On Choosing Compassion [Revisited]

Many of us think that an argument or a period of silence equals the end, when actually – if dealt with effectively – it can strengthen the friendship. A key part is the ability to apologise. Being able to say ‘I’m sorry is extremely powerful.” – Clare Cohen

According, to Cohen, the pandemic has taken a toll on friendships. And she asks how do we fix our friendships? I don’t have a simple answer. But I agree that when arguments are handled effectively, they can strengthen a friendship.

There are many questionable things people (sensible people) do on social media. Some have left me dumbfounded, others have vexed me so much that I wrote about in great detail. For example, in the poem Coffee Talk, I alluded to one of those confusing behaviours.

My recently published essay, Learning To Be Rigorous With Compassion, at LIT eZine puts the above-mentioned confusing behaviour into context. But it also highlights the importance of communicating: addressing the problem and learning from our mistakes.

How have you or are healing strained friendships? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

ps. Feature image by Piotr Cichosz at Unsplash.

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. I think key is being willing to be vulnerable and bringing your whole self to the relationship.

    Congrats on the article!

  2. Thanks Dee! I also believe these are some of the important things to bring to a friendship. Because if we have to be careful with our feelings, that’s no longer a friendship but something else.

  3. I tend to be forgiving in general, Khaya, assuming that people mean well or, at least, are doing the best they can given all the circumstances of their lives. I also have a thick skin and let people own their behaviors. I choose compassion when I can.

  4. Thanks Diana for your input. Choosing compassion over judgement is something to strive for as we often don’t know what others are dealing with. But lately, I also want to understand what the other person is dealing with to behaviour in such manner, if I care about our friendship.

  5. Congrats on publishing the article. I think the more people tend to use digital communication over meeting or even talking on the phone, the more complicated and opaque it all gets. Intent, context, backstory are not easily discernible over texting or social media. Personally, I think the more time we can make for each other, the better we can contextualize each others’ lives and challenges and find compassion and compromise.

  6. I have definitely seen the changes in friendships since the pandemic. I tend to react really emotionally and helplessly before I realize what is happening. Most recently, I had drama with my closest friend. Her partner and I disagreed a substantial issue. My friend reacted by trying to remain neutral in the middle and manage everyone and avoid all conflict. It resulted in a lot more conflict and damage. If we could have just confronted things, even fought, it would have been shorter and I think less painful.

  7. Excellent essay, Khaya. Yes, as true friends the desire to share our ‘loads’ is implicit…but sometimes has no easy practical path to do so. I like this statement: “the comparing, diminishing, and dismissing of my challenges.” The idea that ‘my X is harder to bear than your X’ has always bothered me…like in death. It’s all hard…circumstances differ but the affect on those surviving is always devastating in some manner or other. To quantify emotion is ridiculous and hurtful. But then your short 8 word sentence I quoted says all that better than I just did!

  8. My circle was already pretty tight pre-pandemic. I have dealt with strained friendships in the past though. If no one was willing to talk to save the friendship, then it was better to let it go to make room for other things.

  9. Reading your essay it struck me how important ‘slowness’ is and how we humans seem to have lost the art of reading things slowly when the words are on a screen.
    I am so glad you spoke to your friend and cleared the misunderstanding.

  10. Thank you, Natalie. Being rigorous helps with maintaining healthy friendships. And I also trust my friends to call me out or hold me accountable, when I trash my integrity. <3

  11. Thank you, Rajani. Exactly, it’s not always easy to discern the intent, context, and backstory. In addition, we don’t always know what the other person is going through. That’s why a bit of kindness goes a long way-

  12. I’m sorry to hear about the drama with your closest friend, Christina. It really hurts when that happens, and especially with the partner in the mix. It tend to complicate things. I seriously hope you work things out with your friend. <3

  13. So true! Even though circumstances, we all have our fair share of challenges. Yes it takes a lot of courage and trust to offload, and that’s why the diminishing and dismissing is so hurtful. Thank you Laura, I appreciate you reading. Sending hugs your way, too!

  14. Letting go sometimes is the wisest thing to do, though not always easy. Hold on to your tight circle, it’s super important to surround oneself with people who get you!

  15. That “slowness” has its advantages. I think we’re living in an era of information overload. So gliding or skimming through text is a fastest way to keep abreast. But sadly, we end up missing the important details…I’m glad too my friend and I sorted out the misunderstanding. Because I really value their friendship. Thanks Mariss for your input.

  16. I’ve lost a fair amount of friendships during (and perhaps due to) the pandemic, Khaya. I’m a pretty honest person, so I typically raise the issue and then let things fall where they may, which has depleted my friend circle. I’m off to read what you’ve written for some insight 😉

  17. We live in far too interesting times, and social media makes it too easy to be quick with words. I agree, if the relationship to the other person is worthwhile, it is worth pursuing the misunderstanding. Sometimes time and distance can heal, and sometimes must happen, before dialog can be initiated and rifts mended.

  18. People can be strange when something touches their emotional pain spot. Many react badly and hurtfully. And the whole thing gets complicated–and painful–when the one doing the reacting is a friend. I will never understand people who strike out at someone who’s hurting, just because they think their pain is bigger. I know your friend apologized, and that’s nice *cough*, but I just don’t like it. You are probably kinder than I am *grins*, and work to heal the relationship. I tend to walk away. If they seek me out, I might give things a try. If not, well… I hope life gets better for them.

    The last time something similar to this happened to me was when I first got diagnosed with breast cancer, and a now former friend told me that she didn’t know how to deal with my illness. She suggested that I was lucky my disease wasn’t invisible like hers and that I could pay for my care. That with the kind of support I had I would never really know what it was to suffer. She tried to heal things later, but something died for me that day. I still talk to her, but I no longer trust her.

    Fantastic essay, my sweetest Khaya.

  19. Yeah, the pandemic has been pretty rough on relationships. I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost a fair amount of friends. As for honesty, some people are simply uncomfortable with truth. But if we can’t be honest with friends, perhaps it’s best to part ways.

    Thank you so much Kathy for reading the essay and your encouraging comment. Much appreciated!

  20. Somehow we need to have a way to filter the noise, both incoming and outgoing messages. True that, time and distance can heal. But if both parties are willing to do the work. Wise words, Lavinia. Thank you for your input.

  21. It does get complicated and painful, especially when its people close to us. “I will never understand people who strike out at someone who’s hurting…” I think sometimes (or most times) people are so wrapped up in their own pain that they have difficulty seeing beyond. But about being probably kinder than you are, I’m not always kind. I’ve walked away from toxic friendships without explanation nor regrets. But I’m also willing to do the work for the friendships I value… or it must be the age…lol!

    BUT, but it’s mind-boggling that someone would suggest that you are lucky because your disease (cancer of all things) wasn’t invisible like hers. That is just crazy and downright mean. Goodness, being able pay for your care was a sore spot too for your former friend! 🙁 I’m so sorry Maga you had to deal with that. Yeah, that’s a difficult one to forgive, and ever trust the person again.

    Thank you for reading the essay. Much appreciated. <3

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