One year ago, on March 11th. 2010, I lost one of my best friends.
This wasn’t a loss due to him leaving town, due to him passing away, or due our lives just drifting apart – those all just happen sometimes. We live in a busy day and age and it’s hard to hold on to friendships with the hustle of the day; that is, unfortunately, the reality of our time in life. I can deal with that.
And this wasn’t just a good friend whose leaving can be worked over with time and a few tears. This was a best friend; a man who helped me propose to my bride, a man who I shared my aspirations and struggles with, a man who I knew wouldn’t hesitate to move between me and any adversary that threatened me in order to take a punch – or throw a punch to defend me.
The truth is he was one of the bravest, most loyal men I ever knew, sometimes to where I wondered if he was loyal and brave to a fault.
But then, one year ago, he became a coward.
You see, I believed in him and his skills. There was an opportunity for us to work together on a project that would enable him to be paid in order to do his craft. I trusted him with one of the biggest projects of my career because I knew the quality he could bring and, genuinely, wanted to give him a chance to create something amazing. It turned out less than amazing, but we gave him another shot even through I was reprimanded. I believed in him that much, I was that loyal to him – when everyone I shared his art with questioned my judgement I said, no, this is good – I know because my friend told me so.
So we gave him more projects. We paid him what he asked, and then I renegotiated to pay him even more for the future projects because he felt he deserved it and I agreed. Of the seven agreed upon projects, only 3 were delivered. For 3 months, my emails went unreturned even when projects were due and contracts needed to be signed. Then, finally, I was able to schedule a lunch with one of the other business partners/artists involved.
At the end of our lunch, I find out that my former best friend had become a coward and – instead of being willing to join us for lunch – had sent a note to be read. A note saying he couldn’t be my friend anymore.
He forced a mutal friend of ours to read a note to me saying how prideful I was, saying how horrible of a business person I was, how I robbed him of money, how I was the most selfish person he knew, how my only care in my life was for my career, and, most importantly, how my actions caused him to question the Gospel. This once brave, loyal man didn’t have the courage to face me and say anything to my face – instead he had someone else do his dirty work for him.
It wasn’t until then that I realized how abusive this best friend was. A flood of memories came rushing back to me of the times he mocked me, of the times people told me he talked behind my back but I didn’t believe them, of the times he would cause trouble just to watch me react. I had always looked over those things because I valued him as a friend; I forgave him for simply being himself and loved him all the same. But this finally broke me:
He intentionally put another friend out to deliver this horrible, gut-wrenching note saying our friendship was over and that I was a horrible human being. He made another man read this note as I sat and openly wept in a public restaurant. He was such a coward that he was willing to ruin my friendship with the messenger; my understanding from the conversation is that he even told the messenger that he wasn’t allowed to be my friend anymore either. I’m not making that up – that was discussed in our lunch.
The messenger said we, and our respective spouses, would get dinner some time once things had calmed down. I’ve never heard from the messenger since. I’m assuming my once brave friend wouldn’t let him – because the messenger told me that he wouldn’t do dinner with us if my former friend didn’t want him to.
This huge, gaping wound in my life is still huge and gaping. I thought a year later I’d be over it. To be honest, I stopped blogging mostly because of this experience: in the note it was clearly stated that my blog and twitter made him upset because I would talk about the good things in my life too much. To be personal, to dig all the way deep, I haven’t made any new close friends since this wound. I used to be warm and support men and become their friend quickly and strongly… but only in writing this email do I realize that I haven’t done that in the past year like I used to.
I don’t think about that day very often, because it messes me up when I do. It throws me off and makes me wonder what random thing I should have done differently.
The afternoon after the note – where so much rested upon the issues that occurred because of our business agreements – I spent going through emails and calendars trying to piece together what went wrong. How had I messed up so badly in our business dealings that I would lose a friend? Was I really that bad of a businessman? I had to have the answer – and the answer was, in all of our dealings, only one thing happened negative on my side: we were late with one payment by 6 days… but even that was because the invoice turned in was wrong. Once the correct invoice was in, we paid within the 30 days we have alloted to pay (of course, this is just my side of the story. I admit something more must have happened… but I just can’t find the data to show where we messed up. And I looked, desperately – I wanted to know how to make it right).
And so, instead of a great collaboration between me and one of my best friends… I am left with this messed up wound where a friend once was.
I don’t know why I finally wrote some of these thoughts down. I guess it was just time to share the story. I know that, whether I like it or not, this experience has colored my friendships the past year. I know it’s changed how I do business. I know that I’ve written dozens of blog posts like this in my head, but never could put it into words in a text box.
To my friends, I’m sorry if I’ve been a coward. This is a part of my life story now; help me rebuild what friendship means.
To my former friend, I still love you. I understand the friendship is over and – quite frankly – I don’t know how much I want it back. But I still love you, and I can’t wait for the eternal day in Heaven where we finally have the epiphany about how trivial these things were and grace can flow. That will be a good day. And then we will be friends again.