Banshees Of Inisherin and Friendship’s End
Losing friends is never easy. When it’s losing friends that have been in your life for years, friends you consider family, the ones you consider ride or die, the ones you consider matching tattoos with, losing those friends? It's crippling. Last night I was driving home from a comicon. I had a 3-hour drive ahead of me, and before I was 10 miles in, I started getting bogged down in my feels. In the last couple years, I have lost friendships I thought I would have for the rest of my life. I’m not writing this to speak negatively of them, just stating, it hurts. Alone with my thoughts and 189 miles of road, it just marinated to that place of overwhelming. Friends mean different things to different people, and like all things in life, friendships are seasonal, but that rarely makes the concept any easier. Recently the highly applauded film Banshees of Inisheren put to flesh the struggles of this very concept. This macabre malady from the mind of Martin McDonagh first caught my attention because it was being spoken of as a type of sequel to the 2008 film “In Bruges,” which holds a special, super awkward, place in my heart. When I sat down to watch Banshees, it didn’t leave me with the same adoration and affinity. The performances were fantastic, the plot was interesting, and it’s incredibly well crafted. I just don’t think I felt love for it because it felt too close to home. In recent years I’ve come to grips with the understanding that I have abandonment issues. Issues that have wrecked parts of my past and have recently been inflamed by my present.
The film really does capture the pain and destruction that can accompany the end of a friendship. The blame, the guilt, the insecurities, the delusion, the fear, the helplessness, and the desperation. So, if you’re looking for a buddy comedy, this isn't it. But for me it helped me process some feelings that overwhelmed me, and the idea of fleshing this out helped me to take steps forward (so enjoy reading my therapy).
Banshees centers on two men, Colm & Padraic, and the aftermath of their friendship. Colm an older isolated man with a penchant for music composition, and Padraic, a hapless farmer that lives off the attachment of his friend and his sister. Padraic’s world is rocked when on his routine journey to get a drink with Colm, he is fiercely shunned. Much to his bewilderment, his long-term friend has decided that they are no longer friends. Padraic makes it face to face with Colm and he desperately seeks to see if there’s anything he’s done to offend his friend.
“Now... if I've done somethin' to ya, just tell me what I've done to ya. And if I've said somethin' to ya or maybe if I've said somethin' when I was drunk and forgotten it. But I don't think I've said somethin' when I was drunk and I've forgotten it. But if I did, then tell me what it was. And I'll say sorry for that too Colm. With all me heart, I'll say sorry. Just stop running away from me like some fool of a moody school child.” - Padraic
Padraic effectively displays what Christ says to do if we think we've offended someone.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” - Matthew 5:23-24
Jesus made it clear that reconciliation is your responsibility. Jesus didn’t say go apologize if you are guilty, or if you did something wrong. He said to seek reconciliation if they have something against you. Regardless of how founded it is. Padraic tries this. It was unsuccessful, but he did make the effort. That’s more than can be said for many of our friendships and relationships that have fallen away and are simply forgotten.
In the same token, Jesus also gives us instructions for what to do when someone has offended us.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” - Matthew 18:15-17
This would have been the best route to go when Colm started feeling some type of way towards Padraic, but obviously it didn’t quite play out that smoothly. Even though Padraic was the one cast aside, he still tried. Colm was certain their time was done.
Colm: But you didn't say anything to me. And you didn't do anything to me.
Pádraic: Well, that's what I was thinking, like.
Colm: I just don't like ya no more.
Pádraic: You do like me.
Colm: I don't.
Pádraic: But you liked me yesterday.
Colm: Oh, did I, yeah?
Pádraic: I thought you did...
Even though Padraic’s heart was broken, he still couldn’t truly grasp this to be reality. He thought there was no way his friend could have abandoned him. It’s a hard truth to accept because the closer the friend, the bigger the wound. It’s like Job stated;
Job 19:14 My relatives have gone away; my closest friends have forgotten me.
Colm had left his friend; he had made his choice. But Padraic wouldn’t let it go. Even though it wasn’t a healthy option he kept pushing for their relationship to be maintained, to be renewed. I think we all have been in this place where we are pushing one sided relationship. Being the only one investing in what should be mutually beneficial. So often when we latch on in this way, we do ourselves damage. Jesus made this statement when He sent His disciples out about not forcing relationships and connections. It’s specifically about carrying the message of the gospel and how it’s received, but to me, it’s also solid advice for relationships.
