When that one little thing pushes us over the edge

June 10, 2021

The first thing I saw this morning was a blast email from the obit site, Legacy.com, reminding me of the death of someone I had known. The reminder was meant to sell memorial gifts but it sent me back in time. The deceased was related to a long-time friend and I thought about that person and that brought to mind the Pittsburg synagogue shooting in October 2018.

I was sitting in my family room watching a CNN reporter do short bios of the 11 victims killed by a gunman while they were worshipping and I was in tears. I was thinking about the violence and hate that the (now former ) president and his ilk were promoting in our country and I was grief-stricken for these victims and their families.

Just then, my phone rang.

“What are you doing?” this long-time friend asked.

“I’m watching coverage of the synagogue shooting, heartbroken at the hatred that’s been unleashed at this country,” I said.

What she said next stunned me.

“Yes!” she said, officiously. “And so much of the hatred is aimed at President Trump! It is disgusting. I am so glad that we and our friends support him in a big way. We talk about this stuff all the time.”


Stunned into silence. So many things about that statement.

First, when you call a friend and they are obviously upset, the usual first response is to provide comfort or sympathy. Especially if you are a “church-goer.” Did not happen.

Second, in decades of friendship I had never once heard a political opinion or comment from her. She just didn’t pay attention to politics and never talked about it. But now she did? She had to know that what she said would light me up because my political views are up front and known. Its pointed intentionality made it an even nastier response.

Talk about twisted 

Finally, no one in their right mind, who HAD any mind, would compare the kind if vitriol trump tacitly approved, the MURDER of Jews,  with any kind of hatred for him. This twisted thinking is one that trump supporters have to do in order to feel ok about supporting him.

It’s rare that I can name a time and date that a friendship ended, but I can with this one. It was the last time we spoke. Truth is, the friendship had been hanging by a thread for a long time. We’d had less in common as the years went by and this nasty comment pushed me over the edge.

But then, this is how it is, sometimes, with relationships of any kind. There are the little things that happen, that, alone, are not big enough to make a difference. Then there’s the day when the many little things become too heavy a weight to ignore,  a single disrespectful thing gives us a clearer view and pushes us over the edge.  

I don’t end friendships easily. I give more credit to history than it deserves. I give most people a lot of latitude and try to remember the common ground we once had. 

Day of reckoning

But. I’ve come to see that I am tolerant to a fault and I endure situations that others would not. I work hard to find common ground. But sometimes, there is that day of reckoning.

It’s pretty clear that she saw as little value in our friendship at this point in our lives as I did. It’s ironic that this national tragedy would be the thing that made me act, and not one of the other, more personal things that could’ve been a catalyst.

And really, I didn’t act. No big dramatic. scene. I’ve just never had occasion to speak to her again. And she has never made an occasion to speak to me.

More than once longtime close friends have asked why I tolerate behavior they have seen for years. It’s a good question. My rationale, at least to myself, is always the things we shared in the past. I think of the ways I have supported those people in the past, in big ways and small. And I think of ways they have supported ME, because they have. And I ask myself if that is enough, given current events.

Sometimes, though, I have to recognize that any common ground was in the past and attempts to find it now are futile. Or that their support of me is selective.

Setting limits is a necessary part of a healthy life.  It’s taken me a long time to learn to do it effectively. But now that I have I seem to be doing it more often, with a deeper understanding of the kind of people I want in my life.

How about you? Has there ever been one thing that pushed you over the edge in a relationship?

10 comments on “When that one little thing pushes us over the edge
  1. Diane says:

    Oh, Carol, my heart has been shredded in the past months as well. The murder of the Muslim family simply out for an evening stroll on Ontario streets and now the thousands and thousands of precious lives lost in Indigenous Schools. I don’t even want to raise my head from the pillow most days.
    Years ago, my good friend, I’ll call her Brenda, and I hung out a lot. Our kids were the same ages and we had a lot in common besides. Then the insults started. At first just a sarcastic comment or two. Then more and more pointed. Finally, the last straw. I don’t remember exactly what she said, just what I felt. I naively asked my Husby if friendship was supposed to hurt. He assured me that if a friendship caused pain, it had ceased to be a friendship.
    I simply stopped taking or returning her calls. Was conveniently busy when she wanted to get together. The relationship died.
    But part of me is sorry for that. For a while, we were very good friends indeed and I hated losing that.
    But this was something I had to do for myself! And I was finally at peace.
    (Years and years later, we bumped into each other at a church function and in the course of the conversation, she told me she was more biting with people she felt inferior to. I was shocked. Though she never actually said it, was she speaking about me? Good grief!)

  2. Ellen says:

    Sometimes boundaries get pushed to the limit. Sad yet true.

  3. Last year I had to cut off my own mother. She was convinced – and said as much – that I was raising my children to be bullies because I was (am) pro-BLM. And in the same breath that said I’m a bad mother, she went on to celebrate the Wisconsin shooter and said “the world would be better if more people like him were allowed to defend themselves as he did.”

    I left the door cracked so that she might maintain conversation with my children in a monitored setting (given her tendency toward using racist and homophobic language) but that door has since been shut fully until she’s willing to see a therapist or the like…which I know she never will.

    It’s unfortunate that people choose to spew hate and celebrate those who do the same, but we see it from childhood – the bullies are often the loudest and therefore followed by many too afraid to speak out.

  4. Rachael Stray says:

    I think as we get older and our values and moral compass becomes more front and centre this happens more frequently with friendships. As I’ve gotten older my circle has definitely became smaller. I would have reacted the same as you in this situation – you can still mourn their passing of course.

  5. Linda Hobden says:

    I’m flabbergasted! What a thing to say! Being friends doesn’t mean that you have to agree entirely with one another but you still need respect. My mum still keeps in touch and meets up regularly with her 3 best friends from school – they’re 81- however the group used to be 4 until recently. One of her friends is an ardent anti vaxxer and has told my mum and her friends not to bother contacting her ever again if they have had the covid jab! My mum is horrified at her friend’s attitude & can’t understand why she thinks that way but also why she has been so nasty to her and the other two just because they decided to be vaccinated. However she has decided it wasn’t worth worrying about & hasn’t contacted her friend since. End of a 70 year friendship – how sad!

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