I’m not bragging when I say I’m a great friend.
One of the reasons I consider myself so awe-inspiring is because I place a lot of value on friendship. Friendship to me isn’t just a placeholder for a regular relationship; in other words, you never take for it granted. Friendship is something that you work at, and treasure when you have it.
As a friend, if you need money and I’m broke, I’ll set up a crowdfund for you. If having someone to unpack your emotions with is what you require, then I’m there for you, and if you want my advice (and btw it’s excellent,) think of me as your unpaid life-coach.
But I’m not the perfect friend: I can be moody, judgmental, and needy. However, I think (and it seems my close friends do too) that I’m worth it. I’ve improved over the years as a friend, and I like to think that I’m getting better at it.
I take friendship very seriously, so you can imagine my shock when I realized that in my role in my BBF Lauren’s group of friends wasn’t as her best friend, but her toxic friend.
Lauren and I have been friends since 8th grade. We met in the pool for the swimming section of P.E.We were both feeling extremely uncomfortable and awkward in our 13-year-old bodies so that our choices were either die of embarrassment or start talking. We chose the second option and have talking ever since.
I was at her wedding, attended some of her milestone birthdays, and although we live in separate cities, and she travels a lot for her job, we try to see each other at least once a year. I always can count on her for support and love, and she knows that I’m there for her too when she needs me.
Around the time that Lauren and I met, I also came into direct contact with our class bully, a girl named Toni (not her real name.) Toni had all the warmth of a viper and the values of a sociopath. When someone stole my prized leather purse from my locker, I knew right away it was Toni who had stolen it. When I confronted her, she threatened to beat me up. I let it go because I knew she wasn’t making any idle promises—I had seen her skills when she had called other people out. Throughout the next few years, whenever Toni saw me, she’d make mean comments about my appearance or more threats to my safety.
I hated her, and that animosity lasted long after we all had graduated. When I was doing sketch-comedy, I based my trashiest and most deplorable characters on her. At one of our class reunions, we were assigned to the same table and I tried to be as rude as possible, but I don’t think it sunk in. My stink-eye really isn’t as effective as it could be.
Then one day, Toni sent me a friend request on Facebook, which I immediately deleted—how she could possibly think I had forgiven her for her crimes from 20s year-ago. I didn’t even consider the possibility that Toni had matured and grown-up or possibly wanted to make amends.
Lauren knew I hated Toni, so I assumed that she’d also reject Toni’s friend request out of loyalty to me, but she didn’t. When I saw that Lauren and Toni were Facebook friends, I lost it. I called Lauren crying and told her that I couldn’t believe that she’d betray me in that way. Lauren told me that my friendship was far more important than how many friends she had on social media and immediately deleted Toni.
I thanked her and after talking to her for a while felt much better. But, my feelings of victory didn’t last long; the more I thought about it, the more I knew that I wasn’t being a good friend, but a controlling, immature, and toxic one. What did it matter whether Lauren was Facebook friends with Toni?
It was her choice.
The real question was why was I holding on to a past grudge for so long?
The first thing that I did was to apologize to Lauren for being such a crappy friend and suggested that she re-friend Toni. Then, I friended Toni myself. I wrote her a message, telling her my feelings about how powerless and scared she had made me feel. To her credit, she wrote me immediately back and was honest about how she threatened a lot of people, but that she didn’t remember specifically terrorizing me. What I had built up in my mind as a life-altering event for the both of us, had barely registered for Toni.
I had placed responsibility for my issues on Lauren, and that’s not what a friend does. You can’t be a good friend if you hang on to past injustices and anger, and expect everybody else to do the same. Sometimes to be a truly good friend, you need to forgive yourself, let your grudges go, and respect that other people need to make their own decisions.
I wish I could say that I’ll never be a toxic friend again, but friendship is like anything that matters—it’s forever changing and evolving. Sometimes you need to suck a being a friend so that you can improve and learn to be a better one.