I’m struggling internally with something.
There’s a man who’s a good friend of one of my best friends. I don’t really know this man very well at all. I’ve maybe had one meal with the guy…ever. I’ve never spent any real social time with him. I couldn’t tell you things he likes or what’s important in life to him. I know him because we belong to the same men’s organization. He has cancer.
Lately, my friend has been including me on an email of about four others because the man has not been doing well. What I believe is my friend sees me as someone who is compassionate. And, usually I am. And, there’s the struggle.
I just don’t feel compelled to spend any time with this man. I don’t know him. OK, I know who he is, but I don’t really know him. If I found out he had died, I wouldn’t be sad. I wouldn’t go to his funeral. This is someone I would classify as an acquaintance, not a friend, and a distant acquaintance at best. Yet, my friend, the one I would go to any lengths to help if he were in need, has included me on this very short list. My opinion and my fear is by not spending time with this other man, I’m disappointing my friend. While that’s not something I want to do, I also feel I wouldn’t be true to myself by spending time with his other friend. Would I spend time with my friend under other circumstances? Absolutely! It’s purely and simply not wanting to take time out of my day to spend with the other guy. I’ll come right out and say those feelings come from a selfish place. In the last 13 years, I’ve been in the hospital four times. Three of those were when I had heart catheterizations. The last time was when I had my cervical discectomy. I never heard anything from this man. Not a “Hey, how ya doin’?” Not a “Get well soon.” Not a “How are you recuperating?” I don’t feel compelled to reach out to him any more than I believe he felt compelled to reach out to me. Yes, selfish. Yes, resentful. I’m just another traveler on the same road.
I wonder if my friend is in need of my company while his friend is dying. That’s an awareness I’m coming to grips with as I write. I also believe that’s why I’m in this battle with myself. It’s all about how I should or should not be spending time comforting my friend. Can I comfort my friend without providing an appearance at his friend’s bedside? I believe I can. What I want and have wanted to do is to have a conversation with my friend about all this. He’s a very intelligent man. My belief is by being truthful with him, I am also being truthful with myself, and he will understand my position.
What if he did ask me to spend time with the other guy on his behalf? Honestly, I don’t ever seeing him doing this. Yet, in my mind, without his ever having said so, I’ve invented this exact conversation. So what would I do? If he asked for that, I wouldn’t have any hesitation in doing it. Because, he’s my friend. Not the other guy. And, I’ve said that enough times here, to realize there’s a part of me wanting to be a better, more caring human being. That’s really who I am. How I see myself. The struggle isn’t really about my friend; the struggle isn’t about spending or not spending time with this other guy, the struggle is about how I see myself. I don’t want to be this selfish, resentful me. That’s a part of my past that kept me alive at some point. It’s not who I am today.
What, then am I willing to do? For me. Not for anybody else.
I’m willing to own I have a friend who cares enough about me to include me in something special to him. I’m willing to own if he sends me another email, I’ll go. Not for the man with cancer. Not for my friend. For me. Because it’s what I want others to do for me when I’m in that place. It’s the right thing to do, because ultimately the reward is what I give to myself.
There’s a big take-away from this for me. When I wrestle with something, it’s almost always going to be about me. Not my friend. Not his friend. Me. If the battle is internal, that’s where the answer will be as well. There will likely be many more times in my life when I think otherwise. It’s the way I fool myself into believing there are other reasons for my struggles. In the end, if I look hard enough and deep enough, I’ll find the truth. And really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
How Am I Changing? I’m willing to look inside for the answers.