One of my young friends was involved in a car accident last week, and though she wasn't critically hurt, she suffered some debilitating injuries - her clavicle is fractured, her knees are pretty banged up, and she took a rather hard hit on the nose. Her little car was totaled, and from the looks of it, she was lucky to come out in one (somewhat broken) piece. My maternal instinct kicks in when it comes to A., because she's about my son's age and she lives alone about 1000 miles away from her parents. So I've been worried about her, and join the legion of her friends and supporters who are trying to rally around and help however we can.
Well, at least most of them are trying to help.
There is one "friend" whose behavior has been so outrageously self-centered that I'm dumbfounded beyond words. A situation evolved last Thursday where A. re-injured her collar-bone, turning a hairline crack into a resounding, bone-popping fracture. In the pain and confusion of trying to contact help, two friends were dispatched to the rescue - the girl in question, and a fellow teacher from the school where A. teachers. The teacher friend arrived first, and finding A. nearly unconscious with pain, wasted no time getting her to the Emergency Department.
When the "other friend" arrived and discovered she had been "stood up," she became enraged. She bombarded A. with angry phone messages, accusing her of being "ungrateful" and "selfish" and "inconsiderate." She had "gone to all the trouble of rearranging her day" in order to help, and then A. simply "disregarded her."
It hasn't stopped there - despite A.'s attempts to apologize and explain, the girl has continued to send long winded diatribes over phone and e-mail. She even went so far as to post a scathing comment on A.'s Facebook page, going into great detail about her "immature behavior."
Is it naive to find this kind of behavior appalling and irrational? Please don't tell me this attitude is the norm for Generation X ~ if it is, I'll have to resign from the human race effective immediately.
The incident has left me thinking about friendship, and the way some people seem to attract the attention of needy, self-involved people. I've had a couple of "toxic" friendships - those where I allowed someone to take advantage of my good nature and use it to further their own narcissistic intentions. Because I'm a "people pleaser" at heart, it's easy enough for someone to use that personality trait to get what they want out of the relationship, with little or no consideration for what I might need.
Like me, A. is a young woman who believes in the "golden rule." She plays fair, she works hard, she treats others with respect and kindness. That's one of the reasons she's such a successful teacher. It's also what makes her attractive to someone like the woman who has hurt her feelings so badly - she knows that A. would bend over backward to make the friendship work, would, in effect, pay homage to this woman and her needs.
So while A. is telling me all the ways she's attempted to explain what occurred that day, to convince her friend that she really does appreciate all the things that she's done to help, and to apologize profusely for whatever inconvenience she's caused, I'm thinking she should just tell the woman to stuff it. It's about time someone brought this young woman to task for her kindergarten-ish behavior. She's not a youngster, after all - she's in her late 20's, already the mother of a 2-year-old with another child on the way. How can anyone so entirely self-centered face the demanding reality of raising children? Why should she be allowed to railroad another person with this kind of unkindness?
Believe me, if there were police officers for bad behavior, I'd gladly turn her in.
Rather than continue to grovel, perhaps A. should take a hard line in her next e-mail or phone message to this woman. What's to lose by telling her that she has hurt your feelings, that you consider her behavior unkind, selfish, and unfair? That you're unable to continue a friendship with someone who could, in effect, kick you that hard while you were already down.
I doubt if she'd listen to a word of it, but it might make A. feel better. And right now, she can use any of that medicine she can get.
How about you? Have you ever had a toxic friend like this? How have you handled the situation?