What to Do When Your Best Friends Are Fighting
My two really good friends recently became ex-friends with each other, and it’s become awkward for my other friends and me. Especially at the lunch table. One of the friends who started the drama basically said something racist to my other friend. She was kidding, she said, but it didn’t matter. She’s the kind of person who says stuff without thinking; my other friend can be sensitive. I’ve been trying to clear the air when they’re around. They laugh and pretend everything’s okay, but it’s not the same. My friend—the one who doesn’t think before speaking—is now beating herself up about everything. I’m in the middle, and just wish everything could go back to normal.
You can’t force your friends to be friends, just like you can’t force someone to be a thoughtful, tolerant human who never says anything remotely offensive. Thing is, humans are human. Sometimes we say stupid things, sometimes we get upset, and sometimes those two very common actions happen in the same situation, and it creates a perfect storm of emotions.
We wish we could say that they’ll both eventually get over it. And maybe (hopefully!) they will. But there’s a chance they won’t, too. That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to be a friend to both of them. Friendships are complex, and they’re also incomparable. Your relationship with one person isn’t the same as your relationship with anyone else, and the same goes for everyone else.
It’s worth talking to your friend about thinking a little bit more before she speaks. Making a comment that could be interpreted as racist—like a politically incorrect joke that she heard her uncle tell and was repeating to get a laugh—is different than having racist beliefs. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to make racially-charged comments, but it’s possible that she just hasn’t been educated about certain things. Ignorance isn’t a learned behavior; being a racist is.
When a falling out like this happens, it’s easy to see how you'd want to elbow your way into the middle and try to clear the air. At the same time, nobody wants to be the full-time moderator for their friends. You've seen the debates. Being a moderator is no fun.
And neither is being the middle man. Try talking to them separately (away from the lunch table) about how much you value their friendship, and how much this situation is affecting you. Eventually they’ll need to work out their problems on their own—something that you unfortunately can’t force. Whether this happens tomorrow or next year, know this situation will work itself out. In the meantime, you can still continue to be friends with both.
It'll probably be a little hard, and it'll definitely be a little weird, but in the end, what you learn from the friendships will be something you think about for years to come. (We've been there; we promise.)