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Bad Advice: Stop Trying To Be Friends with People

This week's Bad Advice tackles charity friendships.

Hannah Sternberg


July 10, 2013 - 7:00 am


If you’re anything like many wonderful, well-meaning people I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself, I’m going to swoop in and make Cindy-Lou’s life so great again! I’ll become her best friend and single-handedly lift her out of her rough patch, and she’ll think of me fondly for the rest of her life as the person who got her through this.

If that’s true, I don’t blame you for craving some do-goodery. That’s not a bad instinct. I know some people roll their eyes and say, “If you’re only doing it to feel better about yourself, it’s not really doing a good deed.” To those people, I say screw you. I’m grateful that I have a built-in impulse to stoke my own ego by helping other people — it keeps me helping other people. Where that impulse goes astray is when your good deeds become more about you than the person you’re helping.

I’m not saying ignore this poor woman and pretend everything is okay. But don’t intrude on her life, either. You’re probably not going to swoop in, become her best friend, and fix everything… because she probably doesn’t want you to. And even if she does want you to, wait until you get the signal from her, not just from your own sense of charity.

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I befriended a whiny, needy woman at church because everyone avoided her,and I didn't know why. Classic charity friendship, here,and I didn't even feel the need to have her for a friend, I just was uncomfortable with her being excluded socially. I soon found out why that was why others WERE excluding her. Once I got to know her, she proved to be even MORE whiny and needy than she first appeared, and what is infinitely worse, considering I was her ONLY friend, she had an affair with my husband (her new boss), which ended our 24 year marriage.
So,I will NEVER EVER befriend ANY other woman out of sheer pity. If they are hurting,too darn bad. In fact, ever since then, I have held other women at a deliberate arms' length,especially since my current husband is about a hundred times the man that my ex husband was.
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