DEAR CAROLYN: A longtime friend has developed a habit of saying, "God is good" and "I'm so blessed" when delivering good news about herself, her family achievements, etc. I am not a churchgoer and don't get into discussions with friends about their faith or lack thereof. It's not a determining friendship factor for me.
But this has set my teeth on edge. It seems to me the implication is, "I'm so much more fortunate than you are." She has just come through a particularly bad spell during which I was her confidant and shoulder to cry on, which as a friend I was more than happy to do. However, now that the sun is out on her side of the street and current difficulties have cast a shadow on my side, instead of a show of support, I hear the whole "blessed" thing.
My initial reaction is to respond with, "Well, aren't you special." I know it would be rude, so I bite my tongue, but, really, it's beginning to erode my feelings of friendship for her. I'm also tempted to point out how insulting the statement sounds — but again, rude. So I have been keeping my distance and, honestly, feeling so disappointed in her, and sad, too. I did think we were friends and had hoped I, too, would have some support during a difficult stretch. Her "blessed" statements just don't help. Any advice?
Biting My Tongue
BITING MY TONGUE: It is fascinating to me the different ways each of us fills in the blanks.
You know your friend says "I feel blessed" when talking about her good news, that's the fact — but you don't know why she says that or what she means by it. That's the blank.
You've filled it in with your own interpretation, that your friend is boasting — that she sees herself as special by comparison to you, due to her faith or whatever else.
Yet it's possible your friend means the exact opposite. It could be she is so reluctant to take any credit for good things personally, so aware of how capricious life is and how quickly this could turn around and become another "bad spell," that's she's trying to remain humble and defer to a higher power. It could be a staunch refusal to take credit.
I offer this just as an example; it's possible she has something else in mind entirely.
Whatever it is, what your friend actually means should be the basis of any decisions you make about your friendship. Right now, you're pulling away and judging her harshly based on conclusions you've drawn without any further input from her.
And you're pulling away out of disappointment at her not showing you the support you hoped for — which apparently you haven't explicitly requested. Many aren't intuitive this way.
So please, erase everything you've mentally written into those blanks. Then, take a deep breath, remove all traces of accusations from your phrasing and tone, and ask. Ask for what you need, ask her what she means. "You've started saying that a lot, that you feel blessed — and I understand if it's too personal, but I wonder if you'd explain that feeling." Give your friend a chance to share what she means, to give you what you need, to remain your friend.