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Through the Mist: Patience and Ronja} ?> I want to have good friends, but sometimes I forget to show my friends the same virtues I wish they would show me. One of those is patience, specifically when a friend is going through a hard time and they start acting unlike themselves. They stop laughing at the same things, they’re more sensitive about certain subjects, and maybe they’ve even taken up harmful habits.
It’s hard to be around someone who is suffering. I just want to swoop in and fix all their problems. But most of the time, those problems aren’t something I can fix. They might be dealing with an external issue, like a fight with a family member or stress at their job; or they might be facing an internal problem that only they can change. A particular instance from Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, a new animated series co-produced by Studio Ghibli, illustrates similar frustrations with friends.
When Ronja, the child of a bandit chief, and her friend Birk, the son of a rival clan chief, traveled through the forest one fall day, mist clouded the way. Mist children danced within the fog, tempting unsuspecting travelers with their siren song to become forever entrapped in the fog. Ronja fell under this spell and started to follow the mist children. Birk tried to stop her, but she fought him. Instead of letting her go because of her harsh protests, he held on and finally embraced her to hold her in place. Ronja scratched and bit him, but he still held her through the pain. Later when she snapped out of this trance, she didn’t remember what happened and asked him where his injuries came from, but he only smiled.
This isn’t an illustration of an abusive relationship, but a caring one; Birk’s actions represent unselfish love for his friend, patience, and self-sacrifice that comes from truly caring.
The type of patience is necessary when relationships hit rough spots, places that threaten to shatter the friendship. At times like this, I have to accept that I can’t fix my friends’ problems and I can’t let my inability to solve everything frustrate me. Sometimes all I can do is just hold onto them and support them while they’re going through a hard time. I can act as a buffer between them and their proverbial mist children.
I made friends with someone right before she started going through some serious mental health issues. After she finally told me what was going on, she started acting like a different person and didn’t talk to me for a few months. This frustrated me because I wanted to help, but she shut me out. It made me feel unimportant to her—why had she told me and then completely backed off? I thought about cutting her out of my life entirely to avoid hurt. But I realized maybe I shouldn’t be focusing on myself and should instead recognize that she was going through something difficult; admitting that to me in the first place took a lot of guts.
I held onto our friendship and now our relationship has strengthened because of that. She didn’t need me to fix her problems, but she needed the assurance that I wouldn’t leave her. She’s emerged out of the experience as a stronger person, and I’m so grateful I held on to our relationship. Together we’ve both grown through the tough experience.
Throughout my friend’s struggle, I had to practice patience. Patience is difficult, with friends and even (or perhaps especially) with strangers. I get annoyed when a driver cuts in front of me in traffic or when the person in front of me at the supermarket is taking too long. Sometimes, I let that anger overcome me until I remind myself that they might be going through something difficult and their hurt is coming out in a snappy comment.
But if I respond with patience, maybe I can make that person’s day just a little bit brighter. If I respond with patience, maybe I can help a friend avoid getting caught in the mist and strengthen our relationship.
Yes, it hurts to be around someone we love who’s suffering, but sticking by them shows that we truly care about them. It hurts even more when we feel helpless in their situation, but not being there for them is what will hurt them the most. Sometimes, even a kind word and a hug makes all the difference.
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