Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest. – Emerson

There is truth in that. The former friends who have the ill grace to remain living serve as constant reminders of our own poor judgement. Each time we see them, we remember the way they failed or betrayed us. This, of course, is nothing. You can forgive people for being imperfect even as you consign them to the dustbin of failed humanity.

The real pain, for me, at least, is that I have to re-evaluate the way I look at myself simply because such people exist.

How could I have possibly been so stupid as to misread their signals? Their body language, their expressions? Why did it take me so long to see through them?

Or, conversely, did I expect too much from them?

And what about redemption? Did I give them enough chances to redeem themselves before deciding they had failed me?

In the end, I always fall into the rule of three. Failing me once is easy. Everyone does it. Twice is a more egregious offense. It shows a certain carelessness about our relationship. The third time is proof of a serious character flaw.

At this point, I no longer care if you want to change or feel badly about whatever offense you committed. I have to acknowledge the pattern of behavior is probably not your fault at all but merely the way God made you. Your mental software is incompatible with mine and it’s best to stop trying to patch it.

The end result is always the same. Once a person reaches this point, they become ghosts. If I try hard enough I can see them, hear their faint voices at the edge of my consciousness, but, like ghosts, they are powerless to affect me. They are only real if I choose to acknowledge them. Occasionally, they rattle their chains and moan loudly enough to get my attention and I have to decide if they should be allowed to live again.

Redemption. Do I let the ghosts of friends past rise from the grave to …. what? Fail me again? Betray me again?

The issue arises today because I heard from an ex-friend I had assumed was dead. He dropped off my radar a dozen years ago. Frankly, it was a relief. Although we worked brilliantly together, it was never a good experience and no matter how great the rewards, I always felt dealing with him hadn’t been worth it.

It turns out he wasn’t dead, just in prison. He wants to get together and make things right with me.

Frankly, I preferred him dead.

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