Why We Exist
The tension was palpable. Each week we start with a check-in where the boys can talk about what’s going on in their lives. It was clear from the moment I walked in the door that there would be lots to talk about this week.
Willie and Ralph, long time friends, were sitting opposite each other. Willie, sitting alone next to me, was accused of spreading false rumors about Ralph and a girl. Ralph was with the other boys sitting as judge and jury.
The boys are negotiating the powerful feelings that accompany right and wrong, afraid to be vulnerable, to be seen as weak. They want to repair their friendship but don’t know how to without losing face. Heck I’m twice their age and it’s still hard for me.
While I’m sitting there, trying to keep order, this situation seems all too familiar. I’m the participant observer of my own stubbornness, the facade of strength and righteousness that leaves little space to listen and no room for empathy.
As I move from observer to facilitator everything begins to shift. Feeling words start to emerge – “I feel frustrated, angry, pissed-off.” It’s no longer about who’s right or wrong, this is about how it feels to be in a fight with your friend.
As the two boys talk about their feelings, anger and fear give way to understanding. Willie recognizes that his actions have hurt his friend. He comes to appreciate Ralph’s anger and in the safety of our meeting he apologizes. He opens up to the group and admits that sometimes he talks without thinking and that he’s working on it.
In that moment of honesty and vulnerability Ralph says, “I accept your apology and we can be friends again, but I just might not talk to you for a while.”
Ten minutes later they are laughing and joking together in class.
How many times have I fought with someone I cared about, focused on defending my position and ignoring their feelings? I wish I had had someone to facilitate these conversations, to help me to see the hurt and share my feelings, to repair my friendships.
Calgary Sexual Health sees the value of creating safer spaces for people to share, be curious, and show empathy towards each other. I’m grateful to be a part of offering this time and space to others.