Oh, friendship. So good, so hard.
My friendships have changed a lot in my twenties. I think that’s a pretty normal post-high school and post-college transition for most girls, right? It’s a time where most of us are soul searching and changing, chasing dreams and getting married, a time where we are hopefully becoming more comfortable in our own skin and more grounded in who we are.
As I’ve gotten older, my friendships have also changed. In my early twenties I went through a process of letting go of a few friends, while one close friend let go of me. It’s ironic how being on one side doesn’t feel like a big deal, but when you’re on the other side, it can be The Biggest Deal In The World. In my mind I had plenty of reasons to let go of friends (We’ve grown apart! She’s so condescending! We have nothing in common anymore! I’m the only one putting in effort!). Friendship can often be selfish in that way—as soon as we’re not getting what we want out of it, we can choose to walk away. At the time I felt justified in my actions, but after being on the other side of the coin, I often wonder: did I give up too easily?
I have been the friend who leaves and I have been the friend who is left. By far, the latter is much harder to accept. This happened to me once a few years ago and it cut me deeply, like a wound that never fully healed. This friend and I were close. Very close. Like, she-was-in-my-wedding-and-I-was-in-hers close. To this day I am still unsure of what really happened between us. There was an e-mail full of accusations, and then it was over. I tried to understand, I tried to reason, I tried to defend myself, but it was over before I really got the chance to do any of those things. She was done. Years and years of friendship, gone, poof! Just like that.
I was crushed. How could she give up on our friendship so easily?
I remember telling the story to a group of close friends right after it happened, repeating the hurtful e-mail contents through tears on Sharon’s couch. Everyone consoled me and reassured me that it was her and not me, which is irrelevant but probably what I needed to hear that night. Sharon e-mailed me the next day and promised that no matter what happened between us, she would never abandon our friendship. She told me that if an issue or conflict ever arose between us, she would bring it to me and we would work it out.
It was one of the most profound, yet simple e-mails I had ever received from a friend. Sharon was, essentially, promising to fight for our friendship.
Her words made me feel surprisingly safe. No argument or misunderstanding would rip us apart over an e-mail; our friendship was too good for that. Our friendship was too strong for that. And what an amazing feeling that is, to be secure in something as essential and life-giving as friendship, to know that your relationship is not contingent upon your ability to always do the right thing or say the right words. How comforting to know that we are all human and we all mess up from time to time, but that with forgiveness and grace, we can move forward together in friendship with one another.
I’m not a perfect friend. I’m not even always a good friend. I certainly try to be. Sometimes I wonder what friendships would look like if we treated them more like marriage. When Brett and I get into a disagreement, for example, it’s not my first instinct to walk out the front door. I don’t hire an attorney and file for divorce every time there is conflict between us. We are committed to each other, forever and always, no matter how hard things get.
That level of commitment is obviously designed for marriage, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if we applied a lesser version of it to our friendships? What if we vowed to love our friends for better and for worse?
What if we stopped giving up on friendship so easily and vowed to fight for it instead?
Make no mistake, I understand that there is a time for letting go of friends. I’ve been there. But once you get to the point in your life when you’ve found your inner circle, your people, the ones who visit you in the hospital after giving birth and bring you chocolate when you’re having a crappy day and let you cry on their couch about the hard things and pray for you on a regular basis, isn’t that worth fighting for?
I believe it is.
Have you ever experienced a friendship breakup? Did someone give up too easily, or did you fight to fix it? Let’s chat about it in the comments…