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April 26, 2022

When A Friendship Needs to End

Let me start with a prayer from Author Cole Riley. It is a Prayer for those who have outgrown a friend:

Dear God,

It is difficult to allow for evolution in our friendships. I confess that I cling to others out of an insecurity of fear or familiarity, and I become resistant to imagining a future where I am not as close to someone as I once was. Please remind me that not all relationships need to persevere. Reveal to me the beauty in friends that are only near to me in a season, and help me to release any guilt that tells me otherwise. Sometimes I am clinging to someone who I’ve outgrown, not because of time, but because of pain- the wounds that they’ve made in me and I in them. Liberate me from the bonds which alienate me from myself. Help me to discern when a friendship should be fought for and when I should acknowledge the disntinct paths our selfhoods are on and allow for a sacred release.

By Cole Arthur Riley @blackliturgies

I have been in this painful space in my life. I have had friends who I have loved dearly, but I knew in the deepest part of my core that they were not good for me. Our lives diverged in a way that could not hold the friendship together.

My very first experience in letting go of a friend was when I was nine years old. Her name was Amy. She was everything I was not. She was gregarious, rebellious, fun, she tempted me to do all kinds of nine-year-old bad things like disobey teachers, start food fights. I loved how I felt when I was with her. But I hated how I felt afterwards. Even at that young age, I recognized that Amy wasn’t good for me. I prayed that God would help Amy get out of my life. And the crazy thing is he answered my prayer. I came to school one day and Amy was gone. She had been kicked out for bad behavior. I went to a private school so they could do that. Oddly, that answer to my prayer was a confirmation that God existed. It sounds crazy, but when I start to doubt, I remember that God got rid of Amy. No one can convince me that was a coincidence.

I have learned in my adulthood, that we can’t fix everything by praying it away, can we? Why? Well, for a number of reasons that are beyond my human ability to comprehend, but also because then we don’t grow. When our children are little, they look at us and say,
“I want” and we give it to them. This is fundamental to their growth because they can’t do it for themselves and it teaches them to trust us. But when my sixteen year-old looks at me and says I want, my answer is often, great. Go get it for yourself. I know she needs to struggle through that to grow. Or sometimes my response is, wait. Have patience. It’s not time. And sometimes sits,  I do give her what she wants out of pure love and service, but not if I think it will stunt her growth.

I believe God is like that. He got Amy out of my life to show me, Zoe I’m here. I’m real.  I listen to you, I love you and I can meet your needs. But he hasn’t answered what I feel to be more pressing issues in my adulthood because I needed to figure it out for myself in order to grow. I don’t like that, but it is true, nevertheless.

And sometimes in adulthood, I have had to let friendships go. I’ve had to do the hard work of it. So do you and this hurts. A lot. And we have to grieve this. Often we stay too long and hurt longer than we have to because we don’t want to hurt- ourselves and the other. But in holding on, we cause more pain.

If this speaks to you, if there is a friendship, a business relationship, a romantic relationship that you know is not feeding your soul or even worse is sucking health from it, then this blog post is for you.

I’m not going to magically fix this for you. But I hope that my words resonate with you and help to move you towards the change you need to make.

Change is scary. That’s one of the main reasons why we don’t do it. Because this current evil is known and manageable. But when we allow ourselves to step out into the scary we are actually living. When we allow fear to hold us captive and stuck, we are dying.

when we allow ourselves to step out into the scary we are actually living. When we allow fear to hold us captive and stuck, we are dying.

Now, let’s first talk about why:

What are good reasons for ending a friendship?

I’m not going to spout off all the trite reasons or 5 steps that indicate you should end your friendship. You possess a deep knowing when something isn’t working like it used to, when the ease isn’t there, when there is more friction between you two or when you have grown differently.

I’m going to give you two overarching reasons to end a friendship:

1. When the friendship is taking you away from your relationship with God.

You must protect your psyche by being very careful about who is in your inner circle. You know the saying that you become like the 5 people closest to you? I don’t necessarily believe that or I would be like my 9, 16, 18 and 20 year olds and I don’t think that I am. But you get the point.

Sometimes, despite your love for a friend, if you notice that they are leading you away from God, it may be time to end the friendship. This is necessary self- care and spiritual maintenance.

despite your love for a friend, if you notice that they are leading you away from God, it may be time to end the friendship. This is necessary self- care and spiritual maintenance.2. When the friendship is taking you away from yourself.

This can happen in a number of ways, maybe your life has changed and you don’t have the time for the friendship in the way that you used to. Although it’s usually not about time and distance because I find that a true, rich friendship can withstand those constraints. It’s probably that one or both of you has grown in a direction that is no longer serving the relationship. Friendships can’t necessarily withstand this one. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s a life thing.

When this happens, staying in a friendship that no longer fits becomes a constant drip, creating a slow erosion of the person you want to be.

Once again you will know.

So how do you do it? How do you let go of something that may have spanned years of your life, maybe a relationship you thought would always stay the same?

First, don’t burn bridges. I am not a believer in cutting people off. I’m a believer in distancing in the healthiest way. There are some extreme cases, but cutting people out of your life should be the exception- the last resort, not the first, second or third step.

It may be harder to take the route of distance and it may require many conversations that wouldn’t need to be had if you simply end a relationship, but I don’t think this is the mature way to handle ending relationships. If the other person needs space from you, by all means, honor that and give them their space, but you don’t need to initiate that.

Instead, you need to have an honest conversation, acknowledging the difference in your relationship now compared to before. If you have changed, acknowledge that as well. Believe me, if you’ve felt it, she has too on one level or another. Sometimes acknowledgment- just speaking the truth of what is between you is the only thing that needs to happen. Then as you distance, there isn’t any wondering.

You don’T need to quantify what type of relationship will exist between the two of you,  it’s more about shifting and allowing your relationship to have a new normal. Maybe it’s getting lunch a few times a year or catching up over email or texts. Maybe it’s not seeing each other anymore at all or it’s running into each other at events.

My hope for you is that you can keep it real and not avoid her, but be open to the status of the new relationship. This takes time. For both of you. It’s the grown-up way and sometimes being a grown-up sucks.

So, today, I am holding space for you to contemplate your relationships. Does something need to shift? Does a relationship need to change? If it does, then I implore you not to wait- not to put it off until a better time that will never come. Love yourself by having the hard conversations. You can do it, my friend.

I will close with more words from Author Cole Riley:

Not all people are meant for you in all seasons. There is beauty in impermanence. Allow for sacred goodbyes.

By Cole Arthur Riley @black liturgies

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