I had a smile on my face the other day remembering the conversation:
A friend of mine met me for lunch…
John and his wife are good friends of mine…maybe 5 years or so younger than I am. Good people. Solid. He has Junior Tribe Members the same age as I do, and our kids played together. They were good friends with us–me and my former husband–for years.
Then, a decade ago, life went sharply south for my husband, and he left his wife and his life. I was on my own. John was there. He sat on my front steps with me and listened when I cried. He fixed my leaky pipe when it was dripping into the basement. John and his wife had us over for a backyard BarBQ* in the summer.
I would meet John in the bleachers over the years at our JTM’s basketball games. I would see him at church. We would bump into each other in the neighborhood.
He was part of my community of significance.
John had earned the right to speak into my life.
The roots of history were deep.
I value him and his wife immensely.
John and I met for lunch downtown one day…he works nearby to my office and we had some business to discuss. We had a pleasant lunch and explored the business of the day and then he leaned back and with a smile said:
“Carolyn, I’m proud of you.”
John went on: “I’m not your dad, and so it might be odd to hear from me. I have been your friend for a long time. I’ve watched you navigate some rough waters. Life was treacherous for years. You could have given up. You could have become bitter. You struggled through in ways that I admire, and I think you’ve done really well in difficult circumstances. I want you to know that I am proud of you. I hope that’s ok to say.”
Yep, it was OK. It was more than OK. I still smile when I think about it.
It felt odd…but it felt right.
A good friend whom I admire and respect is proud of me. Sigh…that gives a quiet burst of joy pretty deep inside.
This lunch was some time ago, and it still has me smile when I think about it. I didn’t ask him to say it. I didn’t need him to say it. But when John said it, it felt good. It felt like someone noticed how hard I tried to be honourable in difficult circumstances, how much effort it took to do The Next Right Thing. Sometimes, when you got your head down and are just putting one foot ahead of the other, it feels really lonely…and so to have someone notice means a lot. To draw deep on your courage for the long haul is hard…and when someone lets you know they acknowledge and honour the effort–well, that matters.
I smiled of that this weekend when a friend of mine texted me. She had shared with me on a long drive a few weeks ago about how overwhelmed she was. Her own children, foster children, special needs children, the chaos of a long deserved home reno, a job and all the rest that is involved in her busy life–it was threatening to capsize her well-being. We explored how to relieve the pressure and decided that getting some weekly help to organize her household and give it a good scrub would make a huge difference. It means she works a half day extra at her job…and it meant arranging respite childcare, and finding someone to hire for the job. It took a month…but she has got it set up. She is relieved and pumped at the thought of coming home to a clean house once a week.
Her text? It said: “You will be very proud of me. I, as of next week, will have a cleaner coming in.”
The next time I saw her? She hugged me and said, “Aren’t you proud of me? I’ve been looking forward to how proud you will be of me!”
And I was, actually. She done good. She tried hard. She was honourable in difficult circumstances, she worked hard, and she faithfully did The Next Right Thing. She’s gonna be able to be a more present mama and wife–the light was back in her eyes.
I am proud of her. And I told her so. And hugged her back.
I know that there are some that think we shouldn’t say “I’m proud of you”, and that it sends the wrong message. I’ll leave the debate for elsewhere. I’m thinking that, used judiciously, it is a beautiful thing to say to a friend. We belong to each other…we are part of a community, and when you live in community, it becomes a sort of family…and in family we give each other that sense of, “You done good and I notice…and it matters to me, and I feel good about what you done.”
“I’m proud of you” implies a pronouncement…a sort of belonging to each other. I like the sort of intimate praise it sends to someone that matters. I like the affirmation and the acknowledgement of a struggle well fought with honour and integrity. When a person we love hangs in there to do the next right thing, even when it’s darn hard and there is opposition and failure and struggle–and you notice–well, it needs to be seen and acknowledged and celebrated.
“I’m proud of you” is a line that connects people, honours the effort and acknowledges courage and bravery. It’s a line that needs to be used carefully and sincerely…and with permission. But, by gum…you can change someone’s week with that line!
(*Which was fantastically cool because somehow couple friends generally don’t get together with newly single friends socially. It just doesn’t happen when even when all those couples are really kind and lovely people. Please keep that in mind, couples!)