Turning a Good Friend Into a Great Enemy
Turning a Good Friend Into a Great Enemy
Once someone told my neighbor that I had slandered him. For several years my neighbor had been a good friend, but in his anger, he put a letter in my mailbox telling me that he NEVER wanted to talk to me again. I was convinced I had been misquoted, but if my neighbor didn’t want to talk I had no way of explaining myself. In the following days, I was affected by the situation. Not only did the thought of meeting my neighbor make me feel uncomfortable, but I also had an unpleasant feeling of uncertainty when passing his house.
A few days after getting the letter my neighbor walked past me in a supermarket. For a split second, we had eye contact but in his eyes, there were no signs that he knew who I was. The experience made me feel even worse and for the next few days, I increasingly racked my brain trying to decide what to do.
When considering the situation it struck me that not talking to my neighbor was not my biggest worry. What made the situation unpleasant was the uncertainty of no longer knowing how to relate to him. For this reason, I decided that I needed to act and as a result, I went to his house and knocked on his door. While waiting I was convinced that he would slam the door in my face when he saw me, but I was wrong. When he opened the door he just gave me a cold nod while not saying anything.
“It seems you are angry at me,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster.
“Of course,” he replied. “What do you want?”
“I just wanted to clarify things.”
“There is nothing to clarify,” he said.
“I think there is,” I said. “Now that we are no longer friends we should clarify our enemyship. I don’t have much experience being someone’s enemy and to make sure we are going to be good enemies we should agree on some guidelines.”
While I spoke his eyes widened but before he could say anything or close the door I continued.
“The other day I noticed you ignored me when we met in the supermarket,” I said. “Do you prefer that we both ignore each other in the future, or would it be okay if I greet you even when you don’t greet me?”
“I guess I can’t stop you from greeting me,” he said.
“Perfect!” I said. “Now let us imagine that one day we met randomly on the other side of the planet. Would you also be able to ignore me?”
“That might be difficult,” he said and looked as if he wanted to close the door, “but I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”
“So if we met on the other side of the planet you would act as if you knew me?”
“That may well be, but where are you going with this?”
“You don’t notice me when we meet locally but will notice me if we meet internationally. How far do we have to get away from here before you will notice me? 100 kilometers? 1000 kilometers?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “and I don’t want to relate to it.”
“Don’t you want clear lines?” I asked.
“If we now agree EXACTLY how to be enemies, it will be much easier to maintain our enemyship in the future.”
“Ok, what is it that you want to agree about?” he asked looking irritated.
“To begin with, I would like to know if we should greet each other’s friends if we should slander each other if we should delete each other’s phone numbers, block each other on social media, and if we should do something active to avoid each other. Can we start agreeing on simple aspects like that?”
“Hmm…,” he said, scratching the back of his head.
“Or we can also start with the kids…” I continued. “Will you say hello to my kids when meeting them in the street?”
“Yes — I will,” he said. “They haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Glad you feel like that,” I said. “Then I hope it will be ok if I also say hello to your kids.”
“Of course,” he said.
For some time we continued defining the rules of our enemyship and while doing so my neighbor became more and more talkative. After some time he seemed to get tired of having to relate to the complexity of being enemies and suddenly he claimed that I had misunderstood the whole thing. According to him, he had only been a LITTLE irritated and I had exaggerated the meaning of his letter. This didn’t make me give up trying to define our new enemyship and when he got tired of standing by the door he invited me inside to continue the conversation over coffee. After having talked for an hour he started getting annoyed that I kept insisting that he and I were enemies.
“I never had a good enemy,” I said. “I hoped you and I could create the perfect enemyship.”
“But why do you want to be enemies?” he asked. “Isn’t it easier to be friends?”
“It might be easier,” I said, “but good enemies are important. My friends are in reality my enemies because they soothe my ego. My enemies are my friends because they teach me to deal with the feelings that I don’t want to confront.”
When saying goodbye to my neighbor that day he was very friendly while I tried not to be too disappointed: In my eagerness to define a potentially great enemyship I had destroyed the whole thing and as a result, my enemy had become my friend.