I love glazed donuts. Sometimes I buy like a dozen for myself (if you say you’ve never done it, I say you’re lying). After a few days, when there are still like three left (I may or may not consume like four per day…), they get hard and stale. But I refuse to admit they’re old and gross and still try to eat them. No matter how gross they may be…
Sometimes, no matter what you try to convince yourself, those donuts just have to go, because they’re no good for you. (You know, aside from the fact that SOME people would argue that ALL donuts – stale or not – are no good for you… YOU’RE WRONG, KAREN.)
Some friendships are like stale donuts. You may be in denial that they’re bad, but nothing’s going to change the fact that they’ve run their course and have turned toxic.
Stop Hitting Yourself! Stop Hitting Yourself (etc., etc…)
A good, clear sign of a toxic friendship is when the person you believe is your friend does something to hurt you. (Duh.) Maybe they gossip about you behind your back. Maybe they never come through for you when you need them most. Maybe they don’t even talk to you unless they want something from you. Maybe they made out with your boyfriend, exchanging tongues through the hole of a stale donut from your stash. (Double whammy…)
In some cases, it’s all of the above.
For me, the most recent example occurred when the guy I was dating at the time gaslighted me and told everyone I was crazy whenever I tried to speak up for myself. I tried to confide in a person I thought was a good friend of mine. But he belittled my situation and defended my ex. Instead of recognizing that my friend had let me down, however, I started thinking that maybe I WAS crazy, and I felt so guilty for wasting my friend’s time. I felt like I was the one who was a bad friend and even a bad person. As time (and many therapy sessions) passed, I recognized that my friend had shown his true colors. I had always tried to be there for him, giving him rides whenever he needed it, comforting him when his heart was broken, and buying him numerous Little Caesars pizzas.
But as soon as I needed him, he let me down in a really big way. They do say that tough times usually reveal who your true friends are…
Alas, my Bacon often leaks sappy sap when it comes to giving people a gazillion chances. I start thinking in “what ifs,” and “it’ll be different next time”…
What if it WAS my fault? I can’t punish them for that.
They hurt me, but I’ll forgive them and next time it’ll be different. Everyone deserves a second chance, right?
Everyone makes mistakes. I’m helping them grow by continuing our friendship.
Damn, this is the eighteenth time they screwed me over… But maybe THIS time, THIS time, THIS time… (Like a fly banging into the same window over and over again. Seriously, if I were a bug, I would definitely be a fly. But I am so glad I am not a bug, I hate those things, ew…)
For some reason, if your Bacon is at all like mine and it’s not fully cooked yet, we tend to self-punish by convincing ourselves that people will change as long as we continue giving them the benefit of the doubt. We feel guilty at the very thought of letting someone fall out of our lives; it feels cruel because we are essentially admitting that they are bad for us. We also cling to the vision of the person we THOUGHT they were, or who they were at first before they changed. Or maybe we just created a fantasy of who we really wanted them to be for us in our lives and we’re still hoping for them to come through…
I believe the famous quote credited to Albert Einstein goes:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Sometimes the friends we keep giving second chances to don’t even ask for forgiveness after hurting you. They may not even recognize or acknowledge it. Yet we often push to make it work anyway, even though deep down we know the truth: if we were to stop trying, that “friend” you’ve been making excuses for won’t make any effort to reach out to you.
They may not even notice you’re gone…
I’ve wasted a helluva lot of time trying to preserve “friendships” and keep people I cared about in my life. But I’ve gotten better at stopping to look at the friendship for what it really is: toxicity that just makes me feel like shit. When you stop thinking in futuristic terms like “what if” and really look at the NOW, everything becomes a lot clearer. When you stop globbing glaze over the stale donut, you’ll notice the icky mold that just keeps growing…
(Food analogies: it’s what I do.)
But What About Forgiveness?
This is where a lot of people get caught between the gray area of “always forgive” and “be kind to yourself.” First things first: I am totes into the whole forgiveness thing. I’m all like, “Hey, fo-giveness, hit me up! Girl, I always save a seat for yooooouuuu…”
That being said…
Forgiveness does NOT mean torturing yourself. It does NOT mean letting someone continue making you feel shitty. It does NOT mean holding onto the belief that the person is going to change for you.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “to forgive” is:
- “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender);
- “to give up resentment of or claim to requital;
- “to grant relief from payment of.”
Consider the first one: “to cease to feel resentment.” So essentially, forgiving means you are STOPPING yourself from FEELING resentment towards another. It is NOT pretending the person didn’t hurt you and giving them the opportunity to do so repeatedly. This first definition also shows how forgiveness is, in fact, being kind to yourself. You’re allowing yourself to let go of those resentful feelings.
Consider the second definition: “To give up resentment.” We keep toxic friends in our lives because we’re clinging to the familiarity we have with them and the hope that things will get better. But honestly, if someone hurt you and you continue spending a lot of time around them, the resentment you have from what they did to you will likely grow. And that’s not really “forgiveness,” now is it?
Finally, consider the third definition: “to grant relief.” “Relief” – isn’t that a great word? (Like a FRESH, lemon-filled Krispy Kreme donut in the morning…)
Not only does forgiving someone mean telling them you don’t hold a grudge against them for doing what they did (relieving them of any regret and icky feelings), but it also relieves YOU from holding onto both resentment and the stubborn belief that you have to let them continue treating you like shit-apples. (Don’t know where that word came from, but I like it.)
All of this is to make my point that “always forgive” and “be kind to yourself” are not mutually exclusive. Forgiving a person is extending kindness both to them AND yourself.
Does that mean you need to kick to the curb every person who makes a mistake as you drive solo down the glorious highway that is your life?
Of course not, dopey.
Whether or not someone is welcome into your life depends both on you and the other person. If the other person chooses to recognize their mistake, apologize, and change their behavior, you too have the choice to accept them with open arms. You just have to learn to recognize when keeping someone in your life is causing all kinds of icky toxic feelings in your Bacon’s belly that, whenever you walk away from an encounter with that person, leaves a bitter aftertaste lingering in your brain…
All this being said, choosing to let go of a toxic person who you genuinely care about is never easy. Don’t let that make you feel guilty or like a bad person. Hurting because of the sudden absence in your life, even after a person causes you great pain, demonstrates your heart’s capacity to love; it makes you what I call a Sensitive Sizzler. The fact that you care enough to miss them so much is a sign of great Bacon (with “Baconator” potential). If you were to keep letting that person toxify your life, your Bacon would be left bitten down until there was only a teeny, tiny crumb left…
And we simply can’t have that, now can we?
So identify the stale donuts in your life to make room for those fresh, warm, loving ones with frosting, sprinkles, and/or filling. (Your preference, although I am not a fan of jelly-filled donuts or anything with berries, but to each his own…) Don’t let those moldy things take up any more space in that belly of yours; they will eat you up, tearing apart your innards and making you cry at night…
(What, so now I’m the only one who cries over donuts? YOU LIE!)