Confidence Betrayed, Friendship Lost?

Just how much latitude should be given to the so-called "best friend" who divulges a deep confidence to at least two other friends? I'm embarrassed and very hurt. Should I forgive and forget, or walk away and never look back? -- Betrayed


Dear Betrayed:

I think there's something between the two extremes you mentioned. Breaking confidences is hurtful and an affront to friendship. However, friendship also means giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Is it possible that your friend didn't realize she was breaking a confidence? Perhaps you assumed she'd understand the confidential nature of the information, but you never really articulated it?

If you're sure you've been deliberately betrayed, here are a couple of strategies for deciding how to move on:

1) Tell your friend what you told me. Say something like: "I've heard from two others some things that I told you in strictest confidence. I can't believe you'd do such a thing deliberately. Still, I need to tell you how embarrassed and hurt I am." Undoubtedly, she will do her best to explain. Then it's up to you to decide how you feel and what to do.

2) Write your friend a letter telling her everything you think and feel. You have every right to be angry. Paper is the place to say all the things she did wrong and how her actions have affected you. Tell her it's selfish to betray someone, as well as insensitive and mean. Get it all out. Just don't send it to her. Then sleep on it.

When you are feeling more level-headed, take a good look at the big picture of your friendship. Think about what drew you together in the first place; all the history you share; the ups and downs you've experienced together. It's only from this vantage point -- not when you are angry -- that you should decide to move forward.

Let me leave you with one example from my own life. When my mother died, one of my closest friends didn't attend the funeral; she only came briefly to the viewing. I was terribly hurt by her actions and didn't speak to her for a while. Finally, I took the advice I gave you today. She told me she'd never been to a non-Jewish funeral and didn't understand the difference between the viewing and the funeral. She thought she'd come to the more important event. The moral is, we both had such different points of view that neither of us could imagine the other's. Had I not spoken up, I would've lost one of the most valuable treasures in my life. Make sure that doesn't happen to you.

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