Dear Sito,

Some friends of ours have created an uncomfortable situation. We have accepted their invitation to visit on Shabbat afternoon several times, yet when we invite them, they don’t show. At first I tried to brush it off, but then when it became clear that they were refusing to visit us, it felt like a personal insult. At this point I have no interest in remaining friends with these people, though my husband still keeps in touch with them. Am I wrong for taking offense at this deliberate slight?

Sabbath Snubbed

Dear Sabbath Snubbed,

It is understandable why you feel offended, but you may want to revisit your assumption that this is a deliberate slight. When we jump to conclusions about a person’s behavior, take offense and write them off, we hurt ourselves, as we end up carrying around a heavy burden of frustration, anger and resentment. The person who ostensibly made us feel this way is usually unaware that he or she has done anything to hurt us and carries on with no regret.

In your situation, maybe ask yourself, have these friends actually accepted your invitation and then not shown up? Have they given you a reason for not being able to accept your invitation? Bear in mind that there are many people who prefer to host rather than be guests, so even if they are “refusing” to visit you, their refusal may not necessarily be meant as a personal affront. You might want to avoid reaching a definitive conclusion until you get a clearer picture of the situation.

To get that clearer picture, your best bet is to be direct and upfront. Being direct about our feelings is often very difficult because it makes us vulnerable, as we fear we might hear something we don’t like about ourselves. But since most people try to avoid conflict and hurting others, the response won’t have as much sting as we think – unless we are in attack mode when we approach the other. A practical strategy, then, is to approach the person calmly and respectfully, rather than confrontationally. For instance, you can say to your friend, “We have enjoyed many Shabbats in your home and would really like to reciprocate. But I’ve noticed that you haven’t yet been to our home for a Shabbat meal. Is there something I should know about that?” Then maybe you will receive the missing information. This approach is assertive, not confrontational, and expresses a desire for connection, thus increasing the likelihood of it being received pleasantly. If you don’t like the answer, it will only sting for a minute, but if you don’t ask at all, you will end a friendship and feel badly for a lot longer. Once you know the real story, you can decide how to proceed with confidence, and, hopefully, continue to benefit from a valuable friendship.

All the best,

Sito