04 January 2008

The flanking on the right

This wasn't part of Sun Tzu's play book

With all the discussion lately of "psychologically expensive friends," I realized last night that I have fallen off of a friend's Christmas card list. This person had been a friend to the family for decades and after my parents died, was a friend to me also. That was until a year or so ago when things suddenly changed and I was no longer on her daily call list. I haven't heard from her in about a year and now I didn't even get a Christmas card.

I know I should initiate contact with her since she could be ailing, but I do know that something "happened" that dramatically changed the dynamics of our friendship awhile back. At that time, I addressed the topic and told her if there was something I had done, I was very sorry. Instead of telling me what was wrong, or if I had indeed done something, she merely said she couldn't remember what it was and that we would just move on.

A year of silence isn't exactly my definition of moving on.

This friend, and those like her, are psychologically expensive in a variety of ways. To disagree with them is, at a minimum, very awkward and disruptive, and can result in the end of the friendship. I was never cut from the same mold as this lady and it always caused some strained moments. We don't have to be two peas in a pod to get along, right? However, I don't think she sees things this way.

Oddly, I think she views me as not rad-trad enough.

I joined St. Agnes back when I was in college (in the 80s). I didn't join St. Agnes because it was arguably the traddiest place in the diocese at the time, but because I loved the Mass as it was said here without distractions or disruptions. The litany of other great things about the parish and its trad pedigree were nice, but none of these where what drew me. I was peacefully ignorant of most of the debate between the trads and the liberals.

About the time I had my son, this friend and I really started to become close. But, there were always undercurrents about how "this or that" was best. Her opinions weren't limited to religious things, but nearly every aspect of my life. There was a great deal of pressure on how I raised my son. If I didn't use cloth diapers, make my own baby food, nurse for two years, homeschool, etc., then I just wasn't passing muster. This way was the ONLY way. Advice for dealing with others not as like-minded as myself was to cut them off, my brother included. I was told that my saintly aunt, who has a simple faith and doesn't approach things intellectually at all but from her heart, didn't believe in the Real Presence because if she did she wouldn't have these questions about her faith. Her questions were like those of St. Therese, not brought about by pride but by love.

This friend, and those around her, walk precariously close the sedevacantist camp. She believes in a great number of conspiracy theories and was critical of me when I didn't endeavor to learn all about them. For me, these theories, along with some unapproved apparitions and questionable assertions from a few priests (the Third Secret of Fatima cover-up for example), cause more paranoia than they do to further my faith and draw me closer to God.

When my brother stopped by on his way back to Switzerland, he was talking about the recent military surge in Iraq. He was explaining how the surge worked. It wasn't a matter of having more troops to fight, the plan wasn't merely to out number the enemy. Previously, the military would come into a town and get rid of the bad guys and then they would move on. Once the military left a particular town, the bad guys would move right back in. This was very chaotic for the civilians of Iraq, but also a waste of time and resources for the military. With the surge, once a town is cleared of the bad guys, some of our good guys stay so that the town remains safe and free. That's how the surge is working.

We are told that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church. The sedevacantists believe we have no Pope, or worse that the Pope is really an anti-Pope. From my point of view, to have no Pope, when one is clearly elected, would be like the Gates of Hell prevailing. Jesus came and established His Church. He cleaned out the bad guys, leaving His successor to protect and lead us.

If only my psychologically expensive friend expended more energy in drawing closer to Christ than looking over her shoulder for all the bad guys she believes are lurking behind her.

Maybe it's best just to let things be, but I think the charitable thing to do is write her a nice letter and touch base. In this case, distance is probably a blessing, but estrangement and discord are never good.

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
Sun Tzu


Marilena said...

writing her a letter would be a good idea. i will pray for her. God bless you.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

swissmiss: I've lost a lot of friends since my reversion. My dissident and ultra-left wing buddies think I've gone insane and that I'm not THE ENEMY. They fail to realize that the enemy is Satan and I may be bad but not that bad...

Anyway, I'm with you. I could write almost an identical post but with dissenters in it rather then ultra-trads. Actually, I think I did write some posts around this issue at one point.

I was wondering the other day, with Vincenzo, is there, really, a difference between the ultra-trads (as you've described) and dissenters? They have many things in common: chief among them distrust of our church leaders for various reasons and thinking they know best.

entropy said...

Writing her a letter does seem like the right thing to do and your hearts seems like it's in the right place to do it. Hopefully you'll mend the break without inviting her too much into your life again. Psychologically expensive people are hard. I like that term, though, very descriptive!

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the prayers! Many times they are the only way to deal with a situation.

It is really a weird phenomena. Both camps have a certain paranoia about them. It's hard enough for me to follow the established rules of the Church, but to make ones own preferences into rules...

Ma Beck said...

You are a sweet friend, Swiss.
Many people would just abandon her to friendlessness.

Anonymous said...

Swiss Miss,

Good post on both friendships and the trad/liberal problems with those people in the middle who just trying to be faithful to Holy Mother Church.

Happy Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton! What a great saint for we (or us?) Mom and everyone else too.


swissmiss said...

I'm not sure what a letter will do since the year of silence speaks volumes, but I certainly want to keep the lines of communication open.

Thanks! Hopefully a letter will break the log jam.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is a wonderful saint. Coincidentally, a (distant) cousin of mine is the organist at Saint EAS in Hastings.

Terry Nelson said...

You are a good friend indeed, the poor woman has no idea. I always think people such as your friend simply have to control everything and everyone around them because they are so afraid they themselves will fall into chaos if they don't. This is one reason why these personality types become such diehard uber trads.

You may have been fortunate she distanced herself from you to allow you space to do things as you needed to. Now you will contact her out of genuine friendship. Even if she rejects you again, your charity will have its effect.

Maybe someday she will understand.

swissmiss said...

Thanks, Terry. I really don't see myself as such a great friend, but I don't want to have any animosity hanging around. I always have just chalked it up to the "first born" thing since we are supposed to be people pleasers and not like discord :)

Lisa said...

You are incredibly kind and charitable to this friend. Hmmm...is it okay to just let a friendship "be" wherever it's at? People change, life circumstances change. We sometimes grow out of certain friendships. I believe it can also be detrimental to one's own spirit/health to continue friendships with certain people. I've had my share of those in the last few years!
Good post and my prayers are with you!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I too have been in this position and like you find it draining. I have a tendancy these days to let go and let God (an AA phrase). It's hard to say stuff in a combox, but I would be cautious about writing; sometimes it can raise unwanted ghosts-but you can judge that better than me.

Being back in the Church has been oddly challenging; I have had to keep a lot of my faith under wraps-but strangely my caferteria and protestant friends have been more accepting than some of the more orthodox Catholics I've met since coming home. I actually left a Catholic Homeschooling group because it was full of people who thought a good Catholic should drop all lapsed friends and family and should certainly have no truck with protestants and non-Christians. It got nasty-I couldn't deal with that and left.
Funny old world.