The blood in the picture I’m posting on Facebook isn’t mine.
This is going to look so sick, I think as I type up the caption to accompany the bloodied and now-detached truck rail. As I’m posting my trophy online for the whole world to see, my roommate walks in and flips out. “Dude, JOHN. What happened?!” I explain to Ryan that I got in a fist fight last night. I’m expecting him to gasp in surprise pride or a pass me a solid fist bump attached with major props.
Instead, he looks at me squarely in the face and asks, “John what the hell is wrong with you?”
Whatever, I think, Ryan doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
He’s always been the friend that will give it to me straight, and honestly, I don’t want the truth right now. I want to keep hurting myself. Ironically, Ryan is the only one in this situation who sees through my facade. He’s willing to tell me the truth, even if it makes me hate him.
Have you ever been in Ryan’s position? Have you ever had that sad friend that just will not stop playing the game, no matter how many times you tell them? That friend is usually a decent person, but for whatever psychological reason they need to grab at everyone around them to make sure they’re seen the way they want to be seen?
When you’re in Ryan’s place, watching your friend self-implode right in front of you, it’s natural to feel pity for these friends in two distinct ways:
- What they’re doing isn’t cool
- It’s not working.
There are too many tragic examples of people oblivious to how hard they’re failing. Take the classic clueless Christian facebook post: “Haters won’t like this post. Share if you love Jesus!!!!” Or the I’m-so-tough mid-age motorcycle dude revving his engine all like LOOKATMERAWR! Or our oh-so-culturally-conscious Presidential candidate, Trump, posting a selfie while eating a Taco Bowl on Cinco de Mayo.
We’ve all been that girl or that guy. The question is: how do we know when we’re doing it?
Here’s the trick. We, personally, will never know if we’re on that sad level or not. We just don’t have automatic brakes in our brains that let us know that what we’re doing is pathetic. Sure, we have inklings and estimated guesses, and we learn how to act as we get older, but our only true compass that won’t fail us is our relationships with healthy people that will call us our on our garbage. They’re the ones that tell you when you’re being an ass, that you’re posting on Facebook too much, or that the American-concept taco bowl isn’t the best celebratory meal to represent Mexico’s independence from France.
I’m lucky I had Ryan, because I was convinced that my actions that night were sick-tastic. In typical “we have nothing better to do, so let’s get wasted” fashion, my friends and I had gone out to half a dozen bars, gotten completely hammered, and “bro’d out”. I decide to sit in the truck bed on the ride home, and at one point my friend chooses to yell at a guy in the pedicab right beside us. We speed away from him laughing, only to stop at another red light 50 feet away. Pedicab guy jumps into the truck bed and begins choking me. Hilarity ensues as I flip him over the side of the truck, and my friends cheer me on from inside the safely locked vehicle. The guy decides that the 6-foot long steel rail on the side of the truck doesn’t match the color scheme and promptly tears it off. He swings it like a baseball bat at my torso, and because I’m drunk and can’t feel anything, I’m able to catch it and use it to deliver three pleasant blows to his face. We hear police sirens, and we high-tail it back to my house.
I’m proud of myself. Everyone loved it. We tell and retell the story all night. For a second I dwell on the fact that it was my….own friend…that got me into that fight, but…whatever! I can’t wait to tell everyone I know!
The next morning, as I’m shifting my phone around the get the perfect lighting on the blood smeared across the truck rail, Ryan walks into my room and gets pissed. Ryan tells me I’m an idiot, but I ignore him, telling him he can write his complaints down on a piece of paper and submit it to my complaint department. He pushes through my sarcasm and tries to explain that no one thinks I’m cool. He tells me what an idiotic idea it is to post that on social media, and tells me I’m acting like a little kid.
And then, it was like the lights all turned on at once, my foggy hangover disappeared, and I could see what he was seeing.
Wait. I am being an idiot. Why am I posting this?!
I’m glad I had a friendship with someone healthy enough to tell me when I was being sad. We all grow to understand more about how to live a good life, but we need that relationship with someone who isn’t impressed by your attention-grabs, who is there actually to work on your relationship with them instead of soothing your anxieties or helping you save face. I know my wife is a dead-on authority on my behavior because I told her this story when we were dating to impress her; she remarked, “Wow, you were a mess.”
Find that friend who will point you in the right direction. Chances are you’ll fight them, oppose them at every turn, and tell them they’re being judgemental. But, as a great man once said, “The truth will set you free. But first, it’s going to piss you off.