A very young and freshly-graduated friend who was recently-hired as a primary school teacher, kept on phoning and texting me almost daily in order to vent. Her calls and messages were wholly devoted to expressing her disappointment and the too many fears and worries she had because of her new job.
I felt her pain and I understood why she was completely unhappy. She needed the job so badly, yet she was so angry and disappointed because her manager forced her to take on more work than is covered in her job description without even getting any credit for these extra efforts.
I told her that she can quit of course, but staying in that school might be rewarding if she invested her time there to gain experience, learn teaching skills, sculpture the minds of her students, and practice the art of saying “No” to that insane manager whenever the task is not related to her job description.
I tried to shoulder her sadness and frustration, but after three solid months of listening to her, I knew I had to act like a true friend and stop this annoyingly-monotonous, pointless, and uncontrollable venting-diarrhea!
“Do you want my advice? Or you want me to just commiserate with you?” I asked empathically, and thankfully, she said she was ready to listen to me.
I told her that if I were in a great need for money, and even in a greater need for a serious reason to leave my bed and take a shower every morning, I would ask myself, “Does quitting my job now have more pros than cons?” If the answer is YES, I’d quit as soon as possible. If the answer is NO, I’d continue working until I find a better option.
– “I actually thought about this and decided not to quit even before I started talking to you about it.”
– “Great! Why can’t you stop moaning then?”
– “I need to vent to you! can’t I?! Isn’t this what true friends for?!”
(Nope! Sorry. This is definitely NOT what true friends for.)
– “You’re always welcome to call me, but too much venting creates more negative energy that will make you suffer more and more every day. You have to stop moaning over everything.“
I tried my best to be supportive and empathetic, but my last comment pissed her off so much. The only thing she got from it was that I did not want to listen to her talking about that problem anymore.
And even though she felt bad and thought I was so harsh, I had to tell her to stop being so grouchy and show her that it was wrong and stressful to dwell on her problem instead of actually trying to find a solution for it.
This reminded me of Nina, a fitness coach whom I met about 5 years ago. She told me how she tried to help her friend who was about to drown. She was so scared, going up and down in the water, and unable to focus on anything or listen to any of Nina’s instructions
The woman was so heavy, and even worse, she was about to pull Nina down with her because of her forceful movements in the water. It was so difficult to rescue her. She was nervous and started to move her hands madly while Nina was trying to pull her to the safety.
The one thing Nina could do to control her was to hit her painfully in order to make her stop those crazy movements obstructing the rescue attempt. Only then she calmed down a bit, and Nina was finally able to pull her out of the water; alive!
If Nina did not hit her friend, she would have been dead now, and sometimes, you have to be “harsh” to save your loved ones not just from others, but also from their own selves.
True friends should stick to us on thick and thin, but they are also the ones who should always stop us if we did something wrong, be honest with us when we fail to be honest with our own selves, and help us see our stupid mistakes.
By doing this, they are really doing their best to support us, guide us to move forward, and protect us from harming ourselves even if this involves treating us harshly whenever needed, or “forcing” us to face all the ugly sides of the truth.