I have always had a bad history with friends. I’m usually alone and keep to myself because I have closed myself off due to being hurt in the past. All of my attempts at making friends have left me feeling even more lonely. All of my past "friends" were abusive, and in some way used me then cast me aside. This has left me feeling bitter towards people and friendship in general. What reason or kind of karma would be the reason for this? And how could I open myself again to friendship?
—Natalie, United States
Your reaction to being hurt is normal and natural: like protecting a fresh wound with a bandage until it heals. It is axiomatic that, to quote the New Testament, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for as you sow, so shall you reap!”
What this means in your case is that it is going to take some effort on your part to turn the “ship of your karma” around to a positive direction. The counsel that best applies is two-fold:
1. If you want to find true friends, BE A TRUE FRIEND to others.
2. Be NOT ATTACHED to the results of your efforts to be a friend to others.
Easier said than done. Think of friendship not as having quiet, meaningful talks or sharing with another person, but in engaging in shared interests, especially activities that are serviceful to others. Deeper friendships arise most naturally when two people are simply in tune with one another by virtue of shared actions and activities (and, of course attitudes). Friendship cannot be forced.
Nor is it feasible to imagine that friends never differ in their opinions, likes, dislikes or interests. What would a friendship be if two people were simply “identical twins?” Having disagreements does not mean two people cannot be friends! In other words, I am pointing to the non-attached aspect of friendship.
Non-attachment expresses itself largely as respect: respect for oneself; respect for the other person. By contrast, toxic “friendships” arise out of being needy, attached, clingy, and desperate for approval or attention. Yet another way of putting this aspect of non-attachment, is to be centered in yourself; to have no expectations of another person “liking” you; or agreeing with you.
If you are the one who “LIKES” another person FIRST, without regard to his or her reciprocal LIKING OF YOU, then YOU are building the strength to be a true friend. In the extreme, a friend is a friend even when betrayed. (Of course, if betrayed, it implies that your ‘friend,’ the one who betrays you, no longer wants to be your friend. This means that the character of the friendship changes, usually dramatically. But if you remain loyal and a true friend, you are ever “at the ready” to reestablish your friendship based on respect and forgiveness. It means not dwelling on your own hurts, being self-absorbed in having been betrayed! That having been said, it is not good to allow yourself to be a doormat. There are times when one should stand up to abuse or misbehavior, though hopefully not be reacting on the same level, but by calm dignified refusal to accept that person’s treatment of you. This, I admit, is a fine line but it simply and always gets back to being centered and calm, complete in your Self.)
Now I’ll admit that standing firm in friendship after betrayal is to paint a difficult scenario given your hurts, but I want to stretch your awareness of what friendship can be so that “landing” somewhere in between, you’ll have a good, fresh start.
So, BE A FRIEND TO OTHERS (without regard to whether they respond in kind) and, in time, and with practice, you will attract true friends. Learn to smile; to help another person; to be sympathetic (even to people who are difficult to like, at first); and, to be calm and emotionally self-contained: not needing anyone’s approval but simply expressing friendship for the simple yet transformative reason that you will greater happiness in being friendly. You see, it’s a kind of “spiritual selfishness!” Act friendly because it makes you happy!!!! Doesn’t matter how others respond!!!!
Joy and blessings to you, a friend to All!