The friend police

For the second time in my life I have found myself in the gutwrenching position of feeling forced to tell a friend that I am concerned about them as a result of their behaviour. Several years ago I was part of a staged ‘intervention’ for a friend that was spiralling into a black hole filled with alcohol. It was heartbreaking. He was angry and hurt and scared.

This time the situation is very different. The behaviour in question isn’t comparable, but the approach I have taken is. The friend is not behaving badly. She isn’t jeapordising her job or friendships (although it is definitely affecting her health), but she just seems to be floudering a bit – enough that I felt something needed to be said. More because I wonder if there is something going on inside her head, than because I want to call her behaviour into account.

It wasn’t actually my idea. Another friend raised it with me so I started paying attention and realised that her concern was valid. And that is what this post is about.

Why is it always me that has to be the friend police? Why is it that people turn to me to take on the hard jobs? Everyone else seems to be fine voicing concern when the person in question has their back turned, but no one ever seems to have the guts to man up and do the dirty work. That always seems to come back to me. Along with the fallout.

I don’t have better words than anyone else. I don’t have bigger balls. I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps I have a different concept of social responsibility. All I know is that I can’t sit by and watch someone I love hurting when it might be within my power to do something about it.

The act of confronting the person is sickening. I can only imagine how it must feel to be told by someone that your behaviour is causing concern. It must make you reflect back over things that you’ve done and wonder what people were thinking. It would be embarrassing and belittling. But I think it’s just as bad being the person that does the confronting.

I am not in a position to judge people. I don’t believe anyone is, and my good-bad behaviour ratio is worse than most! I don’t believe I have the right to take a higher moral ground. I am not better or more stable or less irresponsible. I just know that if positions were reversed, I would want my friends to do the same for me. I don’t know that they would.

So it’s hurting my heart, but sometimes love does.

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2 thoughts on “The friend police

  1. Having been on both sides of the fence I would say that it is equally as bad for either side.

    When I was approached about my behaviour, I thought ‘is that how everyone sees me? Is that all I have become to people’ it was very emotionally hurtful BUT I needed to hear it. It took me awhile to understand but I look back now and think…wow, they where right.

    When I approached one of my best friends about a heroin addiction she was hiding from me it broke my heart. She yelled, cried, but I didn’t care because it was better than her using and dead. And thats exactly what I told her.

    Friends like you, Sarah, are the saviors of our world. I am not sure what separates the ‘friend police’ from other people, but it takes a special sort of someone to say things which need to be said despite how awkward, uncomfortable and potentially hurtful and volatile a situation can be. Kudos to you.

  2. You shouldn’t feel bad about this. Of course; “shouldn’t” and “don’t” are two different things. But I’m in a position, right now, where I wish my friends were here, instead of scattered across the country, to not so much badger me, as to tell me what to do. (Yes, it is a fine line, and approach is everything.) Sometimes, people need an outside perspective, and if your friend is spiraling in ways that you can see more clearly than she can, you have an obligation to say something.

    Your other friends, though? The ones that have shifted all of this responsibility onto you? Take ’em out behind the woodshed.

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