Do you ever wish Facebook had a friendship status? “Best friends,” “acquaintances,” “frenemies.” Friendship statuses sure would pop some bubbles. Think of the drama that would cause!
Stop and think of your closest three friends. I don’t mean family members or spouses, but people who are truly in your life just to be your friend. I can almost guarantee those three people are not the same people you would’ve listed ten years ago. Honestly, they probably aren’t the same people from five years ago!
Friendships are not exempt from transition. Think of one of your closest friends– has your relationship always been where it is now? Friendships kind of start out like a dating relationship. You hit it off, but you’re shy and hide all of your weirdness. Then as you two grow more comfortable, you slowly leak out the kinks and kooks that make you two inseparable. (I pity my close friends for them having to deal with my quirkiness.) Sometimes, you even have friend break ups. Those are really difficult!
A friendship is a relationship, and like any relationship needs input, energy, and resources to grow. Sometimes friendships last for a short period of time, and sometimes friendships can span across decades. The key is to recognize the role friendship can play in specific or limited areas of our lives instead of expecting the friendship to fulfill us in all areas. To have the same expectations of a friendship that started in high school when you are in your 30s is very unrealistic, and those unrealistic expectations almost always lead to disappointment and resentment. As our lives become multifaceted and diverse, we will not be able to have friends that relate to us on all the different levels of our lives.
When we are faced with these transitions in our friendships, it is not uncommon to feel sad or anxious. It is sad to know a once great friendship is changing into a different role or maybe even coming to an end. The key for transitioning friendships is in your reaction to this change.
A simple conversation with your friend could go a long way. Talk to your friend about the fears and concerns you have. You never know, they could feel the exact same way.
Don’t make demands! The change in friendship status may be hard enough on your friendship, so instead of insisting on things being how they always have been, voice what you believe you have to offer in order to maintain a meaningful friendship.
Have realistic expectations about the friendship. You most likely will have to share your friend with other significant people in his or her life without jealousy and resentment. It is also possible the friendship may end. It is an inevitable and heartbreaking fact that some friendships seem to have a finite lifespan.
Finally, remember change doesn’t necessarily mean the end. I am a sentimental person, and when I realize I am slowly losing a friend, I hold on even tighter as I declare it’s the end of an era. As dramatic as I am, I always seem to find that things are never as final as I expect them to be. Embracing the change I find that my friendships are better, richer, and fuller.
Transitions are indeed clumsy. We’re likely to hit a few bumps in the road, and not all friendships survive them, but we aren’t meant to collect friends like stamps. Our friendships are a gift of grace. We can only endeavor to be faithful and gracious with what God has given us– relationships, as well as stations in life. If we endeavor to reflect His character where we are, we can trust Him with the rest.