Friendships must react to our limitations

Over the next few days we’re telling a story about a couple of friends using fake names. Feel free to get caught up before reading.

Igor survived his life crisis. He and Boris have told and retold this story of losing one life only to find a better one many times. People admire the work of both men and find this story encouraging. And it really is. However, the story continues.

It reminds me of various characters in the Bible. Do we judge the life of David based on the time he felled a giant with a humble shepherd’s slingshot or that time when kings go to war but King David stayed home and got a soldier’s wife knocked up? Do we evaluate King Solomon by his amazing request for wisdom from God at an early age or how towards the end of his life he lived a life of sexual debauchery?

Life is not a story; it is a storyline, with as many plot twists and turns as a great Agatha Christie thriller. This is why we cannot rest on our past stories of triumph or gloat when we have a rags-to-riches story of redemption.

In some ways, all of us can get stuck in our own version of reality. But life is not stagnant and our good and/or bad choices are not permanent. Today, Boris is in trouble. This flips the narrative. We may like a thrilling novel or exciting movie, but we prefer our own personal stories to stay predictable.

Boris doesn’t like to be needy; Igor does not want to be his friend’s help in times of trouble. Their relationship worked better the old way. But that is not reality.

In reality, Igor continues to make plenty of mis-steps. Not as obvious as Boris, perhaps, but equally devastating in a quieter, less public way. The stress is compounded now because Boris is also in trouble.

Igor is not able to see himself through the same critical lens he uses to study Boris - this is a problem. If Igor could realize that he too, like the rest of us, is a work in progress, he might realize that he has legitimate limitations himself. Maybe that is more “real” than simply blaming Boris for being fully human with limitations.

I am not advocating that Igor increase his self-criticism because I do not think criticism is helpful. But it is pretty painful to watch Igor be judgmental about his friend while ignoring his own limitations.

What if instead of evaluating everyone as winners or losers, we continually acknowledged that every single one of us has limitations? If we do this, then we can share our burdens more effectively. Those who have particular strengths match their super powers of sharing their strength with those who have particular limitations that especially need these skills. Simultaneously, someone else is bringing their strength and sharing it with the person who is using his or her super powers to help someone else. Confusing? I thought so. To restate - we share our super powers as a gift to others who are struggling and receive the superpowers of others as a gift to help us with our limitations. I believe this is often referred to as the circle of life. But Igor isn’t living in the circle; he’s shooting straight at the heart of Boris with is verbal darts of criticism.

What are your superpowers? What are your limitations?