Friendly help re­paid with an of­fen­sive al­le­ga­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - E9 - CAROLYN HAX

My part­ner and I have been good friends with awom­anwe’ve known for years.

Last sum­mer, dur­ing her vacation, she asked­meto help re­pair a small item in her home. I went over and fixed the item, and al­so­mowed her yard as a sur­prise when she got back home. I even left awel­come bot­tle of wine on the ta­ble.

Iwas shocked to learn the next day her home had been bro­ken into, ran­sacked and dam­aged. She called me, hys­ter­i­cal, and said Iwas re­spon­si­ble for leav­ing the garage door open! Iwas equally up­set at her dam­aged home but knewin noway had I left the garage open.

My friend did not be­lieve me. She ter­mi­nated our friend­ship, re­paired her home, and put it up for sale be­cause she could not live in it any­more. I tor­mented my­self try­ing to re­mem­ber de­tails of that day. My own part­ner even sug­gested that­maybe Iwas pre­oc­cu­pied or dis­tracted.

Our ex-friend andmy part­ner work to­gether and re­mained on good terms, but she­would not per­mit him to speak ofmein her pres­ence.

On the eve of her home sale, her adult daugh­ter con­fessed that she­was the one who left the garage door open. She­was too em­bar­rassed to ad­mit her mis­take and let­metake the heat for it.

Ex-friend shows up at our door, bot­tle of wine in hand, to ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion and ex­press her de­sire to “re­newour friend­ship and love” and that “all is for­given and for­got­ten.” I hand back the wine and ex­press that noth­ing is be­ing re­newed, for­given or for­got­ten.

NowI am­still the bad guy. My ex-friend is up­set andmy part­ner thinks I am­be­ing un­rea­son­able and hurt­ful to ev­ery­one. Hewants meto put the­mat­ter to rest to help our friend deal with the new is­sue of her own daugh­ter’s in­tegrity and char­ac­ter. AmI the un­rea­son­able one?

No More Mr. Nice Guy

No. The daugh­ter does in­deed have char­ac­ter and in­tegrity prob­lems, and that isn’t a co­in­ci­dence.

Had you been re­spon­si­ble for leav­ing the door open, it would have been an ac­ci­dent by a stead­fast friend who made an er­ror of good in­ten­tions. A ma­ture per­son would have as­sured you it wasn’t your fault, it was the bur­glar’s.

Like­wise, amature per­son would now want you to for­give this small-minded and ridicu­lous woman— if only be­cause it would be good for your own well-be­ing to do so. There would be a cer­tain po­etry to for­giv­ing the mis­take of some­one who is so emo­tion­ally stunted that she can’t for­give any­one’s mis­takes but her own.

Still, that same good friend also would sup­port, not chal­lenge, your de­ci­sion not to as­so­ci­ate with this woman again. As it did with her daugh­ter, this in­ci­dent ex­posed the sparkling void where your (al­leged) friend’s char­ac­ter was sup­posed to be.

Which is why your real prob­lem here is what the in­ci­dent has told you about your own part­ner’s in­tegrity. Couldn’t speak of you in her pres­ence, hello? I get that pro­fes­sion­alper­sonal ties are com­pli­cated, but he seems more concerned with keep­ing things easy than mak­ing things right. It would be quite rea­son­able to ask your part­ner why his sym­pa­thies aren’t with you.

NICK GAL­I­FI­ANAKIS FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

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