What Everybody Ought To Know About Willpower and Friendship

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Most days, I have this crazy, mis-informed belief that I can do anything I put my mind to.

That I can will things into being.

I like to think, in most of life, that counts as a strength.

Will power. Determination. That extra little bit of push.

But, but, but… I must admit…

Willpower, in it’s finest moments, only rallies our best selves (and sometimes we don’t even manage that, hat tip to dysfunction).

Unfortunately, my own fierce focus does not, as it turns out, have much reach into–say–other people’s minds, hearts or souls.

My willpower is completely vulnerable, useless and stripped of power when it comes to influencing other people.

(Which is good because we all probably need several reminders a day that life isn’t about control.)

Here’s what that means:

Sometimes the person you befriend is going to put in less effort than you.

Sometimes they’re going to sit and analyze you, they’re going to project ulterior motives onto your actions.

Sometimes, maybe because of your faulty ways of expressing things or because of the rough relational road they’ve trekked so far, they’re going to feel worried or comparative–wondering if you like another friend more than them. Feeling excluded no matter how many times you speak, act, email, write or gift your love to them.

Sometimes they just aren’t going to pick up the phone and call back.

But here’s where your willpower comes in.

It’s not in bombarding them, in calling them, texting them, tracking their every wrong or absent move.

It’s not in forcing them toward friendship or in hoisting them up on your back and carrying the relationship for the two of you.

It’s not in wishing them bad if they can’t see what a gift they could’ve had in having you in their lives.

Willpower comes in when we say, look, no matter what you do, no matter how much space you need, no matter how analytical or judgmental you can be, I *will* myself to be there for you if and when the time presents itself.

That means, and here’s the tricky part, I have to let go…until the opportunity presents itself.

Until you’re ready to receive what I’m offering.

I have to release you from normal social obligation. From the funny little list of expectations each of us tacks onto friends. And let you be.

And then I have to let it be too.

I have to resolve to just show up, spread good and let it go. Let you be and grow and think and reflect and interact with the good  Jesus.

I have to accept I cannot control how or whether people return what I give. And to find my peace in resolving to be the kind of person who shows up and spreads good anyways.

And when you think about it, that’s a healthier, more respectable kind of willpower–that honors others more–anyways.

What about you? Does your willpower get mixed up in control issues when it comes to friends? I’d love to hear how you relate. Leave a comment?


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  • What Everybody Ought To Know About Willpower and Friendship | Sandeep Dhanush October 31, 2012 (10:08 am)

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  • comment-avatar
    Tammy November 25, 2013 (10:19 pm)

    Powerful stuff. When I was a teenager, I ditched a friend because I felt she wasn’t as into our friendship as I was. To this day, I regret that pompous, self-involved move.

  • comment-avatar
    Molly September 14, 2017 (11:34 am)

    I have to repeat this over and over because even thought I ‘believe’ it, I don’t actually believe it. I am missing a friend that has clearly decided to distance herself, and even though the rest of my life is full with so many other wonderful friends, my fiancee and my family…I still feel this unavoidable void that is eating at me. I am trying to let go, but I have to see her almost every day at work.

  • comment-avatar
    Mustafa Hatim November 1, 2017 (9:55 am)

    Hi Sarrah! What you said about letting go reminds me of an incident that happend at my 30 yr school reunion .A female friend whom I thought was close to me through whatsapp chats suddenly starts acting distant from me when we met after 30 yrs.I was perplexed and hurt until a good male friend of mine told me to let it go.That so many others cared for me.I followed his advice and though I consider the lady a friend we don`t chat on a one to one as I did before.So yes learning to let go is healthy at times.It frees you up