to do that, but I have. Please forgive me.”
Is there a pattern of behavior in your life that negatively affects others? What would it take to change that pattern?
She forgave me…and I embraced punctuality as a way of life. It took effort, and a solid commitment on my part. And yes, I employed ‘punctuality strategies’: setting timers, leaving earlier, not doing ‘one last thing’ before heading out the door…
But what helped me the most then (and what helps me most now) is this: I never want to see that look on a friend’s face again. I never want to make someone I love feel disrespected and devalued. Today, I perceive my desire to avoid that result as a strength…a strength I rely on to make sure I’m not late.
Brooke’s one-time truth-telling has saved me a lot of heartache and hurt feelings over the years. What if she’d stuffed her feelings, and never owned up to that anger? I might still be stuck in tardiness…and we might not be friends. Fortunately, Brooke made the effort and told her truth, confronting me with love. Why? Because she wanted better for our friendship.
Yes, I’m tempted to slack on punctuality sometimes. And, inevitably, mistakes happen. (Recently, I was late to a friends’ house because I had a bad set of directions and got lost.) But thanks to Brooke, my past tardiness doesn’t become a present-day pattern. I refuse to let it.
Has someone else’s anger ever helped you to change for the better? If so, tell me in the comments!
Furthermore, until the day that Brooke got mad, I didn’t see how owning my anger could be a catalyst for positive change within a friendship. Since then, I’ve come to believe that such truth-telling is not only possible, but essential. I’ve come to see that if friends can’t tell the truth of what they’re feeling toward each other– even when the truths are uncomfortable and difficult to face– then that friendship is on shaky ground.
As such, I think back to that day when Brooke got mad as not only the day I ‘got’ punctuality, but as the day our friendship found itself on solid, lasting ground.