The college I went to was kind of like Hogwarts–without all of the magic. Instead of wands and wizards, I had dorm monitors and demerits. But dorm life made living in that environment endurable. I never requested to room with a friend figuring that I wanted to keep him as a friend. So I allowed myself to get thrown into a room with whomever fate decided needed an attitude adjustment that particular year.
As a freshman, I roomed with a rich boy from Florida. He was all Ralph Lauren and Cole Haan to my Goodwill and Salvation Army. Chris was the only child of a single mom who compensated for her divorce-guilt by spending exorbitant amounts of money on her son. For example, as a high school graduation present, Chris’s mom got him a BMW. I think my parents gave me a picture frame (My parents stayed together, and their lack of guilt equated to crappy gifts). Chris had good looks coupled with a winning personality whenever he came near an attractive female, kind of like Ted Bundy. Chris would often wake up in the evening just as I was collapsing from working the three part time jobs I had to help pay tuition. He would make coffee at midnight, and he would thump around studying in the room while I tried to sleep. And yet when I got up for work at 5:30 am, he would go insane if I turned the light on.
Chris had a simple philosophy: I COME FIRST. Sadly, the “I” in his philosophy did not refer to me but rather to himself. While Chris had money he had done nothing to earn, he was financially and emotionally stingy. If I came home from Goodwill on a Saturday with a new shirt with the store tags still on it, he went on a rampage saying “That’s not fair! My mom spent $60 buying me that same shirt. And you spent a buck on yours!” Nope, Chris couldn’t manage to say, “Good for you, dude! That’s cool. I know money is tight for you, and I’m glad getting up early to hit the thrift stores paid off.” That would have required some sort of maturity.
When he went home for the Thanksgiving weekend, he put a bicycle lock around his closet door. Before leaving he told me, “I don’t want you messing with my stuff! So keep out!”
So, of course, I messed with his stuff. Silly, silly Chris didn’t notice that the closet door hinges were on the outside. I popped the hinges. In the span of four days, I managed to accumulate about twenty pictures of myself wearing Chris’s duds in various places around campus and in town, doing my own version of “Where’s Waldo?” Before he returned, I put all of his clothes in the trunk of my car with the help of several of my friends.
But I wasn’t done. Chris deserved a little more of my effort than just that little prank. So I shoved raisins in his tube of toothpaste. And I emptied his bottle of Ralph Lauren Polo eau de toilette and replaced it with real toilet water. I swapped out his Coffee-Mate with baking soda. I used his razor to de-fuzz all of my sweaters. And I might have answered the phone saying “This is Chris. What!?” so I could break up with all of his girlfriends. Who knows?
I’m exaggerating my treatment of Chris to make a point. HAD I done those things, you might agree with me—since you’re only hearing my point of view. And yeah, I’m suggesting that I might not have been anyone’s dream roommate, either. I wasn’t.
Conflicts develop at school, work or home. They happen. Don’t waste time trying to be right, attempting to determine who did what first, trying to settle the score. Is anyone really happy to hear someone else say, “My bad. I treated you like dirt”? In the end, conflicts arise because no one is willing to see the middle, the place where truth resides. Can you try to see the truth in your own conflict today? Can you try to find that middle ground, the place of truth, so you can move beyond any conflict you might have with a friend?
As always, it’s your call. If you’d rather, I can tell you what I–or someone like me–did to your toothbrush…