Teen Talk

Out-of-line text destroys friendship

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: Recently I got into a fight with my best friend over something really stupid – a guy we both liked. I think he was playing both of us. Neither wanted to back down, so the fight got a little nasty and it turned into a little texting war. In the middle of all the fighting, another friend texted me and I texted her back something really mean about my best friend. Even worse, I said something about her alcoholic parents and how her dad had an affair on her mom a few years ago and how messed up her family is.

The moment I hit send I looked and saw it was sent to my best friend, not the other person. I freaked and texted my best friend and said how sorry I was and that I didn’t mean any of it. She has never spoken to me since.

Kelly, I’m so sad, it’s unbelievable. I sent her a card in the mail, showed up at her house, brought her favorite coffee to school and sent apology after apology texts to her. She sends nothing back. She won’t talk to me, text me or even meet with me for coffee to talk. She might have even blocked me on all her social media.

I know she’s mad, and I get it. I was so wrong and out of line to send that text. The reality is that the other friend already knew her dad had an affair, so that wasn’t me spreading gossip or saying something that isn’t true. Also the other friend has spent the night at my best friend’s house before. She knew her parents drink too much most weekends – so again no new or hidden secrets.

So what I don’t understand is why she is mad to the point of ending the friendship when everything I said was the truth. I mean I would have been mad too, but I wouldn’t give up a best friend over a text that wasn’t meant to come to me. Do you understand my side? We were fighting and I said something wrong – people do it all the time. Honestly, it was a mistake and I’m really sorry and want to forget all this happened, but she won’t give me a chance to say it.

How can I explain all of this if she won’t even talk or return any texts I send? What more can I do? I even told her I wouldn’t make an issue over the boy anymore, and she could have him if that made it better and she didn’t reply. What more can I do?

Frustrated Friend

DEAR FRUSTRATED FRIEND: There is no un-send button on a phone. Once you send it, the damage is done. I say this all the time to teenagers, but it can be a hard and painful lesson to finally learn it.

I’m sure you do want to forget all about this, but your words affected your friend in a way that she can’t. It’s not possible for her because the emotion was so strong. You keep referring to her as angry, but the truth is you are missing her real feeling. She might be angry, but more importantly she’s hurt. You betrayed and wounded her by saying mean and very personal things about her family. It doesn’t matter that it was in the heat of the moment and you didn’t mean it, you said it and the words cut her deeply.

For the record, the fact that her parents have marital issues and struggle with alcohol is not your business to talk with others about. You defend yourself by saying because it’s true, it’s not gossiping. Wrong. Gossip is unconstrained and often derogatory conversation about other people, and can involve betraying a confidence and spreading sensitive information or hurtful judgments. It is sharing information about the personal lives and behaviors of other people.

Saying you were just speaking the truth isn’t fully owning what you did. You gossiped about something very painful and personal. Instead of having her back as a friend, you threw her and her parents under the bus with your judgment and words. The truth is she has every right to be this angry and hurt by your text because not only did you slander her with your remarks, you slandered her parents and their family’s struggles. Best friends don’t do that.

Please learn from this. Tame your tongue the next time you get mad at a friend. Put your phone down and don’t text anyone. Reacting in the moment often leads us to saying things we eventually regret, but texting in the moment now gives a paper trail of all the mean comments, and the recovery from something like that is harder and takes longer. The next time you get angry with a friend, go on a walk, journal, listen to music or do something else productive. Hash things out in person, not over texting. Whatever you do, don’t gossip about them to other people.

The only advice I can give is to be respectful of the space and time she needs right now. Be understanding of her feelings of being betrayed. Don’t defend what you did, even if you feel like you spoke the truth. It was not your truth to speak. It might take her weeks, months or years to get past what you said. You have no control over when and if she chooses to forgive you. All you can do is change how you handle yourself, treat her with kindness when you do see her, accept her hurt and your part in it and don’t talk about other people or their families. Let the sadness you feel right now be a lifetime reminder of how your words can be weapons and what you say can damage someone you care deeply about.