Guidance for Friendships



I ended up with an estranged relationship with a very close buddy when I found she was being a clever wth me. We had a nasty fight with counter-accusations. Over the months I realized cleverness is in her nature and she doesn’t consider it bad.

I extended an olive branch with good intention, apologized, but also explained to her "lovingly" how cunning acts can harm, hurt others and isn’t a good thing. She misunderstood me again and resented my mail strongly. Could you tell me where I went wrong?

—Shalin Joseph, India


Dear Friend,

In a close relationship, candor (fact-telling) will sometimes backfire and cause more harm than good. Knowing, as you indicate you discovered, that your friend tends toward cleverness, it might have been best for you simply to accept that trait and learn to work with it positively.

Simply telling another person her faults, especially when she’s not open to hearing about it, can cause further hurt and misunderstanding.

I am uncertain, however, what you mean exactly by “cleverness” but I accept that whatever that means to you causes you hurt or irritation of some sort.

It seems you attempted in good faith to reconcile but it didn’t work. It seems, too, that you are communicating through “mail” — “email is it? I find that email communications on matters of sensitivity between two people who are close are generally best avoided.

In person, face-to-face is better, though perhaps in your case that wasn’t possible, I can’t tell.

As I don’t know the nature of your friendship but as I must assume you do not live under the same roof, I would give this friendship a break for now, if possible. It seems you have apologized and attempted to reconcile but without positive result. To repeat the performance doesn’t seem reasonable. I would wait until there is a desire on your friend’s part to communicate.

Again, I don’t know enough to say more so this is the best I can offer. It seems a period of cooling off may be helpful right now.

I suppose I would offer, however, that you meditate upon your own actions and feelings and behavior patterns. It is safer, always, to look within oneself for the source of disharmony expressed by others. Ask: what can I do better in my behavior and communications to avoid disharmony in this relationship? What can I learn about myself that I may be wiser and more compassionate?

Changing other people is almost never our proper “business” (“dharma”). If we can accept others (but not their abuse of us, if any), we can also accept ourselves, and vice versa.

Pray, then, for divine guidance in this relationship. In your prayer and meditation hold your friend in the light of peace and calmness. Be respectful always of the right of others to learn their own lessons and to change willingly, guided, when possible, by the love and acceptance (rather than the criticism) of true friends.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman