Just before heading to bed one evening, I was casually scrolling through Facebook when a friend’s post caught my eye. It was the “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. A little morbid, I know, but I was intrigued and clicked on the link.
As I was reading, one particular regret caught my attention: “I’d wish I had the courage to express my feelings.” Ware goes on to explain, “… although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end, it raises the relationship to a whole new level…or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.”
Such an obvious truth that I had been ignoring for awhile. I was struggling with a couple of friendships that I valued but knew there was some unspoken tensions in them. The article was a reminder that maybe I needed to deal with those tensions. No matter how hard I was trying to pretend nothing was wrong, the proverbial “elephant in the room” was getting in the way of both relationships.
In one friendship we were avoiding each other, and in the other, we were drifting apart. I knew that the only way to get rid of the elephant was to speak honestly. But I had to ask myself, why had I been so hesitant to talk honestly with them in the first place? Was I trying to avoid the messiness if things went bad? Was I worried that it might force me to face some uncomfortable truths about myself? Maybe the biggest question of all, was I worried that I might lose the relationships altogether?
Whatever my motives were for keeping silent, I knew I had to find my courage and confront the issues. Relationships, personal or professional, built on half-truths or distrust aren’t fulfilling or healthy.
Taking a deep breath, I contacted one friend saying that I sensed a shift in the relationship and asked if we could talk. Had something happened that compromised our friendship? It took some time to get a reply, so I suspected that there was some ‘initial reacting’ happening. When I did get a reply, it confirmed my suspicions. I made a couple more attempts, but I wasn’t successful at getting a conversation going. The elephant had been confronted, and the risk I took exposed a relationship that was on fragile ground.
With my other friend, we happened to run in to each other at a business function. When we were talking, I braced myself and brought up the issue that had been bothering me for some time. I struggled to speak honestly, and the resulting conversation was a little raw and awkward. But it cleared the air.
I knew the risks involved, and I had to be prepared for the worst. The elephants had been confronted and both relationships changed as a result. Sadly, the first did not survive the messiness of honesty. While this stung, I knew that it released an unhealthy relationship. In the second one, though, the relationship not only survived, it thrived.
In the end, I’m glad I found the courage to get honest even though not everything turned out the way I had hoped. It was raw, messy, and risky, but I didn’t settle for second-rate friendships. Just as importantly, they weren’t burdened with one either.
Are there any elephants in your relationships that you need to confront? What might be holding you back from dealing with them?
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