I have always tried very hard not to hurt people’s feelings. There are certain things I never write about in my blog, even when I’m struggling to find a topic for this week’s post, simply because I know that the post would cause someone pain. And even though I usually have a lot to say about any given situation, there are times when I stay silent, because I know that my words would just make things worse. I have even been known to tell a “little while lie” on those rare occasions when telling the truth would be a very hurtful thing.
Yet despite all my efforts to the contrary, I know for an absolute fact that I have, at one time or another, hurt the feelings of every single one of my close friends and relatives. And as long as I’m being honest, I’ll admit that every single one of them has also hurt my feelings somewhere along the line.
I believe it’s impossible to be close to someone for any length of time and not say or do something that causes them at least a little bit of pain. Sometimes it’s because we speak or act without thinking first. Other times, we put a lot of thought into what we said or did and honestly believed that we were being helpful. (And yet we weren’t.) The bottom line is that it’s impossible to always know how our words and actions are going to be received and interpreted by others. So every once in a while, we’re going to say and do exactly the wrong thing, often without having a clue that we’ve done so.
When I think of how easily misunderstandings occur in our relationships, I’m always just a little surprised that people manage to have long-term friends and close family relationships at all. The key, I think, is the desire to keep those people in our lives and the willingness to forgive and forget all the little ways that we sometimes bump up against each other’s feelings. I think it takes valuing someone enough to accept them for exactly who they are, which is precisely the same way we want them to accept us. But however we manage it, long-term and close relationships are a gift to be treasured.
I turned sixty last month, and a few weeks afterwards I went out with some good friends to celebrate. I “met” one of those friends when I was just one-year old and our mothers plunked us down in the same playpen. I would have enjoyed the trip to the art museum, the happy hour by the lake, and the dinner at my favorite restaurant no matter what. But I have to tell you, doing those things with dear friends I have known for forty years, and one I have known for almost my entire life, made the evening so much more special.
There really is nothing quite like sharing a milestone birthday with old friends who have shared so much of my life’s journey. Perhaps, if I am very lucky, I will be celebrating my 80th birthday with those same friends. And maybe I’ll even write about it in a blog called “Muddling Through My Golden Years.”