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  • I became good friends with a guy in Boot Camp, in the Navy, in San Diego. We'd first hit it off when I was telling a group of guys my trick for getting through the difficult physical drills we were being put through. Someone had noted that I didn't seem to be struggling as much as others, and wanted to know my secret. I'd seen a movie where a guy had used meditation techniques to take his mind and spirit to a better place while enduring difficult physical circumstances, and I had successfully applied the same techniques there. As I described my technique of visualization, I was met mostly with blank stares, like I was some kind of a freak. Joe nodded knowingly, and I sensed a kindred spirit. We became fast friends.

    We both got sent to the same training school after Boot camp, in Great Lakes, IL, after a week of leave. I showed up with my duffel bag - Joe showed up in an old Chevy, loaded up with stuff for setting up housekeeping, and a girl he was planning to install in an apartment right off of the base. It became quickly apparent that she was his "shack-up", not the fiance I'd heard him talk about. I said nothing, though I didn't understand it. I'd thought he had a bit more going on, morally, but I tried not to judge, or let my feelings interfere with our growing friendship. He was a lot of fun to be around, and a good friend in many ways.

    After training school, we each had 3 weeks' leave before reporting to our respective ships. We decided to take leave together, spending the 1st week in his hometown of Kearney, NE, the 2nd week in Windsor, CT, where my friends were, then a few days with my folks in New Jersey, before making our ways to our ships. Joe hit on my sister while we were at my place, and I called him out for it, even threw him out of the car on the highway and left him there - before realizing it was his car, and I probably needed to go back for him.

    I'd met and gotten to know his fiance in Kearney, and she was a dynamite girl who I immediately took a liking to, and we became good friends. At one point, she asked me point-blank about the rumored "shack-up" girl in Illinois. This was a moment of truth I was really hoping to avoid.

    Honoring the "best friend code", I denied it as a vicious rumor, that I'd spent everyday of the training with Joe, and never saw him with this rumored girl. She believed me. She trusted me. And I, lacking the moral fiber to be a true friend to her, completely violated that trust, in that moment. Not much of a friend. I, of course, also never told her about his attempts to hit on my little sister, either. I tried to just put that incident in a little "momentary indiscretions" box. The things we do for friends!

    They eventually got married, and I fell out of touch over the years as we each went in different directions in our Navy careers. I did hear, several years later, that it hadn't worked out between them and they'd separated.

    I always regretted that I hadn't been honest with that girl when she asked her new friend a critical question about the man she planned to marry. Given a second chance at that situation, I'd hope that I would have handled it differently, knowing what I came to know about Joe, and about Sherry. She deserved better than what she got, and he might have grown up a little quicker, and caused less damage and heartache in the long run.

    When it comes to letting a friend know a difficult truth, or a piece of critical information that they're not aware of, I think it's best to put myself in their shoes, and ask myself "what would I want a good friend do for me in this situation?"

    While it's always a risk - more often than not, you'll be met with denial and possibly anger in the short-term - withholding the truth is a breach of trust that has much longer lasting impact, and may never be restored. A true friend would not do that to a friend.
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