June 23, 2011

Joy Stealers

Ran on Open Salon under my nom de plume yesterday.  Decided to repost with some excellent comments that truly made me think.  I must add as a caveat that I'm not in the habit of dumping friends and there have only been a few that I have drifted away from over the years.  Certainly I would not abandon anyone in crisis.  But "Just Thinking" brings up some good points.  This makes me happy, because I want my writing to provoke thought....  This is why I included the OS comments today.

Joy Stealers

I’ve been having lunch with J. and R. for at least 15 years. We don’t make lunch every month, but when we do it is always deep, rollicking, thought-provoking conversation that makes me think for days.
One topic we covered last week was the changing nature of friendship. My relationship with both of them is a testament to friendship, as we’ve remained involved for many years. I met J. when I first moved here 23 years ago, and I met R. about 16 or 17 years ago. Both are fine women I’m glad to call my friends. For different reasons, they inspire me and I know I’m a better person for knowing them.
What is the nature of friendship? Most women have groups— cliques, bridge clubs, whatever you call it—that steady them in rough sailing and rock the boat joyfully in calmer waters. I’ve always been blessed with many friends. The greatest compliment my father ever gave me was that I was “friends with everybody” as a child.
That does not remain true today. At a point in life, you realize that you don’t have the time to be “friends with everybody.” You can be “friendly” without being friends.
Beyond superficial relationships, there came in point in my life where I decided to make some decisions about my friends. There is a time, I believe, when you have to let some friends go. (That sounds really arrogant; so let me say that I’m sure there are many people who have “let me go” with glee and a hearty shove.)
Fifty was a seminal birthday for me. It was also a time of consciously choosing who I was going to move forward with. While longevity, loyalty, and history do add to the equation, there is one factor that weighs above all others. In certain cases it may even subtract longevity, loyalty, and history.
That factor was the subject of our lunch, and the reason I throw some friends back into the sea.
It is “joy stealing.” What do I mean by that?
Have you ever been around someone who steals your joy? It can happen in a number of ways. They are always so down that they bring you down. They reject any notion that there is any happiness in the world. They blame everyone else for problems they have caused. They “play old tapes” (a 1970s notion from the book I’m Okay, You’re Okay by Dr. Wayne Dyer) and repeat and repeat old, negative vibes that should be dead and buried.
But here’s the worst sin, and one I can hardly take anymore. They build themselves up at the expense of others. Oh, I know this sin so well, for I am guilty of having done it so many times. Almost every errant statement I’ve said and hurt someone falls in this category. It’s the ultimate weapon in the passive-aggressive’s quiver. That is why I think I’m so sensitive about it. And I’m working on it, every day.
Sometimes people do this jokingly, but don’t realize others may take offense. And some do realize it, and do it anyway.
Let me clarify I’m not talking about snark or sarcasm. I love snark and sarcasm. But when it comes at the expense of someone defenseless, then it becomes a different issue.
Friends can be the great joy of a full life, but it isn’t worth it if they suck the life right out of you. Surround yourself with people who don’t steal your joy.

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Snark shared among friends is fun. Snark aimed at friends is well, just wrong. I cherish my friendships and have no room for the joy stealers.
You said it well, Bea. ~r
How did Larry beat me here?
I can relate to this more than I would like....from both perspectives:)
I've had to let go of a few friendships over the years. Friends who proved too costly (emotionally) to maintain, but mostly I've had friendships that have either been stalwart, tried and true, forever and ever friends, or transient friends, based upon circumstances.

I think it's okay to make friends with co-workers and neighbors and others whom you know will be in your life for as long as that connection lasts, while still keeping the door open for something more long lasting!
@Larry. One particular friend calls me "B" and I call her "S" but it means something completely different....
I'm with you. Some people don't get me. Those are the ones I've left.
You ask... "Do folk steal your joy?"
Some steal my hoe, tools, books,
and break my heart daily. Crooks.
Creeps steal your good reputation.
The editors may ruin their own self.
The media pundits goes so-ill-mania.
I'd rather be class-kindergarden nerd.
In kindergarden we could be monsters.
I loved holding a `gal monster soft hand.
I liked walking in the woods to play poker.
We'd poke at Poke-Weed and eat greens.
Sometimes you have to let people go......
Oh, is that why you don't talk to me anymore?
I have found the older I get, the less patience I have for "glass half empty" people. Life's too short.
Amen. Everyone has their moments, so I try to cut the appropriate amount of slack considering the situation and person involved. But habitual joy stealers get none of my time.
@cranky. It has been a long FOUR hours since we last spoke. (Now that was SNARK and SARCASM!!)
Some friends, some people do suck the air out of a room -- you are dead right in all of this. I do think as we age we begin to have much better priorities.
I am a compassionate friend, but have recently drawn the line with those who keep regurgitating the same old stories of hurts from years ago. I don't think it is good for them to keep talking about it or for me to continue to absorb all that negative energy!! Life is for the living not for the re-living!!!!
those who get me
those who "duh" me
those who think they are me
i'm cool with them all
but my friends might disagree
I think I have done this joy stealing, because my idea of humor is not the same as everyone else's. If I ever did it to you, I apologize freely. You can just say the code words, "not funny" if I do it.
"...when it comes at the expense of someone defenseless,"

it is lack of tact, lack of class, insensitive and rude. Well said. R
Well said. Life is just too short.
Oh, there are many forms of joy stealing.

