The Threshold of Friendship
What sort of pressures can our friendships withstand? What, in any case, is a 'pressure' and who applies it? How does the 'pressure' square with the 'friendship'?
Some years ago, a friend of long standing made an overtly racist remark, something I had never heard from her say before. Utterly surprised, I demanded "What are you saying?" I got back the sheepish reply that she used not be prejudiced but she is now. There was no retraction. I let the matter drop. Why? Well, the immediate reason was it would have been awkward to continue because there were others present and, in any case, it would have made for a very tense situation. After all, I'd just popped around for a social visit and an enjoyment of company and I wanted to keep it like that. In the decades I'd known her, after all, I'd never heard her utter anything like this and I never heard it again either - but I never brought the subject up again. Why?
Over the next few days I thought a lot about had happened. Why hadn't I challenged her more directly? Why didn't I push the point? Why didn't I push her to explain herself more fully? Why? Why? Why? Let's be clear here, I don't mean why in the sense that I should have but why in the sense why? What was I afraid of?
Yes, I had compartmentalised the comment into a one-off, sealed as an aberration requiring no further attention, but, I fear, the real reason was, yes, the fear that if I pushed it too far, our friendship of many years would not have survived the resulting tension.
What are our thresholds of friendship. Do we form friendships on the condition that our friends hold particular views? I know one person, for instance, whose family refuses to talk to her on account of the way she voted in the Brexit referendum? Is this a good reason to break off a friendship?
Does anyone else have any experience in this tangled field? When do you decide a friendship is just not worth keeping?