I have a loyal friend who has seen me through tough times, but I think I’ve outgrown her. She is overly sensitive, defensive and interprets neutral, well-intentioned comments as “attacks.” She has multiple health problems and, though idle, is always exhausted. Doctors say there is nothing physically wrong. She relies heavily on antidepressants and Valium and tells psychiatrists that she is not ready to change. Her hobby is reading nutrition books, but she eats junk. When I explained the effect of eating fast food, she felt attacked. When I suggest solutions to problems, she finds a reason why she cannot proceed. She says she is a “highly sensitive person” and uses this to rationalize the chronic anxiety attacks that obviously add drama to her life and prevent her from getting off disability benefits. She is a talented (and certified) hypnotherapist and massage therapist but doesn’t help herself. I think her maladies are self-induced to avoid the world. Can this friendship have a future?
Of course! But you’ll have to surrender your desire to change her. It’s impressive that you believe so profoundly in your powers of persuasion that you think you can inspire her to behave as you suggest. After all, she has informed you and her psychiatrists that transformation is not on her to-do list—at least not in the ways you hope. So it should be no surprise that your “well-intentioned comments” are received as an attack. You are attempting to defeat what she believes is the right way for her to live and to substitute your own prescription. Part of that inclination is probably sweet. You see a friend with health issues and wish to urge her toward healing. But much of your motivation is unhealthy; otherwise you would not be so righteous, frustrated and angry. If your comments were really neutral, you would not have so much attachment to whether she adopted them or not. I say this with complete understanding that you believe she is suffering needlessly. Remember, that is your perception. The way she lives is her choice.
What would happen if you listened to her without seeing problems and trying to fix them? What if you weren’t tied into believing the doctors were right and your friend was wrong, but instead stayed open? Try it. You may discover yourself transforming into a loyal friend who is helping another through a tough time. Or you’ll be clear that it’s time to say goodbye. Not because you’ve outgrown her, but because you can not love her as she is.
I struggle with the concept of faith in God, in myself and in my wife. Can you offer any wisdom?
Consider this view from Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies: “For most religious Americans, faith means belief in certain claims about the metaphysics of reality. Faith is perceived as a mental acceptance, a lack of doubt. Accordingly, true faith requires a willingness to refrain from too much thought, to ignore the difficult questions that life inevitably raises. And, as a result, when those questions do arise—as indeed they must—this faulty “faith” is often destroyed in its wake. … [True] faith is a willingness to trust, despite one’s doubts and through one’s tensions. Faith is a trust.”