A FRAGILE LIFELINE
In the February edition of “Town&Country” Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Regan, writes an essay about friendship. In it she explores the razor’s edge of that difficult interface where too much truth may break a trust and too little may seem like betrayal. The problem holds for any relationship, of course, but friendships, being an informal arrangement without legal ties or clear guidelines can be difficult to maintain.
That friendships are important to our well-being, we already know, even that having them can lengthen our lives. But apart from a few stated rules of etiquette, friends must define for themselves the parameters of their relationship, being cognizant that a single misstep could end it as swiftly and irretrievably as a glass that slips from our hands. Worse, the loss could be one that haunts us for the rest of our lives.
Still, risks are to be taken if the relationship is to have meaning. A friend seeks information she doesn’t really want… that her husband is a philanderer … her doctor a quack. What is a friend’s duty? Remain silent and hope events will improve or risk breaking someone’s spirit and be judged guilty for it?
At such times, the burden of friendship is terrible. We are forced to face our cowardice or take what we believe to be the high road and hope we don’t find ourselves falling off a cliff. There is no map to take us over this difficult terrain, only the experience of trial and error. Mine has taught me that all we can require of ourselves is to do our best and hope. But Davis says it better:
“…we want our friends to be happy, fulfilled. That’s why we think so hard about whether to disclose unpleasant truths. We can only grab what seems to be the kindest choice, and hope our friend sees it as the lifeline it’s intended to be.” (“Social Graces,” Patti Davis, “Town&Country,” 2/12)