That’s what friends are for…
I think of most of my friends as if they were family. Maybe it’s because I was a very lonely only child and I have attachment issues. Ha. We have been especially blessed since we moved to Florida and away from our families to a completely unknown place. We have met so many amazing people, and have been fortunate enough to form a significant number of lifelong friendships.
In the same way that I am always striving to be a better parent to my kids, I am also working on being a better friend. I know that I owe my best to the people that I love. What is there in our life that is more important than the people who form our support network? These are relationships that deserve to be nurtured. If we are willing to listen to our friends, really listen. They will often tell us just how we can be better friends to them and better people in general.
Recently, one of our good friends was visiting and during her visit she mentioned to my husband that he used the word retarded a lot, and that I did as well. I had never thought about this before, but once I was aware of it I notice that I hear people say it in conversation quite a bit. My friend works in the mental health industry so she has an awareness of the damage that can be done by the casual use of the word retarded. It hurts her when she hears people say it just the same way that the derogatory use of the word gay bothers me. I am so thankful that she pointed this out. I am making a conscious effort to remove the word retarded from my vocabulary.
A couple of years ago one of my best friends laid out a really hard one for me. I think that we both almost cried, or did cry in the course of working through it. I am eternally grateful that she pointed it out, and I have been working on my issue ever since. It’s funny too, because my husband had been pointing the same thing out to me for a long time. He had been approaching it as a difference of opinion, whereas my friend informed me that my behavior was hurting her feelings. That got my attention.
I have some very negative feelings about organized religion. I simply have a bad history with it, and I have been working through it for a long time. I usually manage to be polite and respectful amongst strangers, but around my friends and family I occasionally vent my resentment. I didn’t realize that I was hurting someone that I really loved until she told me.
I also didn’t realize that I was letting my opinion leech into my kids. That was a real eye opener. I guess that I still assumed that at their age they weren’t really listening to me. Remember: children are ALWAYS listening when you don’t want them to. Here’s what happened: One day when my friend was taking care of my kids, she drove them by a big church and they made some derogatory comments. This crushed my friend; pretty much crushed me as well when she told me. I do not want my children to absorb my opinions. I want them to develop their own. I realized that I had started a truly negative pattern of behavior. Not only was I influencing my children with a potentially hurtful belief, I was inadvertently harming someone that I cared about. Ouch.
It has been a lot harder for me to fix this one than it was to stop using a single word. I have to be really conscious of it. It isn’t easy either, but I am working on it. I slip up sometimes and I apologize, and I keep trying. It’s important. I owe it to my kids and I owe it to my friends. I was inspired to change my behavior because I was listening to what a close friend was telling me. Now I know it's a time when I should really be listening. Whoa, boy! Listen to what your friends tell you, they know a lot about you. They can really help you, even if it’s by telling you something that is hard to hear. That’s what friends are for.