The Silent Struggle: Why Friends Sometimes Don't Reach Out
In the midst of life's trials and tribulations, there's a common thread that often goes unnoticed—the silent struggle of those closest to us. Recently, I found myself in a peculiar situation where two of my dearest friends faced challenging times yet chose to suffer in silence rather than reaching out for support. Initially perplexed and somewhat offended, I couldn't help but wonder why they would withhold their burdens from me, the self-proclaimed "fixer" with a metaphorical cape tucked away in the closet.
Their explanation was simple yet profound: they believed I was doing exceptionally well and feared burdening me with their troubles. In their eyes, I appeared to be navigating life smoothly, and they didn't want to disrupt that facade or add unnecessary weight to my shoulders. It was a gesture of protection, albeit misguided.
At first, I grappled with feelings of rejection and misunderstanding. Why would they assume I couldn't handle their struggles? Wasn't that what friendship was all about—supporting each other through thick and thin? However, upon deeper reflection, I realized that their actions weren't a reflection of my inadequacy as a friend; rather, they were a testament to their selflessness and concern for my well-being. (See, I have grown. 😉)
In our society, there's an unspoken expectation that friends should always be there for each other, ready to swoop in and fix whatever problems arise. As a self-proclaimed fixer, I've fallen victim to this mindset more times than I care to admit. I wear it well. But what if our highest and best purpose as friends isn't always about fixing each other's problems? What if it's about something far more profound—acknowledging each other's struggles, offering unconditional support, and respecting each other's autonomy? It took a couple of conversations with Wendy to come to terms with this. I kept saying "If they have and arrow like ME in their quiver, why not use it?" I didn't understand.
I wish I had taken a more reflective approach on the the front end. In hindsight, I realized that by focusing solely on my desire to "fix" my friends' problems, I was inadvertently undermining their agency and discounting their ability to navigate their own challenges. I failed to see that sometimes, the greatest gift we can offer each other is the freedom to confront our demons in our own way and on our own terms.
This "Ah-ha" moment prompted a shift in perspective. Instead of lamenting my friends' reluctance to confide in me, I chose to honor their decision and channel my energy into creating an environment where they felt comfortable sharing their struggles without fear of judgment or undue pressure. I learned to listen without offering unsolicited advice, to empathize without trying to "fix," and to simply be there—no cape required. I learned to speak the words "How can I help you the most right now?".
The truth is, we all have our moments of vulnerability and weakness, and it's during these times that our friendships are truly put to the test. But true friendship isn't about fixing each other's problems or always being the hero—it's about showing up, being present, and loving each other unconditionally, flaws and all. To me, that's being a true hero. They say that a true friend is someone that knows everything about you and likes you anyway. I believe this whole heartedly.
So to my dear friends who chose to suffer in silence, know this: your struggles are not a burden but an opportunity for growth, and your strength in facing them alone is nothing short of admirable. And to all those who, like me, have a tendency to don the cape of the fixer, remember this: sometimes, the greatest act of kindness is simply being there, capeless and vulnerable, ready to listen, support, and love without reservation.
I'm still keeping the cape handy though - jus' sayin'. ❤️😉