a formula to live by
a formula to live by
we all get hurt in this life. one could easily argue this to be the defining proof of life itself; only that which is living can be hurt. but not all pain is equal. even the toughest, manliest dude out there must admit that emotional pain hurts far more than physical. there’s something about the scars of the heart that seems to never decrease in its intensity , while mere “flesh wounds” seem to almost fade from existence in due time. i have known my fair share of both kinds of pain. despite my diminutive build, i am pretty durable. the thing though, is that i am largely immune to physical pain, but overly sensitive at time to emotional pain. i joking recount the time i got my wisdom teeth pulled with no pain killer because i literally thought it would take longer to have to wait for the numbing to take effect, so i just endured. but then there was the one time in college my mom said something, i don’t even know what it was anymore, and i almost killed myself. my wife and i got into it a little this morning. she was talking about some friends of ours being in town and wanting to get together, but i reminded her that it would be a little difficult for me. he and i had agreed that whichever of us managed to get a residency first would help the other. you know, some real life Genesis 40 stuff. well it’s been a few years, and i get the feeling that he is too happy where he is to risk self or spend time trying to help me. it hurts. my wife says i need to not be mad about it; that i need to forgive and move on. but i have. forgiveness does not mean you feel any less betrayed. forgiveness does not mean that it isn’t still awkward when you think about the other person and what place they hold in your heart. like the cousin i can’t see because of his betrayal to the family, this friend too is someone i have long ago forgiven, long since moved on from my hurt and pain, but the scars still rub against my shirt when i get dressed in the morning, the skin is still tight when the weather grows cold.
i alluded to a formula in the title, so here it is:
see, an enemy can cause you pain; but man the amount a friend can inflict is so very much more. let’s look at it in its entirety and try and see what i mean. the closer you are to someone, the more vulnerable you become. sure, you can shoot me from a distance and kill me, but you have to be right up on me to stab me in the back. and especially for someone like me, who maintains layer upon layer of walls between myself and those i interact with, you must be a real friend for me to open myself completely. a close friend lives in your heart, so there’s no effort needed for them to harm it. a close friend is always welcome in your home, so it is not a surprise they can also burn it down. but, and this is important, this is diminished by the openness of your heart. the more open you are, the closer people tend to be, the less painful betrayal of a friend. i imagine that the reason i am so closed off and guarded with my relationships is because i am so weak; then again, it could also be that i am so emotionally fragile because i am not exposed. the point is still the same. those who are open and loving are harder to hurt with betrayal, so the fact that you are close to them is less impactful than in someone who is guarded and stand-offish. last is time. this element is of great importance, and that is why it multiplies the potential for harm. the longer you know someone, the closer you become, but also the more vulnerabilities they have access to. they watched as you grew and changed in various scenarios. they saw old weakness go, and new ones come. this proximity could even give them the ability to predict future vulnerabilities you do not yet have. even the toughest of hearts can be laid low by a long-time friend; time is “of the essence” they say, but in truth, time is really the essence. time grants power.
my friend i talked about has all the makings of a real source of pain. i knew him about 6 years before the pain started. in that time i watched him grow, and he watched me too. he watched me go from a bachelor, to a husband, to a father, to a doctor, to a man of conviction, to a man of sorrows, to a man looking for hope. i have had friends longer than him, but the nature of our relationship was one were for most of the major events of my adult life, he was in a unique position of confidant. i truly loved him, and i still love him and his family. so when his head was raised up to a position of power, and i was left in the dungeon, i had no doubt in my mind that he would do the same as i would, he would advocate for me, he would vouch for me, he would stand up for his friend and fight to the death even. but he did not. it has been years, and still, he has not. “how do you know, kamarr?” because we are friends; i know him, and he knows me, and if he had given it his all, i would know it.
this equation isn’t one you should live by, it’s one you already do. and truth be told, i would do it all again, and so would you. the pain of a friend does not render pointless the joy of friendship. if anything, it just makes you want friends all the more. friends are worth the pain. friends are worth the vulnerability, the danger. in fact, sometimes it is the pain that lets you know a friend is a friend. i recall a time not long ago when a man said some really mean things to me. it hurt bad; real bad. now, not only do we talk, but i had to realize this morning that he may in fact be one of my closer friends. we don’t talk much, and we don’t see eye to eye on many things, but it’s been a long time since someone hurt me like he did, a long time since someone was able to. i realized that i actually valued his friendship greatly, the call he randomly gave me last week to encourage me and lift me up, his smiling face even when he takes you on. reminds me of another friend of mine i haven’t seen or spoken to in years, a friend who could show up right now and take every penny i have if he needed it. because a good friend causes the most pain, and when you find yourself writhing in pain from a poisoned dagger to the heart, you have to realize only a friend could do that; only a friend.