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” - Matthew 10:14
Sometimes when we aren’t welcome or received in any relationship, the best thing to do is shake the dust from your feet and keep moving. It’s a solid reminder that you don’t need to carry even a trace of that rejection with you as you move forward. This would have been a healthy response for Padraic, but he wasn’t able to accept this. Which left Colm seriously taking things to a drastic turn quickly.
Colm: What I've decided to do is this. I have a set of shears at home. And each time you bother me from this day on, I'll take those shears and I'll take one of me fingers off with them. And I'll give that finger to ya. A finger from me left hand. Me fiddle hand. And each day you bother me more, another I'll take off and I'll give ya until you see sense enough to stop. Or until I have no fingers left. Does this make things clearer to ya?
Pádraic: Not really, no.
Colm: Because I don't want to hurt your feelings, Padraic. I don't, like. But it feels like the drastic is the only option left open to me.
Pádraic: You've loads of options left open to ya. How's fingers the first port of call?
Colm: Please, don't talk to me no more, Padraic. Please. I'm begging you.
It is brutal when relationships end. There is always pain in some capacity, but there was no convincing Colm differently. He was so deadest in his direction that he was willing to mutilate himself just to prove the point. One of the worst things about ending relationships is that the people that used to be your biggest blessing can end up being your biggest source of wounds.
“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” - Proverbs 27:4-6
As the story and the anguish continues, we go from seeing a friendship end, to the birth of enemies. We see Padric turn from just being hurt, to being on the offensive. That’s one of the things I like least about my personality and responses, is that when I am hurt, I can become too aggressive. Too mean, not because of anger, but like an animal attacking because it’s wounded and trying to survive. That’s a hard place to be and rarely healthy for anyone. We see the anger and fury rise between Padraic and Colm. We see that for Padraic, hidden love is equivalent to open rebuke. He can’t see just not being friends, he sees it as a rejection and abandonment of all his worth as a person. Because they are no longer friends, the wounds can’t be trusted.
How we end relationships matters, if we can do it in a way that is loving, it leaves us open to reconciliation. When we can do it in a way that is civil, with good communication, it may hurt, but it’s less damaging. But it’s when things become ugly, then it does so much damage.
As Padraic cried from his broken spirit;
Pádraic: Do you know what you used to be?
Colm: No, what did I used to be?
Pádraic: Nice! You used to be nice! And now, do you know what you are? Not nice.
Colm: Ah, well, I suppose niceness doesn't last then, does it?
When we have someone close to us, we genuinely hope it will last. That the friendship, the companionship, the love, the commitment, that it will be something permanent. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is that truly everything is seasonal. Everything won’t always last, but we can learn to appreciate and celebrate it while it lasts. We want those Ruth friendships, where people not only will be in our lives but will be dedicated.
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” - Ruth 1:16-17
Every friendship may not end like Ruth and Naomi. Sometimes it may look like that for a season, and then circumstances change. We have to be able to learn to appreciate the good that existed without letting it be tarnished by how it ends. The days we have encouraging relationships are worth celebrating, even if they eventually come to an end. I’ve lost so many relationships in the last 4 years; it truly breaks my heart. It’s tempting for me to look back on the decade's worth of friendship and think they don’t matter, but that would be a genuine lie and a mental retcon. Years go by and seasons change. We change. They change. Relationships change. But the good moments we shared don’t have to become bitter memories. Fight to preserve them for the good they were regardless of the eventual outcome.
One last thing I’ll throw out there. I spent a lot of time writing this from the perspective me myself or Padraic, from the abandoned. If you need to end a relationship, end it. Just please, do it well. Colm’s concerns and feelings were absolutely valid.
“I just... I just have this tremendous sense of time slipping away on me, Padraic. And I think I need to spend the time I have left thinking and composing. Just trying not to listen to any more of the dull things you have to say for yourself. But I am sorry about it. I am, like.
… I've changed. I just don't have a place for dullness in me life anymore.
... That's all. For a bit of peace in me heart, like. You can understand that. Can't ya? Can't ya?” - Colm.
Colm had every right to end a relationship for his own well-being, but his execution lacked. From silent ignoring to self-mutilation at record speed. Communicate, empathize, listen, and move forward. You don’t need to kill donkeys, burn down houses, or misuse shears to end a relationship, just be kind, or at least be nice.