Joe, Bill, Sam and Me

So I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about the effects of belief on behavior, and what I mean by this is people don’t usually react to things in a vacuum, but through the lens of their own belief.


To give you an example, I have two friends, whom I’ll call Joe and Bill. In the event of any disagreement, what transpires between Joe and Bill should have no bearing between either myself and Joe, or myself and Bill; unless, of course, there is some sort of genuine conspiracy or other ulterior motive involved, which, in this case I can assure you there is not.


Joe and Bill, whom were decent buddies from high school to the early 30’s, had one of the most unfortunate experience friends can have, a landlord / tenant based falling-out, made worse by secondary elements of borrowed money that was repaid and an accusation of petty theft. The first I heard of the falling-out was just before Christmas of last year. Bill called while I was in a bookstore looking for a gift and told me about it. I demanded the abbreviated version as I couldn’t really respond much without pissing everyone else off, and besides, I had nothing to say. I just wanted the whole story, which I couldn’t get into any real detail about there.


Well I never really got much more than that out of BIll. I saw Joe Christmas night. Joe has, for the past few years, had Christmas and/or Thanksgiving and/or any other random occasion with us. In fact my family is a big fan of both Joe and Bill, more so Joe as he’s been able to be around lately. Christmas night I didn’t ask Joe for his side of the story, or about any of the details. Nor did I let on to the fact that I’d talked to Bill and gotten Bill’s brief run-down of the story. I didn’t want to bring any negativity into the chillest of holiday vibes.


I didn’t talk to Joe much if at all after Christmas. Maybe shot him a message on MySpace or left a voicemail message, but not an in-depth discussion involving the skateboard industry or whatever else the current scapegoat of the moment might be. That’s my fault, actually both of our fault.


Recently, another friend, whom we’ll call Sam, suggested that I call Joe. Sensing something, I asked Sam, "Why? Does he think I have some grudge against him ‘cuz of Bill or something? Because if so that’s bullshit…" Sam wouldn’t really comment one way or the other, he just quietly reassured me that I should call Joe.


So I did. And I could tell from the outset of the phone call that in fact Joe did seem to think I had a grudge. Or at least an imbalanced alliance with Bill. But neither was true. Joe used words for me that day that I know Joe only reserves for the most soulless of Orange County socialites. I had no choice but to laugh. I explained to Joe up and down that Bill hadn’t divulged much. I asked Joe for his side of the story and he gave it to me at length. Now I can’t take sides with anyone, because I myself have no idea what really happened. But being made to feel like a wedge between two lifelong friends was definitely not the feeling I was looking for.


The entire scenario illustrates perfectly how belief influences behavior. The whole time my friend Joe thought I was harboring a grudge with Bill against him, Joe himself was encouraging a grudge against me that I don’t think he was fully aware of. This belief of Joe’s influenced his behavior towards me, a lifelong friend.


So I guess the moral of the story is that if two of your good friends have a blowout, find out both sides of the story as soon as possible and establish your own neutrality with both of them, so they both know where you stand from the outset of their disagreement. The worst thing you can do is go silent with one or the other because even if your absence is inadvertent, as in this case, the silence can still mislead the person to think mistakenly that your disappearance from their life comes from taking sides.


Whatever happened between Joe and Bill aside, both are my homies, as is Sam, and I’m confident one day maybe things can work out again.

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