How to Kill Friendships

We lose friends as the years go by. I have. Many I know have as well. Why?

Some people attract friends like an indie-coffee house attracts hipsters. The aroma of their charisma, the caffeine of their charm and their sweet latte-like disposition of care and concern helps them easily connect with others on a deep level and elicit a novel devotion. I can wield these traits to a small degree, but I know others for whom these are naturally strong characteristics. They simply can’t help but draw people in with the gravitational pull of an oversized planet. It’s not just the loud extrovert who can pull in the crowd. It’s also the intense introvert who can hook another worshipper.

But these people can be just as lonely as you or I. When the sun sets, they are not usually the ones with the closest friends. The ability to make friends is good. May we all get better at it. The ability to keep friends, however, is greater still. Winning friends is largely based on personality. Keeping friends is based on character.

We do not “drift” apart. We're not ships. Yes, there are times when circumstances genuinely don't allow friendships to continue and sometimes God may remove a relationship from our life because it is unhealthy for us. But, when the loss of a close friendship is due to human factors is it usually because we have either become bitter towards them or we have neglected them.

The first one problem is commonly acknowledged. People fall out. Sin enters the picture and we do not deal with our hurt in a gracious way. We do not speak the truth to our friend in love and the offense and bitterness grows. Some may choose to ignore the friend who hurt them, as passive-aggressives do, while others with a sharper tongue may explode in anger and say things which destroy the relationship. For any relationship to last a lifetime, we must learn how to bring sins graciously into the light, discuss and forgive them. Christians should know this one. 

It's the second one they fail to realise: neglect

In school and through University, we are herded like cattle into classes and canteen alike. The youth groups at church do the same. Then things change. Friendship is not so automatic. It takes strategy and effort and these are things which some people foolishly believe shouldn’t be required in the realm of friendship. They think that friendships should just be maintained “naturally”.

No, unfortunately not. A friendship which will last a lifetime is not like the wild grass that grows behind your house. It is more like a vegetable or flower garden. It will require diligence. We need to water and weed it. We do this on days we feel like it and on days we don’t…or else we will lose them. I certainly have.

In our day, people move. They do so for reasons of marriage or work. My dearest friends do not live in the same city I do. If I want to keep them as friends, it means I need a plan. Fortunately, digital technology such as phone calls, skype and texts make things easier and some of us are classy enough to write the odd sentimental letter. I can't do this with every acquaintance, but can't I do it with at least a couple of my closest?

But I also love being with friends in the flesh. To see and embrace a loved one is one of those things that makes life worth living to me. In order to maintain this joy for the long haul, I must budget time and money. 

Jesus said to his friends, “No greater love has anyone than this: that they lay down their life for their friends.” The cross was God’s way of making and keeping friends from a rebellious world. We have sinned by letting sin rot away our relationships, but there is forgiveness for us because our best friend Jesus has died in our place.

Any relationship, be it marriage, family, God or friendship requires sacrifice, work and planning or it will die. Now, obviously we can't keep close friendship with everyone. Many people do come and go and we shouldn't feel guilty for not keeping tabs on every person. We can't with most! Occasionally, even God himself may choose to remove someone from us. There are times to say good-bye and to "refrain from embracing" (Ecclesiastes 3). But as far as we are concerned, are there not some friendships worth fighting for?

By nature, friendship demands that both parties work at it. If only one is devoted and the other is not, it is not a real friendship. Are your circumstances or that of your friend’s changing? If so, have a big boy talk with them. Make a plan. If you don’t, five years from now they may only be a memory and you may be all the lonelier for it.

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Or check out my book  Forbidden Friendships, on Amazon: Here in the USA  or Here in the UK


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