The other line rang once. Twice. Thr —
“Hey, Dean, how’s it going?” John said from hundreds of miles away through the magic of technology. However, our distance of land was minuscule compared to the distance I was traversing emotionally to actually make this call.
Just a week prior, I was still shunning John; two weeks prior, I had no intention of contacting John for the foreseeable future. Here I was now, hearing his voice for the first time in almost two months with his waiting for me to respond to a question that is asked millions of times a day by people across the world.
What do you say to that anyway?
Obviously, it has not been going wonderfully, John. Clearly, there has been something not great happening, John. I’ve been ignoring you for weeks, I just refused to tell you I would pray for you, and I texted you less than 24 hours ago saying I was angry at you, John. And now you’re asking me how it’s going, John? Is that really a necessary question, John? Am I saying “John” a lot, John?
“It’s going, man,” I responded casually. I figured I would wait to respond with my problems. Apparently, small talk would be the best way to ease into this conversation. We volleyed a few short statements that were vague enough to make even a lawyer feel comfortable. Finally, I started in.
“So, here’s the deal…” I told John everything. I started from my last visit with him, the disappointments I felt, the anger I experienced, and the cycle I went through for most of the past year. I then told him about my realization — that I was wrong.
That I was the problem in this friendship. That I refused to let him be anything less than my absolute closest friend.
And I said I was sorry.
John was silent the entire time. When I ended, he took a breath and simply stated, “Well, man, there’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s all right.”
John has made that statement before when I’ve done something stupid: “You have nothing to be sorry about.” And normally, I believe him; this time, I stopped him.
“No, I do have something to be sorry about. I ignored you. You needed help and I wasn’t there. After everything you’ve done for me, after all the times you have helped me when it wasn’t ideal, I should have been there for you. That was wrong. It shouldn’t matter what crap is going on in my life, I should be willing to pray for you because you’re my brother in Christ. And for that, I am sorry. I am sorry for not being there for you when you needed me, John.”
His silence on the other end told me everything. John doesn’t like admitting hurt. He doesn’t like believing someone did him wrong. But he had absolutely no way to deny it this time. And so he didn’t speak. I simply heard some shallow breaths before he could respond, “You’re right. But it’s ok, man. It’s ok.”
Our conversation went on, moving from my mistakes to what was going on in our lives at the moment. As we ended the conversation, we agreed to each try better in the future. Not try to be closer, but simply to be better at being friends. Trying to be there for each other when possible.
Honestly, that’s what we both need.
Nothing more, nothing less.
And isn’t that what friends are for?
Have you ever had to redefine a relationship with your best friend?
* Photo courtesy Michael Braverman, Creative Commons.