I call them my mercy friends

Today’s word vomit session comes to you courtesy of mercy friends.

I have known and loved many mercy friends in my life (and continue to do so).  You know the kind.  They are the type of person who is constantly in crisis.  Everything in their world takes precedence and is urgent.  You learned early on to understand that look they get.  It is a glossy look that says, “Please stop talking long enough so that I can tell you about ME.”  You can see it: they are not listening, just thinking about what they are going to say.

As time passes, you learn to keep it short.  When they ask you how you are doing, you know you must summarize in ten sentences or less and then ask the more important question: “but enough about me, how are YOU?”  Be prepared to listen and get comfortable, because you are going to be there for a while.

I have learned my role well in these types of one-sided friendships.  I quickly realize that this is not a person who I will call when I have a bad day.  I understand that my primary function in the relationship is to support them and pump them up.  I recognize that I must be ready to answer that panicked call, but know that I can never call them when I am in distress.

It sounds slightly more fatalistic than I mean it to be.  It just gets hard being the go-to friend for so many people and then realizing that I don’t have the same luxury.  A genuine two-sided friendship is hard to find.  That is actually why this is hard.  I used to have one.  A genuine friendship, that is.  And now it’s gone.  I’m still mourning that loss.  But that is one scab that I will pick some other day.

Let me reassure you that I will not turn my back on them.  My mercy friends are mine to support and protect.  No matter how big or small the topic, I will listen.

I will listen as you complain about your wedding preparations (despite the fact that I am the antithesis of a girly girl and truly don’t care about the details).  I will act understanding as you rant about your father’s unwillingness to pay $125/plate (versus $92/plate).  I will sympathize with your outrage that he is bringing his new wife to the wedding, even though he is paying for everything.  I won’t call you out on the pettiness of your complaints… because I love you.  And I understand that this is the most important thing in your life.

I will listen as you complain about your current theater production.  It must be hard to stage manage an ensemble of self-important thespians. They are annoyingly over dramatic and completely self-absorbed (but so are you and I still love you)!  You always say the next play is going to be great and then sure, as the sun will rise, you will complain about those amateurs as well.  But it’s ok.  Because I know this is your passion and you love it despite it driving you mad.

I could go on with other friends’ examples, but I suspect you get the gist.  It just wears on you after a bit, you know?  Oh well…

5 thoughts on “I call them my mercy friends

  1. I do get that. And friends of mine like that are people I can’t invest myself in. I have had to consciously limit the time I allow them to take, because especially right now, I need two sided friendships. While it';s a good diversion from my own drama to listen to them go on and on, they are not actually my friend if they gloss over and are just waiting for a chance to talk about themselves. Im glad you vented here!

    • I really should limit my availability, shouldn’t I? Especially considering the emotional expenditure that goes into appeasing them. It’s just that genuine two-sided friendships seem so rare…

  2. I have friends like that. I often worry that I AM that friend, because I do struggle with a lot of different things in life…

    Hopefully, I’m not. I pride myself on being a good friend, a responsive listener, supportive in crisis, etc…but then I’m struck with this thought:

    The Mercy Friends? They probably see themselves that way too….

    • I think awareness is key. The people I have in mind really aren’t thoughtful. I many other friends with MORE going on in their lives who are kind and thoughtful. The term “mercy friend” I reserve for those who only THINK they’re situation is awful (e.g. wedding details, theater drama) not for those who are actually struggling with events beyond their control. One of my closest friends, who is quite possibly the most broken person I know, picks up the phone and calls me on days where she remembers I have a quiz or test or something like that. It never ceases to amaze me that despite her experiences, she is loving and giving beyond reason. That is a true two-sided friendship. One can’t confuse the two archetypes… does that make sense?

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