Advice from Amy: Should Friend Have Reached Out?
After losing touch, an old friend wavers between guilt and blame
Advice columnist Amy Dickinson responds to a man who lost touch with a childhood friend, now wonders: which friend should have reached out?
Dear Amy: Growing up, I was close friends with a guy in the neighborhood. We remained close friends over the years, but as life happened, we drifted apart.
I stayed in the same town, while he moved more than 40 minutes away.
We got together for dinner every couple of months, but that habit faded, too.
After not hearing from him for a long while, he finally called me, and we got together.
He had contracted a neurological disease that runs in his family.
I felt horrible for him, but he waited more than a year to call me.
We had drifted apart by this time, so I understand the gap in contact.
However, I feel some guilt that over the past couple of years I haven’t reached out.
My wife says that both he or his family could also have reached out to me.
He knows that I have been through some rough times.
Should I continue to feel guilty?
Dear Guilty: Don’t ask if you “should” feel guilty. You already feel guilty. Your dilemma now is what to do about it.
I have a theory that our guilt is actually a tool whose real purpose is to ratchet – or alter — our behavior. What is your guilt going to teach you?
Your less-rational mind is telling you that if you had been in closer touch, or perhaps been a better friend to him, then maybe the outcome would have been different. At the very least, you would have known about it sooner and perhaps chosen to keep in closer touch.
What you should NOT do is to blame your friend for not getting in touch with you. He has a lot going on. When he was ready, he did reach out to you.
Some people react poorly when faced with others’ challenging illnesses. They double-down on their guilt — and run away. Don’t be that guy. Let your guilt lead you toward a better friendship. When you do, you’ll feel better.
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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson