That day was yesterday. The moment was shortly before I curled up to sleep. And it was maybe the most beautiful moment of my adult life.
You see, I’m an overwhelming extrovert. And I’m a caretaker by nature. It is no mistake that I am, by profession, a healthcare provider.
I am happiest in the middle of a room with people who I love or can help in some way. In those places I feel most alive, most content, and most inspired. And I have always lived by the idiom that every stranger is a friend I have yet to meet.
Perhaps this remains partially true as everyone has the potential. But equally true is that every person I meet is not necessarily destined to stay in my life. Every person is not my friend.
No matter how much I want to believe it. No matter how much I am willing to pour love and support and kindness on the people in my life. No matter how much I tell myself that everyone has my best interest at heart.
It simply isn’t always true.
And that is rarely a reflection of me.
I’m notoriously guilty of feeling bad when other people hurt me, or wondering why I didn’t see their true colors.
Now, I do believe that most people are fundamentally good. But I also believe that we need to take care of ourselves. While I will always have an open heart and open arms to those in need, I won’t be abused in the process of loving.
It was last night, after I finished a long diatribe defending the character of someone I considered a friend, that I was faced with the truth of the things that person says about me when I am not around.
And I realized he is no friend of mine. And, frankly, probably never was.
I’m 32 years old and people still surprise me.
So I forgave myself for being wrong and I let that relationship go. It felt good. It felt just as freeing and inspiring as it feels to pour love out onto someone, because this time I realized I was pouring the love back onto the person who needed it most—myself.
It is okay to have boundaries in relationships. It is okay to end relationships. It is okay to love yourself first.
And today I remind myself of these simple truths:
1. People can only be where they are.
When I’m faced with a person in my life who doesn’t treat me the way I expect, I often have to remind myself of this small detail. We never know what else another person is facing in their own life. We may never know all the details of their past that make them into the creature we see today. So we have to take them at face value.
Some people can be magnificent friends. Some people can barely get out of bed in the morning. You may come into another person’s life when they simply do not have the ability to give much, to extend beyond their own needs, or to be kind.
So, in general, we have to just accept people as they are. Good. Bad. Ugly. And realize who they are is typically a reflection only on them and not on us.
2. Being kind does not always equate to friendship.
A part of who I am fundamentally drives my decision to be cordial and warm to everyone I meet. In my mind this sometimes leaps over to considering all of those people friends.
But this is where I realize now that I’ve been wrong. Friendship is a mutual decision.
We can pour all the love and light we can harness onto those in our lives, but we can only crest over into the land of friendship when both parties make the decision to give.
Kindness is my new goal. Friendship will be a bonus.
3. Sometimes the best way to be kind is to limit contact.
Oy! This truth is a tough pill to swallow for a girl like me. I want to hug and squeeze and support everyone I meet. But that isn’t always the best way to be kind to myself or to others.
I love myself best when I demand to be respected by the people I allow to live in my heart. And sometimes I love others best when I am kind enough to keep them at an arm’s length so they can learn that friendship is not free. My kindness is free and will always be. Because it isn’t about how I feel. It is about what I do. It is a decision.
I spent years thinking that others would see what I see if I continuously told them about their good core as I see it. But occasionally the only way that anyone will grow is if they are forced to do the work.
And often the best way for them to do the work is by being left alone to do it.
So today I take bold steps out into this new life where kindness is the coolest. And friendship is a gift.
Author: Jessica Chardoulias
Editor: Catherine Monkman