Salaam. I’m currently struggling with what to do over a friendship which I know I need to step back from for my own wellbeing – but it’s very difficult when this person is embedded deeply in my wider circle of friends. It’s taken me a number of years to realise that this person’s values clash with mine in a few ways which make it difficult to have an open, trusting or close friendship any more; I noticed that when we spent time together or spoke, I usually left feeling unsettled, upset and worse than I felt to begin with – which is the opposite of how I feel with my other friends, who always leave me in better spirits and more at peace! However, this person’s presence (both in physical gatherings and virtual, like WhatsApp groups) is making me hold back from speaking honestly or connecting with others in the group, and I find myself saying little and almost watching from the sidelines – how can I maintain my beneficial relationships with them while keeping a healthy distance? I know I can keep one-on-one relationships with each them, but I also value them as a group, though of course I cannot exclude this person. Jazak Allah khair :)
Assalaamu ‘alaikum – peace be upon you.
Thank you very much for reaching out to us. We appreciate that it can be difficult to open up about personal matters like friendship. Indeed, your eagerness to manage your friendships and avoid negativity while simultaneously being worried about excluding the person in question shows your sincerity as a friend and colleague. May Allah reward you for your goodness of heart, Ameen.
Friendships can be difficult to balance, especially today, where as you mentioned, the presence of someone can be felt even virtually over a Whatsapp group, even when they are not with us. This makes the words of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the wisdom in choosing good friends all the more pertinent: “A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.” [Tirmidhī].
From your question it seems you are trying to balance your own experience, well-being and comfort amongst your friends, with a realistic and compassionate acknowledgement that you cannot exclude, or expect others to exclude the person in question. You could have chosen to backbite or turn your other friends against him/her, but you refrained from doing so and know that Allah, who does not miss out even a grain’s worth of our deeds, will surely reward you for that.
There are a few possible approaches to this situation that we would like to suggest. Perhaps one or some are more appropriate depending on your personal relationship with this group of friend:
- Even if you feel that in certain gatherings/virtual groups you cannot avoid this person, this does not necessarily mean you have to hold back/refrain from enjoying the presence of others. It is understandable that you cannot be completely open as you do not have that bond with him/her. While there is one such person, on the flip side there are numerous people whom you share trust and love with, so don’t hold back on expressing yourself. You may feel better and more at ease if you do so, and perhaps realise that you can still enjoy the friendship of others while merely keeping things to a minimum and civil with this person.
- Perhaps you could develop a more direct and personal relationship with some people in this group – that is not to exclude the others, but to simultaneously build a more one-on-one rapport. An example being if there is a friend you really feel you connect with, you could make more of an effort to chat or meet-up, doing so with the people you really click with can offer wholesome, positive experiences that alleviate your worry about those you don’t feel as close to. So you can still value and interact with them all as a group while forming a more direct friendship with those you are happiest around – the two are not mutually exclusive. This may also eventually enable you to confide in some of your friends about how you feel. They may be able to give advice, remove any misunderstandings or try and make you feel more included and comfortable in this person’s presence. This may make you worry about backbiting, but remember that “Actions are (judged) by intentions” [Bukhari]. If you confided in someone so as to find a solution, and spoke with sincerity and good words, avoiding harsh or derogatory language about the person, it would be okay for you to tell another friend whom you trust about how you feel. Of course, whether or not you choose to do so is completely your decision and depends on your dynamic with this group of friends.
- Another possibility, is to overcome your fear/inhibition and speak directly to this person. Again if you are able to stay calm and speak politely you can at least rest assured that your conscience need not feel burdened, even if this person does not react as you would hope. But while avoiding them may lead to continued discomfort, ‘taking the bull by the horns’ may help you either understand the person better or perhaps you both discover that you both feel the same way, and then perhaps mutually agreeing on creating a distance will make it less difficult for you or allow you to openly confide in the rest of the group about it.
These are just some humble suggestions. We sincerely hope and pray that one or more of them will be suitable to your circumstances and help create ease for you, Insha’Allah. If you would like to discuss anything else on your mind, we also offer more personalised counselling here at Inspirited Minds.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any further support.
Allah knows best and we hope this helps Insha’Allah,
IM Support Team
Ask Inspirited Minds is a safe, anonymous and confidential space for you to ask specific questions or seek advice around your mental health and wellbeing. We will publish your question and our response on our website but will make sure to make it anonymous and change any identifiable details. If you are going through these problems, then it’s highly likely someone else is going through something similar and we hope our advice can also be of help to others in a similar situation.
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