That you recognize this building up at another's expense is to the credit of your character, a sign that you are proceeding to the cure from it. I wish I had recognized this about myself long ago and I would have more friends.
I agree with this sentiment so much!
Absolutely. I try to be kind to everyone because I feel happier when I'm kind. But very few are what I consider real friends. My real friends add to my joy and I hope I add to theirs. Some of those real friends I rarely see, but we will be at each other's door when needed. just like the song...
Well said, Bernadine! xox
You could have just told me in PM you didn't want to be friends anymore.

*Hangs his head low and wanders off into the thorn bushes, crying all the way*
There was an old bit, from some comedian, forget who, about a character named George. Who, by simply entering a room, brought everyone down. I have a few friends for whom I serve the sole purpose of unloading, in fine detail, all their current (and past) physical and emotional pains, never noticing that I don't reciprocate. Well, only one at the moment, and I haven't the heart to throw her under the bus (appropriate cliche in this case). One friend, someone everyone wants to be near, is a beacon of joy and fun, radiating indiscriminately, and seldom discusses the symptoms and problems of his terminal disease and the affects of the many medications...

I'm somewhere in between. I can grump and complain, and bring up old grievances, but mostly am cheerful and smiley, with occasional snark...
"Joy stealing!" What an exactly right phrase that is! You make a very good distinction between snark and sarcasm, and that gnawing sense of littleness some people feel and try to surmount by inflating themselves at the expense of others. Good post: thoughtful.
I like the wise distinctions you make here. Rated.
Ahh, finally an appropriate term for them, thank you . It is far better to be around those who stoke your fires rather than smother them. Loved this post!
Maintaining friendships is energy-sapping, I find, which is why by design I have so few. I have no time at all for people who steal my joy. Joy is just too hard to come by for that.

I hate joy suckers. They suck the air out of you. Lucinda Williams has a great song called You Stole My Joy ( Iwant it back..).
I had to let go of a few friends when I hit fifty too, it's not easy, but friendship should be with like minded people not people that your only connection is the past. Nice to see you Bea.
The minute one is discovered, I immediately stay away.

I need all the joy I can get!
people who always have a 'but' in their sentences and whose days are consistently bleak and gloomy are off my list. some of them are family members, unfortunately, and i can't never see them but i spend not one jot of psychic energy on them and no more time than absolutely required. interesting piece, a/b. thanks.
I have broken up with several friends when I realized I needed to stop feeling that suffocating feeling of their "joy stealing". I realized that it usually isn't worth talking about, because that just opens them up to unleashing on me. I choose, instead, to reflect on my own culpability in the situation (going along with it) and deciding what kind of person I want to be. No point in finger pointing or blaming, just move along and stop trying to negotiate for something I really don't want, which is their "friendship".
This excellent post spoke to me; like you, I have had to reevaluate certain friendships which I felt were poisoning my life. I am not a big fan of snark, as it is currently and popularly understood. I do believe in wit, but I prefer those witticisms which break open conventional ideas with an eye toward freedom and wisdom. Snark, too often, only seeks to condemn.
I totally agree! And I admire you for seeing something in yourself that you find a fault, and working to fix it. Though it's hard to believe you're a "joy stealer" of any kind.
Bea, this was so good. An attitude split seems to happen around a certain age Some people shrink and contract and bitter-up, while others recognize the speed and brevity of our planet time and suck away at the life straw with piglet-like vigor. I'm noticing that while I'm surrounding myself with those in the latter group, after fifty, people begin to die, and finding new trough recruits is hard. Another reason to be grateful for the internet. Oinky oinky.
I can relate to this, Bernadine, and have let go of one very good friend after it was clear I was just her emotional landfill dumping spot...but I do wonder -- then what?
Are all these dumped friends getting any clue of why they have no friends? Is anyone talking from their heart to them, recommending they try positive-thinking-therapy? Be-a-good-friend therapy? Peace-Love-and-Light therapy? Where is the healing for all in this? Is this really a selfish method of handling negativity-ridden friends??
All questions I've pondered since my "see ya" moment with my former friend.
It seems so popular to dump the negative friends, walk away from a continual frown...something just doesn't feel very healthy in this method either...
Is this too much of a bummer?