At least once in your lifetime you are going to witness one of your close friends being mistreated when her actions are misunderstood. On one hand, you will want to protect her by speaking out against the crowd. On the other hand, you will want to avoid getting tangled in a web of problems. Do you step up to the plate and defend friends? Or, do you keep your silence?
My rule of thumb: Be fearless even if you are fearful.
The first time I stepped up to the plate, I was 18 years old and a freshman in college.
Six months prior, I had pledged to a sorority. It was now ‘hash’ time at the sorority house, when current members literally hash over the new pledges: Who will be chosen? Who will be tossed aside?
On that cold winter day, all of the girls in the sorority house had a meeting to discuss the new pledges. Not all would be chosen for two reasons: there was limited space and some girls would be a better fit than others.
I remember that day vividly. I was sitting in a room with my sisters, many of whom I did not know well since I was a new member, listening to the more seasoned members discuss the potential new pledges.
I was seated in a chair knitting! Even at the age of eighteen, I was constantly learning new skills. I was my mother’s daughter.
Anyway, I heard the name of my friend come up. She was being ‘hashed’ over. I did not lift my head as I said to myself, “knit one, pearl two,” while listening intently to the words of my sisters.
Their back and forth banter was not positive. I don’t recall what they said, but I do recall that I began to knit and pearl faster and faster… thinking to myself, should I speak up?
My friend’s name was Gail. She was a beautiful tall blonde with a warm personality and her first semester grades were admirable. She was well-liked and, in my mind, she would be an asset to our house.
I finally looked up from my knitting and took a good look at my sisters sitting on couches, chairs and on the floor. I had made up my mind… I was going to defend my girlfriend. After all, I was my mother’s daughter and I knew she would applaud me as long as I was a lady.
I guess I was too young to be fearful of the outcome. I was a small town girl from Kankakee by the Sea, and what did I know about these city girls and their mouths?
Looking back now, I know it was my values that caused me to speak up.
In a soft voice I said, “Gail is bright, beautiful, warm and well-liked. There is no reason to blackball her. She will be a great addition to our house.”
And then dear readers, I let a bomb drop. “I think you are all jealous,” I said.
You could have heard a pin drop as they stared at me in silence. I remember feeling proud of myself for defending my friend.
I never told Gail what I did that day.
Now 50 years later, I have learned that some women judge, confuse motives, misinterpret intentions, overreact and point fingers, accusing other women of things that are just not true.
Tips on how to defend friends
1. First and foremost, be true to yourself. What is the desired outcome?
2. When confronting the situation, be deliberate.
3. Never shout, talk softly and slowly.
4. Don’t let your emotions trick you into acting foolish.
5. Remember bad things happen to good people, so feel proud when you speak out.
Sometimes, no matter how much you want to defend a dear friend, silence is appropriate. You may realize speaking out to the maddening crowd will not solve your friend’s problem. What you can do is take action if your friend’s name is mentioned in your presence in a negative manner. Be awesome, dear readers of mine…be awesome and defend friends.