When Your Friends Burn You

A woman called in Friday to Dennis Prager’s radio show and said that three friends over the past 15 years had burned her and therefore she now only has acquaintances.

Dennis: “I don’t get it. Do people do bad things to people out of nowhere? You’re wonderful for five years and then all of a sudden you do something? Is it out of character? Did you not know their character?”

My theory is that when people feel like they’ve betrayed, it’s really a case of the other person having a different set of priorities than what you imagined.

For instance, if I call an ex-girlfriend in tears and say, “I really need you to come over right now” and she declines, she’s not betraying me. She’s showing different priorities.

If I ask a friend to borrow $400 and he refuses, he’s not betraying me.

If I ask a friend for a ride or for a job or for a favor and he declines, he’s simply acting on different priorities than what I want.

If my spouse commits adultery, she’s acting on her own priorities, different from the ones I imagined she had. What she’s doing feels like betrayal to me but I don’t own her. She’s acting on her values. She’s acting on what’s important to her.

If I don’t want to go out with a friend one evening because I’d rather write or work or go out with another friend, I’m not betraying my first friend.

If a friend steals $200 from you, I doubt he’s primarily doing it to hurt you. He’s stealing from you because he has a priority above being honest with you. That priority may be paying the rent or getting a filling filled or buying some crack.

So I don’t think it is useful to think about friends burning you or betraying you or doing you the dirty. People have competing interests and you’re not always going to be your friend’s number one priority.

I’ll admit that many people have felt burned by me over the course of my lifetime. For one friend in high school, it was when I chose to write an article in the school newspaper that was critical of the football team. I lost other friends when I chose to write about a mutual acquaintance — Dennis Prager. I lost other friends when I chose to write about the porn industry. I lost one friend (a public school teacher) when I campaigned in 1992 in California for school choice (vouchers).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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