#36 Feeling badly
about telling on friend / Integrity revealing itself
DEAR ABBY: I
witnessed a theft and told a teacher, who promptly informed the cops. I
feel terrible about it—like I’ve betrayed the friend who did it. What
should I do? WONDERING IN FLORIDA
DEAR WONDERING: First, forgive yourself. You did the right thing. While your friend may not appreciate it right now, you may have saved that person from a life of crime. Birds of a feather flock together so the second thing to do is find another friend who’s less troubled than the first. —ABBY
Hi Wondering: It's great that you are conscious enough to feel badly, even more so that you are sharing your experience and asking for support. What you are experiencing is your integrity. Some call it guilt others call it conscience.
"—like I've betrayed..."? H'mmm, sounds like a case of denial to me.
The West Point Code of Honor requires that the observer (you) first confront the perpetrator (your friend) and ask them to report themselves. If they refuse, you then tell them that you will, otherwise, you become an accessory. If the cadet observer elects to not confront or report the cadet perpetrator both will be expelled. You left out the first step. Actually you left out one other step, the one that creates a context for the relationship. "By the way, I can't remain silent about criminal activity. Don't do it or I'll have to report you."
Your parents and teachers were supposed to inform you on how to handle such things.
Now let's look and see what the out-integrity is really about. My sense is that there was something going on in your relationship with your "friend" that was incomplete for you, else you most likely would not have so readily turned them in without talking to him/her. True friends don't do that without quite a few heart-wrenching conversations.
In any case, it's important to know that his/her perpetration was/is a cry for help. He/she had lost their respect for you else they would not have risked disappointing you or losing your friendship. In other words, your betrayal happened earlier. Your relationship with your friend was out-integrity and in your universe you are cause. You were blaming him/her for an earlier incomplete for which you were unconsciously driven to ensure they were punished.
You ask what to do. The surest way to restore your experience of integrity is to talk with your friend. It's most likely there never was any experience of communication between you so a letter will work. Acknowledge that you weren't there for them when they needed you, that you lead them to believe that you were their friend, and that reporting them was a dramatization of your upset with them. And, most importantly, that now you realize that you should have talked to them first before reporting them. —Gabby
PS. My experience tells me that your self-righteousness indicates that it's you who wants to get acknowledged (caught) for an earlier perpetration.
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occasionally for minor edits (last edited 12/3/12)
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