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Oct / Nov 2012
The End of an Era

Writer: Hisham Abi Khalil / Illustration: Gina Abou Hamad

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” So wrote Henri J.M. Nouwen in ‘The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey’. The virtues of friendship are so well-known, there isn’t much point in elaborating here. What has hardly ever been written about though, is what you should do when a good friend goes bad. Intrigued? Read on.

Friendship Probation

Bob Marley once said, “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You’ve just got to find the ones worth suffering for”. That’s all well and good but us regular folk rarely turn the other cheek when we’ve been slighted, especially when it’s a close friend doing the slighting.

The best recourse is the good old cold shoulder. What’s remarkable is that ostracism is more powerful now than it has ever been in the past. That’s because people have fewer and fewer strong family and friend support systems to fall back on so if they’re cut out, they immediately feel it. And it hurts.

So how does one make the cold shoulder effective? Easy. All you have to do is to pretend to be swamped with work and so have no time to return phone calls, emails and messages. If you end up running into the friend in question, you must remain calm and polite but of course make sure you’re also pretty curt. Once you’ve put your friend on a strict regimen of cold shoulder, you wait and monitor the situation. Only by gauging their reaction can you determine how to proceed.

Expelling a Friend

Whether it’s because your friend did not respond positively to being shunned, or because you’re two people who have grown apart, the cure may be an old-fashioned break up. These days - and unlike regular relationships - a defriending doesn’t even need actual confrontation.

Oddly, in our Facebook era, the idea of ‘pruning’ one’s social groups has become more familiar. With an effortless click of a mouse, you can remove anyone from your friends’ roster and never again see an annoying status update or another vacation photo from a person you want out of your life. Of course, the real world is not as simple. It may be natural and perhaps even inevitable for people to lose friends as they move through adulthood but that doesn’t change the fact that confronting the situation head on means playing out a mini-divorce. That’s why the only way to do this properly is to simply disappear from your friend’s life.

Never apologise and never explain your course of action. That only serves to heighten the trauma. So relax, stay cool and turn that cold shoulder into a hard shoulder. If ever you run into a confrontation? Deny, deny, deny. Then reaffirm how busy you are and (of course) remain just as unavailable as ever.

Post-Break-Up Relations

The proverb should have been: “Hell hath no fury like a buddy scorned” because sometimes, your former friend becomes Enemy Number One - not that you’ll ever be able to admit as much. So how do you deal with Rogue Buddy? Maintain a complete lack of concern towards them because, as Elie Wiesel, the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.”

So, from here unto eternity, remember: your former friend no longer exists. Never acknowledge them but for god’s sake, never speak ill of them because you’ll only come across as petty. Maintain a slow and steady course on the high road and never deviate. As Oscar Wilde – a man with more than a few former friends of his own - once said, “Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much.”

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