It’s pretty astounding that a virus could become politicized. And yet, here we are with a good amount of Americans still believing that COVID-19 was planned. The use of the word Americans may make those who hold such a belief seem far removed from our everyday life, but the truth is some of those people are our friends and family members.
Major changes occur in life, and as a result, we learn a bit more about our own values, and the values of those around us. But nobody predicted that a pandemic would be one of those changes that would sever relationships with those we love. But it is — or at least could be as we move into yet another wave of the pandemic. At this time you may find yourself in the tricky spot of realizing some of the friends you typically adore and respect are not taking this pandemic seriously. So, should you stop being their friends because of it? Here are some things to consider.
Do they pressure you to take risks?
Although it’s hard to put all of the other issues and concerns aside, just do so for a moment, and ask yourself this: do these friends pressure you into being unsafe? Do they tease you for wanting to wear a mask or keep a distance? Or tell you that you alone are ruining the plans, because of your safety measures? If so, that’s about more than COVID-19. That shows friends who don’t respect your boundaries and don’t allow you to claim what’s best for you.
Do they question your loyalty because you’re safe?
If you do choose to keep some distance from them right now, are they able to understand it’s no reflection on the friendship? If you don’t go to the unsafe, indoor party they’re having, do they accuse you of being a bad friend? Or can they separate the issues, say, “You have the right to do what makes you comfortable,” and not ding the friendship for it? Ultimately, you want friends who can see any time you do what’s best for you that doesn’t have to mean you don’t care about them.
Are they willing to meet you halfway?
Will they take precautions if it makes you comfortable? If they want to get a group together indoors, and you ask if it can be outdoors, will they concede? Or does it have to be their way or no way? Regardless of a pandemic, you want friends who are willing to compromise, especially if it means easing you of anxieties. Making you feel safe should never be an inconvenience to someone who really cares about you.
Do your beliefs vary in other areas?
This is important, but hard for many to see right now: you probably have different beliefs in many areas. Maybe they’re vegans, and you eat meat. And yet, they don’t judge you for it (at least not that much). Maybe you’re religious, and they’re not. You’re still their friends. This COVID-19 thing is just one more thing that people have strong but sometimes different, feelings about. If you can try to categorize it as such (even though it probably shouldn’t be up for debate) you can think, “Well, if we can stay friends when we have those other differences, why not this?” That’s not to say that what they’re doing is correct. It’s just to say that, there have been other times you felt they handled something wrong. And it didn’t end the friendship.
How did you get over that?
When you have had differences, how did you get over it? Maybe you strongly disagree with anyone who buys breeder dogs and think everyone should rescue. And yet, your friend bought a breeder dog. You probably decided, “If I expected perfection out of all of my friends, I’d have no friends left.” That doesn’t mean you don’t still, in your way, try to teach them about the error of their ways. But, again, their errors didn’t have to end the friendship.
Remember, this situation is temporary
The interesting thing about this pandemic is that, unlike a friend’s choice to go vegan or buy a dog from a breeder, this is temporary. Very temporary. It might be a shame to make a permanent decision based on a temporary circumstance. If you can agree to disagree over differences that won’t go away (like religious vs non-religious), perhaps you can do so for something that will go away one day. Ideally, in a couple of years, what you think about COVID-19 won’t matter because it will be gone.
Are they generally considerate?
The biggest concern, when friends don’t take COVID-19 seriously, is that they aren’t considerate of others. Your blood can boil thinking that they do not care about others, because they don’t wear a mask, or they host group parties. However, it could be worth it to pause. If you know, for a fact, that they are empathetic and compassionate, and just don’t understand this issue, maybe it isn’t time to villainize them.
Do they put others at risk?
Of course, one big issue is do these friends put vulnerable individuals at risk, against their will? There is a big difference between young, healthy individuals who invite other young, healthy individuals to a dinner party – all of whom have a say in the matter – versus a young person who goes mask-less around someone elderly or sick.
Have they extended you grace in the past?
Have you been perfect? (Hint: probably not). In the past, did you do something that you now realize was definitely wrong? You saw something the wrong way. You were at fault. And you see that now. These friends didn’t leave, did they? And you know that they 100 percent saw you were the jerk in that scenario. So, if they extended you grace then, maybe you don’t have to cut off the friendship now.
Is it representative of bigger issues?
Ultimately, you should ask yourself if their COVID-19 behaviors are representative of larger friendship issues. The pandemic will eventually go away, but if you believe some degree of negligence, selfishness, stubbornness, and apathy will persist, that’s another issue. For many, COVID-19 has illuminated relationship problems that already existed. If you think that’s the case for you, that’s something to consider.