That awkward moment when you learn that a friend did you wrong.

I found out today that someone I had considered a friend up to today did me wrong a while back, and has been chummy as hell to me before and afterward.

It doesn’t suck so much to lose a friend like that.  Personally, I think I’m pretty rad about keeping shitty people out of my life.  I have plenty of friends who are trustworthy, and so I have no need for people who aren’t.

I do find, however, that I’m much less angry at the person who wronged me and much more angry at myself for not catching wise.  Then there are all the usual thoughts: Should I confront said person?  Should I hold a grudge?  Should I inform other people that this person isn’t exactly reliable as a friend?

I suspect that the next time we’re in the same place, I’ll make it plain that I know what they did and leave it at that.  Being angry when it won’t change anything will only make me less happy, and if I let them live in my head then they get to fuck me twice.  Being duped like this is just part of being a good friend to others and leading a happy life.  I’d rather be disappointed from time to time than suspicious all the time.

And so life, as it tends to do, goes on.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Wes

    Is it me, Jesus?

  • julian

    That sounds really crappy. I don’t mean to patronize you but, is it possible this is a misunderstanding?

    • JT Eberhard

      No, it’s not.

  • John Horstman

    Ugh, that sucks. Your strategy for moving forward seems sound, as does your outlook on friendship.

  • http://www.SecularCensus.US/ Mary Ellen Sikes

    Just one betrayal? I envy you. (I also wish I could offer advice, but nope. Sorry.)

    • Cambridge

      This is the least productive kind of comment you could leave someone when they need support. You are doing a bad job.

      • http://www.SecularCensus.US/ Mary Ellen Sikes

        I know. It came out wrong, and I told JT so in an email. I guess comments can’t be deleted after they’re posted?

  • Zugswang

    It sucks when this happens, and it’s happened to me several times. Not enough to turn me into a hermit, but enough that I’ve figured out a lot of good, but subtle telltale signs of potential danger. Crappy friends are like vaccines, in that way, and their transgressions haven’t built significant barriers of trust to making new friends for me.

    As far as your situation, if this is the kind of betrayal that you feel would be visited on other people, then yes, you should warn them. Whether you confront this person is up to you, but when it’s a big enough betrayal to end a friendship, there isn’t a lot that would be accomplished by confronting them, except to learn the extent to which they are willing to lie to you. Perhaps to communicate the disappointment you feel, and maybe they will be penitent, and become better people for realizing the pain it caused you. You move on, but you also take those actions that are necessary to prevent other people from placing the kind of trust that would allow them to become victims.

  • Wes

    In all seriousness, that really sucks. I would probably confront them, but I’m a confrontational kind of guy. I always want to hear a person’s explanation for their behavior. It’s less about providing me with a justification and more about wanting to know how they justify it to themselves.

  • vmarq

    At lease the wrongdoer is alive and you have the choice whether to confront this person. Recently, my boss lost a former employee (who I also knew) to cancer. She had left the company long before cancer came around, but remained a good friend. Well, a couple of weeks after she died it came to our knowledge that she had literally stolen one of our clients. My boss was beside himself – a mixture of anger and helplessness. He loved this person. I told him to just let it go. Sometimes it’s the only choice you have.

  • Azkyroth

    On the bright side, at least this isn’t someone you’re in a relationship with (business, marriage, etc.) that it’s…complicated…to get out of. x.x

    • Azkyroth

      Also, congratulations for being willful* enough to get out of it the first time it happened.

      *no, I don’t accept that this is a pejorative.

  • V. Riga

    I am very sorry that happed to you, but you are better off knowing about it. If it is likely that this person will do something similar to someone else, you should probably tell others to be careful, even if you don’t want to give any specifics.
    The last time I was extremely angry and dissapointed with someone I wrote him a long letter. I haven’t send it yet and might never do so, but writing it helped me to get over my anger. And if I choose to confront the person in question, I will know what to a say and how to say it.

  • Baal

    You have my sympathy. It’s always rough to be betrayed (screwed over?) but it’s a consequence of living like a decent person. I’ve been in much the same place and for exactly the same reason on occasion. If you treat people like they are decent, honest and open, you’ll likely have better relationships and so will the other people. However, some people are jerks (or feel forced by circumstance – if I’m being generous) and take advantage. I’ve even had one of those folks say, “you fell for an obvious lie” like it’s my fault for not catching them. Two folks, 1 liar and 1 person being nice…the ‘blame’ is not on the one being nice.

