When Friends Aren't Friends Forever

If you were a Christian in the 90s, you undoubtedly remember the lyrics to the Michael W. Smith song, Friends Are Friends Forever. {In case you don’t know it, make sure you give it a listen. Enjoy the flashback to the 90s, checkered blazer and all!}

“Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never ’cause the welcome will not end.”

Yeah…sometimes that’s true. Isn’t it? Sometimes.

I certainly have friendships that, even when years pass between visits, feel just as close and loving and fun and amazing when we finally see each other again. I have friends who I might not see for ages, but when we do get together, conversations flow easily, hugs aren’t awkward, and it seems like we said goodbye just the day before. And I have friends who have been my friends so long that they’re really more like family than friends and are firmly established on my short list of people I love unconditionally.

I have friends like that – and it’s something for which I’m incredibly grateful. A friend who knows me, understands me and all my craziness, and loves me anyway? Despite distance and time and season and stages? Having forever friends really is priceless.

But the truth is that I also have former friends.

People who used to be my friends but aren’t anymore. Some of those former friends were people I was certain would be a part of my life forever. Friends who were part of my wedding, friends who held me up during the most challenging seasons, friends I traveled with, friends I shared everything with, friends I prayed with. At one time in my life, I couldn’t imagine anything that would tear those friendships apart, and I couldn’t imagine going through life without them by my side and me by theirs.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a fairy tale, and friendship isn’t a Michael W. Smith song.

When Friends Aren't Friends Forever

Some friendships end over disagreements, fights, betrayal. Some friendships are simply worn down over time spent ignoring differences and not quite seeing eye to eye.

Some friendships fade away when you no longer work together, work out together, worship together. Some friendships pull and strain and snap instead of stretch when one of your lives moves into a new season. Some friendships fall apart when one of you makes changes or decisions or both.

Some friendships are forged in darkness or stress or some kind of battle – and don’t stand up in the light or health or happiness. Some friendships simply don’t make the cut when schedules or lifestyles squeeze tight.

I’ve had – and lost – all of those types of friendships. And even when the mature part of me understands that seasons change, that people change, that LIFE changes…it still hurts. Even when I can say out loud that it was nobody’s fault, that it “just happened,” that we have no hard feelings…it still stings.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with several women about this very thing. About how friendships change just like people change, and how that’s hard to accept. About how even when you know a friendship wasn’t healthy, you can still miss that friend fiercely. About how sometimes you can’t bear to say one more time, “It’s been so long! We should get together sometime!”

So what do we do? What do we do when friends aren’t friends forever?

Number one, I think we go back to our list – no matter how long or short it may be – of friends who ARE forever. Do you have one friend who has stuck with you through good times and bad? One friend who has kept in touch over years or miles or both? One friend whose life looks completely different than yours but works to find the common ground you now share? If you have even one of those friends, celebrate that!

Secondly, grieve the friendships that have ended. The death of a relationship is a real hurt, and your heartbreak over it is no small thing. Don’t pretend it’s no big deal; don’t ignore the pain that creeps up when you miss her. Grieve the loss of your friendship just as you would any other loss.

But then, after you’ve had time to heal, remember the good parts! Not in a melancholy, Puff Daddy “I’ll Be Missing You” sort of way, but in a thankful-it-happened, warm-memories way. And in a way that inspires you to pursue new friendships and nurture the ones you have today.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about it. I think many of us feel that friendships that end are marks in the failure column, that lost friendships mean we’re not worthy of new friendships. That’s not true. It might be true that you (that I) made a mistake; we all do. But you’re not the only one who’s seen the end of a friendship. You’re not alone in feeling alone. You’re not the only one whose forever friends turned into former friends.

And – bonus tip! – make new friends. Sometimes we keep the old; sometimes we don’t. But keep making new friends. Keep opening your heart and your life. Keep seeking those friends who are forever, but cherish those who are here for just a season, too.

Have you ever experienced the end of a friendship? How do you cope with the seasons of friendship?

What friendship are you thankful for today?

Photos by Paul Hudson and m01229.

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