We have been through this before, that sinking, disappointing feeling when our closest friends and families are missing during our times of need. Many of us learn too late that when we lean on someone for support, we assume that they will always be there to bear our burden. When they are not, everything goes crashing and we feel betrayed.
Human flaws and frailties manifest themselves in various ways, personal ugliness rears its head through lies, deceit, betraying and broken promises. The majority of mankind is shockingly unreliable, and the moment that this truth hits us, the visions that we saw the world with are replaced by the stark reality that people often let us down.
What is the Problem?
It is a natural reaction when someone has disappointed us to blame the other person. But let us look at the heart of the relationship – the roots on which such bonds were created in the first place.
Relationships evolve, according to our stages in life. Our expectations depend on the level of emotion, understanding in life and belief when we entered into it. This initial need, based on what each person has to give or is willing to take, forms the crux of the relationship: who we are form the basis of who we attract.
From these beginnings, an important element is often overlooked – our individual growth and maturity. We undergo certain unique experiences, acquiring different knowledge and comprehension as we get older. These mould our personalities and shape our values and ideals.
This inner change is inevitable, and the other person is usually unable to understand, keep up or agree with us over a long period. Mutual expectations and priorities shift, leading to an incompatibility of personalities and values.
Most relationships are usually for short lived and superficial elements. People are thrown together by chance – they were in the same classroom, office or neighbourhood – where there is no real thought process or commitment involved prior to the relationship. There are those drawn together by superficial commonalities – food, hobby, work project, music or a sport: and find themselves being at the same place at the same time with people of like interest. This is how the majority of friendships start.
Very rarely, if at all, is a relationship initiated because of a fundamental belief, faith, principle, or basic understanding of life. We tend to bond with others because of our circumstances, likes and desires, rather than mutual principle or ideology. However, while the friendship or connection seems fulfilling at first, the human personality is pliant. We will get older, enter different universities, have different careers, travel, even relocate to a different country, and meet many different people in the process.
These experiences change our knowledge and perspective of life. Throughout life, we adapt to our surroundings, changing our habits, the style of food, and even faith. We are exposed to different ideologies and doctrines, and might even adopt some of them. Our personalities keep evolving.
Throughout these changes, we assume that our relationships will remain constant. This is fiction, and it is this false expectation that leads to disappointment.
At the end of every movie, “The End” is flashed on the screen. As a child, I used to wonder what would happen next?
Life is not like the movies, where all issues are neatly concluded in two hours. In movies, there is no continuity once the story has come to an end, but in reality life is a continuum.
If we love someone today, according to a certain belief and understanding of life, that love might change tomorrow if our belief and understanding change. When we start a relationship, we believe it is forever. In fact, majority of relationships are built on something insignificant, transient and thus incapable of enduring.
A seemingly rock solid friendship of 20 years can quickly turn to custard when put under strain. Those with whom we have been through so many experiences together, can suddenly vanish in the time of need.
People are not static. Over time, those who are strong can get weak. Those who used to be highly principled can get corrupted. The heart is fickle, and suddenly your best friend can become jealous or resentful of you. You may find that you can’t be bothered to entertain someone you used to admire. We see this pattern weaving in and out of the fragile threads of our human ties.
But why? What is the mistake in this? Is it the other person? Or is it me?
A Real Bond
Once, I had a beautiful piece of china which broke. I valued it so much, so I decided to glue it back together. Whatever I did, my attempts failed. Finally someone asked me whether I followed the instruction carefully.
The first instruction taught me a lot. It read: “Before you start, clean both surfaces well.”
What is the connection? What happens if you are not clean or the other person is not clean? Not in the sense of physical cleanliness, but the integrity of the soul, the relationship and the bond. Will the glue work?
For certain types of glue, the manufacturer has warned that under certain conditions, such as extreme heat, the glue will lose its characteristics and effectiveness. This is what happens to us as human beings. Once we undergo certain situations in life, we change, and our hearts and souls change.
Sometimes certain inner qualities surface. A flaky friend, when we go through a rough patch, rises up like a mountain. Best friends, when a situation arises, let us down, not keeping or honouring the relationship.
Why? Apart from the mutual cleanliness of the surface, the quality of glue between each other also counts. If it is not strong, or is not of the same kind on both sides, or is not for a high goal and mutual understanding, it will never last.
If we do not have a relationship from the beginning, pillared on the high principles and strong faith, such a relationship will be susceptible to the smallest of changes. This is the normal course of life.
What is the Mistake?
The first mistake is when we hold tight to a friendship that is founded on emotions and desires, not principles. For example friendships formed in school.
The second is when we believe a relationship is forever and we forget the reality of human nature.
The third is very powerful and deep. A lot of us have fallen into this trap: high expectations. It is like buying a Volkswagen or Fiat and expecting it to handle like a Lamborghini or Rolls Royce. The problem is not the car’s lack of performance, it is our expectation that it will perform beyond its specifications. A lot of us harbour unrealistic hopes of others, which are incapable of coming true.
The fourth is when we believe our friend to be our emotional bank account. He is expected to support us and fix all our problems, even if we’re difficult, stubborn and refuse to listen. We expect him to endure even if our actions cause a lot of unnecessary damage and havoc. We want him to rescue us, but we do not accept his advice. If he gets fed up, or not rescue us at the next drama, we blame him for letting us down!
The fifth is the blind leading the blind. We sometimes begin our relationships when we are weak, vulnerable and do not have much understanding of life. We will probably choose someone equally clueless as a friend. Later, we gain knowledge and understanding, we then discover he is not a real friend.
Where does all this disappointment come from? We can grow in age and size, but what happens if we do mature or develop our own self? This is what is happening to the majority of us today, whether in our 20s, 30s or 40s. When the relationship has failed us, we cry over why the other let us down. In majority of the answers, the surface was dirty and the glue was not strong – the friendship was never real.