  • indradawn

    When I recently related to a close friend a very painful incident that transpired between myself and a friend of a close friend of his (a bit confusing, I know), he demanded to know the gentleman’s name. When I balked, he insisted, saying, “People don’t show colors to indicate they are poisonous.” I don’t know if that was “his” or not, but it sure stuck with me.

    At least tell your close friends, lest they get a nasty, venomous bite. Just my two cents.

    Sorry that happened, JT.

  • RuQu

    I read through all of these comments, and I must admit I’m confused.

    Obviously JT is being intentionally vague, but I don’t even know what possible categories of betrayal everyone is talking about.

    I not only don’t think that I’ve never been betrayed, I cannot think of a way that I could be. I guess my wife could have an affair, but that’s so unlikely as to be outside the realm of speculation. Theft? Betrayal of confidence would require that I have secrets, and I choose to live a life without any.

    In the realm of helpful commentary, perhaps, moving forward, it is worth assessing your life and seeing what choices you make that leave you vulnerable to betrayal? I know some people choose to have secrets, then choose to share them with a few people, and are shocked and betrayed when someone passes that secret along. Their betrayal could never happen if they avoided having secrets in the first place. Likewise some people will talk about one friend to another, generally unfavorably, and then feel betrayed when those comments get back to the friend they bad-mouthed. Perhaps the right answer there is to not engage in that behavior initially? If the problem is theft…stop leaving your computer unattended at airports. It upsets the cops.

    Sometimes our behaviors open up opportunities for people to wrong us. That doesn’t eliminate the guilt of the person who did so, but it is worth assessing if we can avoid giving that opportunity in the future. And this can be done without negatively affecting your life. You don’t have to be a hermit or suspicious of everyone to not expose yourself to harm.

    • Azkyroth

      To the extent that there’s any merit in this, I would trust JT to have been smart enough to think about it himself….

    • iknklast

      Soumds like a classic case of blame the victim here. To assume that the only way to be betrayed is to do something to be betrayed over is, IMHO, naive. There are many ways people can betray us that might not have anything to do with our own foolish secrets or actions. For instance, if I were working on a project with someone, and they chose to go around behind my back and lie about me to my boss, that would be a betrayal, but it wouldn’t necessarily be my fault. It might happen just from the other person’s ambition. We were assigned a project, we worked on it, and the other one wants all the credit. This happens. It happens a lot.

      Also, to just say don’t have secrets is, again IMHO, naive. Perhaps nothing ever happens in your life that can’t be shared with everyone, or perhaps you don’t ever need to talk to anyone about things that have happened. Many people aren’t this way. Secrets are all right; secrets are sometimes necessary, because there are things that we need to keep from others at times. For instance, if I keep a secret from my father that I am an atheist because I don’t want to destroy his last years, this is not a bad thing, but it also is a thing where someone could betray me (perhaps hoping I’d get cut out of his will, or something). Not everything in life is, or should be, public. We do have secrets. You may not have any secrets, but to suggest that no one should have secrets is not realisitic.

      • Azkyroth

        RuQu’s comments make me think of a socially isolated 17 year old who’s read a LOT of “great advice” and some social philosophy.

        • iknklast

          Actually, it sort of made me think of all those motivational speakers my boss brings in for us. If you’re unhappy, it isn’t the terrible work conditions, it’s you. No matter what happens, the only thing that makes you miserable is your attitude about it. The boss doesn’t need to do anything differently, you just need to put on a smile and vow to work harder to make your world better by liking it no matter what. It’s the same type of philosophy.

          Yes, our attitude makes a difference. No, it isn’t OK to tell someone to just suck it up, or that if they had just done things differently, bad things wouldn’t happen, because they will. And if your job sucks, it sucks. If your attitude sucks in a good situation, that’s your fault. If your attitude sucks in a bad situation, that might be the fact that you see reality a bit too clearly.

          • RuQu

            Actually, I’d say you are decently close on this one, as I think we would all benefit from reading more of the classic Stoic philosophers. My favorite is Epictetus, who I’ve quoted in response to other threads.

            He was a slave. He knew a thing or two about shitty work conditions and abuse. His views on how to accept the bad things that happen in life are worth reading. Some of the advice doesn’t translate well into the modern world, but some of it certainly does or can spur thought on how you might come to accept the less pleasant parts of your life.

            But my comment isn’t only about attitude. I clearly say you should take actions. Identify the areas where you can act in a way that better protects you, and then do so.

