Finding and maintaining authentic friendships as adults is hard. During my childhood and later as a young woman in college, I was blessed with two amazing friendships. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to maintain best-friend status over distance and decades even with the advent of social media.
Several years ago, I met another young mom, who was a lot like me. I knew in my heart that we would be best friends, but in the end things didn’t work out that way. Despite our differences, she is a great mom and wife. I share these lessons learned from friendship lost in hopes that they will help someone else who has suffered a similar heartache.
Lesson 1: A close friendship goes deeper than what appears on social media.
Though we had talked often in our early days, our conversations were mostly about our kids and households. We rarely, if ever, opened up about deep, personal issues.
Lesson 2: A close friend doesn’t ask of you that which she is unwilling to give.
This friend requested to be a part of a very special day for our family. When she later had the same reason for celebration, she did not want me to participate. To be fair, she had this policy with all of her friends and did not single me out. I was just unaware that my expectation of reciprocity would be unmet.
Lesson 3: A close friend shares both joys and sorrows with you.
Less than a year into our friendship, this friend suffered a tragedy. I tried to walk through this with her and be there for her, but she needed space to grieve. I don’t fault her for that; it was such a devastating time. Unfortunately, we never recovered from the new distance between us. By the time she was beginning to heal, we had grown apart though neither of us realized it yet.
Lesson 4: A close friend wants your company more than your persona.
About eight months after our friendship ended, we wound up at the same social event. During a one-on-one conversation, we tried to resolve past issues, but the thing I remember most was her plea that she missed me because I was her only local friend who also did X, Y, and Z. Although she may not have intended it that way, I felt that she missed me not for who I was but for what I did.
Lesson 5: Forgiveness does not have to lead to restoration.
We are both Christians. Aren’t we supposed to get along? After several failed attempts at restoration and four years of awkward brokenness, I requested that we meet to seek a better end to our story. It was an incredibly tough meeting. Rather than choosing to dwell on what broke us apart, we caught up on recent events in our lives and gave renewed apologies.
In the year since this meeting, I have still felt awkward in her presence, but I know that some measure of healing took place. While I don’t know if we will ever be able to fully restore the relationship, I won’t count God out on being able to work a miracle in this.
Lesson 6: Bitterness does not have to consume you. You can choose kindness.
I was hurt badly by our breakup; we both were. I let bitterness reign and eat away at me for far too long. I’ve been working to choose kindness over bitterness, to build up rather than tear down. It’s a process. It’s a choice. And it is freeing to the soul.
Several months ago, I had an opportunity to choose kindness toward her, and through simple emails back and forth, I can feel the bitterness I have held onto for so long beginning to fade away. Recently, we’ve decided to keep in touch regularly via email using simple questions to start and keep the conversation going. My hope is that this will keep us on a path toward restoration.
Lesson 7: God can create beauty from pain.
Even though I lost what I had once hoped would be a life-long friendship, much good came from this. There were two other ladies privy to the events of the breakup as they were a part of it too. Although I wasn’t close friends with either of them at the time, through the months and years that followed, God renewed my spirit by gifting them both to me as my best friends. With each of them, I have a reciprocal friendship in which we share both our joys and our sorrows, we have deeply authentic conversations as confidants, we have realistic expectations of each other and are honest about those expectations, and we appreciate each other simply for who we are. These two ladies have also kept me accountable to seek the best outcome for the friendship that was lost.
Though I lost a friendship I once held dear, I have grown and learned so many life lessons from that heartache. I am grateful for those lessons learned and for the blessing of new friendships that followed.
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
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