(Friend) Speech

By: Gabriela Yareliz

We will get extra personal today. Uncensored speech. I have been thinking about this a lot lately in regard to friendship. Do we as adults need more friendships? Is there some sort of age cap? Modern friendships are weird. We have a world that wants to opinion check everyone. If you don’t agree, somehow you are out, and this has seeped into how we relate to each other not just public figures. (Neil Young has unknowingly become his own worst nightmare).

What I have found interesting is how we can sometimes self-censor ourselves based on who we are around. There are different levels of intimacy and also sometimes this means an appropriate level of discretion. Sometimes, we do it because we know that person can’t handle us or whatever we are about to say, but then, is it worth it? I have found that in relationships that end up being more one-sided where one person shares but is unwilling to listen, it’s something draining and not worth doing. But believe me, there is a price to pay.

Friendship has been an odd thing in my life. Maybe it’s because I was always the long-distance friend. I was always moving, so it’s not like many people would journey through different life phases with me. Still, I have some friendships I treasure very much. Friendships that have spurred me onto growth, have pushed me to see the world differently, ones where we have grown together and also ones that were a branch to hold onto when life felt like a waterfall. There are a handful that have stood the test of time and distance.

Still, I have to say that recent friendships (or attempts at them) have been so strange. Things I noticed/learned in some recent weird moments: I found that because I am often amenable and a listener, someone built a fake image of me in their head based on assumptions or perceptions not based on what I actually expressed. This person came to visit and was trying to tell me who I was, which I think resulted in confusion for her because she realized that whatever she had decided about me in her head didn’t match my reality, which she had ignored.

I feel like I lost a friend who I was in touch with regularly based on a conversation we had where she expressed a lot of fear, and I encouraged her to not be afraid (I am not kidding). That led us down a rabbit hole where she realized we weren’t the same voice in an echo chamber. The conversation felt drenched in condescension and virtue signaling, and on my end, I was just frustrated and irritated that I couldn’t be accepted when I had often offered encouragement and solidarity to her because of who she was and not necessarily based on whether I agreed with her. That conversation amplified what I knew all along. I never pretended to be like her, I simply listened to her and respected her views. Apparently, that did not go both ways. She distanced herself, and that was that.

I have had friends who see me as accountability (I didn’t ask for that), and then when they needed to act against conscience, they fled. I guess the common denominator is that when it’s time for me to express myself and the other party pauses long enough to actually hear what I am saying, I often face a person lashing out at me. Have these past couple of years turned us into something weird?

I was listening to an interesting conversation on Battle Ready between the McManuses, and some things they said stood out to me:

[The discussion was on hate mail received when someone disagreed with something Erwin said. You wouldn’t believe the amount of hate mail I receive on the reg, so this caught my attention].

Erwin McManus: “They tore me to shreds, and I remember thinking to myself, So did you only listen to me because everything I said happened to always agree with you, and then the moment I said something that you disagreed with, you set me on fire? And I think that the reality is that most of us only listen to ourselves in other people’s voices.”

Aaron Mcmanus: “And there is something to that, right? I would say that something I am learning in the beginning of this year is that a prerequisite for friendship is if that friend listens to you or not. And not just on the other side of the table, but actually, when you ask each other for life advice, or don’t ask each other for life advice but the other one gives it or you give it, if they actually listen to it. I don’t know if I want to be friends– not even like cordial, well cordial yes, but not even like fringe friend with people who are unwilling to listen to each other.”

This hit home for me. I think I have realized that many modern friendships consist of people who want to be heard in their problems and insecurities and want affirmation or something, but when you talk, they aren’t listening. They only listen if you are saying what they want to hear. And then, when one day they take a pause and actually hear what you are saying, suddenly, it’s like, You aren’t what I wanted you to be!

The conversation continues:

Aaron McManus: “Are you open to accountability in your life? And it’s like, Oh my gosh, no one has ever asked that like that. And it’s like, Yes, but what does that look like?”

Erwin McManus: “I think it’s a great question because no one can hold you accountable to anything you don’t want to be accountable for. We are all too good at hiding and lying and faking, and so people are always asking me, Do you have an accountability team? And I say, Everyone I know whose life has crashed and burned had one of those. And the reality is that accountability begins with you, and then when you hold yourself accountable, your friends actually know they can speak into your life because they are trying to help you become what you already decided you want to become. No one can make you who you don’t want to be. But people can help you on your journey to become who you want to be.”

And I think that has been what I have been lacking and not had good discernment about. I am approached for advice and counsel type friendships all the time, whether it’s in my DMs or emails, or however people find me. And at times, people have expressed the desire for accountability and openness, but they aren’t there with themselves, and that has to happen first. When I heard this, it hit me hard.

I am a part of no one’s accountability team unless they keep themselves accountable and are constantly seeking growth. I am accountable for myself. And maybe that is why I search out people who are different than me, I really love to hear difference. Unfortunately, many on the other side of certain friendships with me didn’t desire that and weren’t ready for it.

I want more discernment. I want to keep holding myself accountable and growing so that others can speak into my life. I want to cultivate friendships where I am not lashed out at when I pitch my two cents, and it suddenly doesn’t match up with what the other side wants to hear. I want to find people who can hear me out and not invent me in their heads to their eventual disappointment. I don’t want people who see me as a conscience and flee from me. I guess it all comes down to the basic things we all seek, acceptance and sincerity.

I agree with Aaron, also in my 30s with him, I am learning that life is too short to be in intolerant dynamics. One should seek out different, but the different that is ready to go deep and in love and sincerity push toward growth. The other stuff isn’t worth the fringe. Many modern friendships look like manipulation.

Here is to the friendships that keep us sane. The ones that require no censorship. The ones that inspire us to reach our God-given potential for a life on fire. Burn bright.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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