          • Azkyroth

            “Self-help books.” That’s the wording I was searching for. Fuck. >.>

        • RuQu

          I can see you clearly demonstrating your keen social development through your remarkable ability to make assumptions about other people’s lives and passive-aggressive insult of accusing people of being young and inexperienced.

          You know nothing about me. You know nothing about how I’ve lived, or what I’ve seen, or the people or events I’ve dealt with.

      • RuQu

        Did you skip this line entirely?

        “That doesn’t eliminate the guilt of the person who did so, but it is worth assessing if we can avoid giving that opportunity in the future.”

        Any social interaction requires at least two people. If a person betrays a secret, you were wrong to trust them. They have moral guilt, but you should at least assess if you can reevaluate how you decide who to entrust your secrets to. To not do so is to leave yourself open to repeating the same mistake.

        That isn’t blaming the victim, that is taking steps to avoid re-victimization.

        To use your examples, if you are working on a group project, consider documenting the roles of the members of the group or, at the very least, documenting your contributions. Depending on your work situation, consider bouncing an idea or the status past your boss in the future, so they see your involvement. Consider status reports that include notes on who contributed to which sections of the project during that reporting period. If your coworker is able to take all of the credit, you clearly did something wrong in simply not leaving a visible mark on the project.

        You say it’s naive to have no secrets, and then you list ways in which it was possible to have no secrets. My family has known I was an atheist for decades. I don’t discuss my politics or religion at work, but they aren’t secrets. I simply don’t think they are good work conversation, just like they aren’t good at the dinner table, so I change the subject. I talk to people about “things that happen,” but I don’t have any “things happen” that can’t be made public. I’d list more examples of secrets, but, as I said in my first comment, I really can’t think of anything I would keep secret.

        • iknklast

          I didn’t exactly say it was naive to have no secrets. I said it was naive to expect people to have no secrets. Those are two totally different statements. If you live a life where you can have no secrets, that’s great. Not everyone can do that, and for some of us, it’s simply not safe. And not financially prudent, in my particular case.

          And I didn’t miss that line. I merely didn’t feel it changed my overall assessment. It still puts the blame on the victim to say they were wrong to trust them. Absent any reason for distrust, if you know someone well enough and they have always been a good friend, or seemed to be, most people will trust them. In retrospect, they are not trustworthy, but it may not have been JT who was wrong; it may very well still have been the friend, if they had given no signals that they are not trustworthy.

          • RuQu

            I have said repeatedly that the friend is to blame, regardless of how trustworthy they are.

            I fail to see how saying “Live and learn” is the same as “It’s your fault.”

            Any time something happens that you don’t want to have happen again, you should assess the situation and see if there is anything you can do differently next time. That doesn’t make it your fault.

            I travel. A lot. I’ve been robbed once. I was very, very drunk at the time and didn’t even notice. I was almost mugged once as well, but I was sober and saw them trailing me, and instead of taking the shortcut past a very dark area, I turned and walked into a well lit area with plenty of people, and just stared at the person tailing me until they turned and left. I then took a longer, but better lit route home. The person who robbed me and the person who attempted to are both to blame. They are both criminals. However, by making better choices the second time, I avoided being a victim a second time.

  • Silent Service

    I guess the only question I would have is, does the person even realize that they screwed you over? People can be pretty clueless at times, even willfully so.

    • Azkyroth

      Or worse, are they one of those absolute RAT FUCKS who realizes what they did but thinks you’re not allowed to count it against them because “I didn’t do it MALICIOUSLY,” just sort of accidentally-passive-aggressively-on-purpose.

      (The word “maliciously” probably makes my blood pressure jump about 20 points by now.)

      • RuQu

        “Never assume for malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

        There are far more stupid and/or thoughtless people than there are willfully evil people.

        • Azkyroth

          And you imagine this is a relevant response to my complaining about people who pretend that (purported) lack of “malice” is a get-out-of-consequences-free card…..why?

          • RuQu

            Or it could be a response to the person you replied to, who pretty clearly was talking about non-intentional harm (cluelessness, lack of awareness that they harmed him). These comment boards don’t allow edits, and it’s generally bad form to double post.

            Or, you know, you can just keep on assuming the worst of everyone and using it as an excuse to be an asshole. I’m sure that plan will work out just fine for you and doesn’t at all explain why you know so many “RAT FUCKS” who betray you.