Are you in a new school or class and feeling left behind or left out as your old friends seem to move on without you? Do you feel like you’re putting in more effort than them to keep the friendship afloat? Are you afraid that you might be losing a friend that you were once close to? If you can relate to any or all of these scenarios, … I feel you!
Navigating new and old friendships can be a difficult thing, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. Amidst my own journey of navigating through changing friendships, I’ve learnt a few precious lessons that have redefined the way I view my friendships. If you are in transition and wondering what on earth you should do, this is for you!
1. Not all friends are forever
I was a teenager was that my friendships would stay the same forever. In secondary school, I found myself a close group of girl pals. We would hang out often, text on an almost daily basis, and be each other’s greatest supporters. However, we all went our separate ways after secondary school and things changed. We each got busy and preoccupied with other things, and later on in life when we moved on to university and got even busier, I found myself feeling increasingly jaded about these friendships and how difficult it seemed to maintain them.
The mistake I made was trying to keep everything the same as it was when we were younger. The reality is that everything changes — our stage of life, our expectations of each other, and even our very selves! It is okay to let go of some friendships as you move on in life and your priorities change. Be grateful for the history you’ve shared and the way you’ve sharpened each other (Prov 27:17), and in bittersweetness, let it go.
2. Expectations are everything
If you’re not feeling quite ready to let go of the friendship, then try talking it out. I know, speaking up about your (mismatched) expectations can be very intimidating. Will they think you’re too needy? Will they think you don’t care anymore? Trust me, I can relate to those fears! But the alternative — feeling dissatisfied with the friendship and keeping silent — can cause greater damage to the friendship in the long run.
I spent my teenage years being incredibly close to a friend that I would text and call often and meet up at least once every two weeks. However, as she entered a new season in life, it soon took at least three to four days before I would receive her text replies. We had to plan our meet-ups a month in advance, and she would need to head home quickly. Over time, I felt as though I was being misplaced and forgotten. It was difficult, but I decided to talk to her about it. She was surprised at my feelings but had to firmly but gently remind me that our life stages were different and demanded different things. It would be selfish of me to place unrealistic expectations on her and our friendship.
Don’t be afraid to work through both of your expectations. You might find that as you both find ways to give and take, the outcome will be a new and beautiful balance.
IT IS OKAY TO LET GO OF SOME FRIENDSHIPS AS YOU MOVE ON IN LIFE AND YOUR PRIORITIES CHANGE.
3. Friendships change, but God is constant
I don’t deal well with change, but unfortunately, it’s an inevitable feature of life. When I chose to leave the public school system and be home- schooled, I found it diffcult to understand why my friends didn’t have more time for me. Even though we were in a similar life stage as students, our daily lives were very different! As a home-schooler, time was flexible for me, but most of my friends were only available on weekends.
I didn’t see them as often as I used to, and the lack of face-to-face time caused us to drift from one another. Meals together were increasingly diffcult to come by, and all these changes left me feeling frustrated and afraid as our friendship seemed to change while I watched helplessly.
During that time, while I grappled with loneliness and insecurity, I was convicted to reflect on why I felt so attached to my friends and so alone and unwanted without them. As I took a step back and looked at my life, I found that I was looking to my close friends for companionship and security instead of finding them in Christ. That was sobering! It has since been a process of learning how to depend on Christ first before other individuals, and learning to be fully satisfied in Him alone.
No friendship will stay exactly the same throughout the years and there will be periods of grappling with distance and absence. However, I learnt a timeless lesson that while all friendships will go through seasons, there is One Friend who is constant through it all.
HERE FOR THE LONG HAUL
A verse that constantly challenges my perspective of friendship is Proverbs 17:17. It says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity”. One of the toughest seasons of my life was when my grandfather passed away in a span of a month after being diagnosed with stage-four liver cancer. I was devastated, confused, and angry. During that trying period, I needed time and space to process the sudden death; it caused me to unintentionally ignore my friends who were concerned for me. Some of them were going through their own share of diffculties and needed me during that time, and they had every reason to be frustrated with me for being so absent. Yet, they continued to love me until I was ready to open up and talk through my grief with them.
Their persistence showed me a beautiful picture of friendship. They did not choose to love me only in the good times, but even in the bad times when I was pushing them away. I knew that these friendships were ones that I would want to keep for the long haul, no matter how many changes and transitions in life I might go through.
AS I TOOK A STEP BACK AND LOOKED AT MY LIFE, I FOUND THAT I WAS LOOKING TO MY CLOSE FRIENDS FOR COMPANIONSHIP AND SECURITY INSTEAD OF IN CHRIST.
Just the other day, I came across a hilarious video of two grannies in their nineties who were grooving to music together and bantering with each other. They have been friends for countless decades! Apart from thinking that it was cute, I was inspired by how they have managed to stay so tightly knit! I’m sure that their journey together must have had its fair share of storms, but it gave me hope that some friendships can last the distance — if they are handled with the right amount of expectations, selflessness and grace. I do not know your personal struggles with friendship but I do want to encourage you to constantly commit every friendship to God and let Him be Lord over all of them. Hopefully, you will also be grooving to some beats with your girl pals decades from now, celebrating and reminiscing about your journey through the years together.