Celebrate the Seasons of Friendship

BigChairFriendship is the most important thing — not career or housework, or one’s fatigue — and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” – Julia Child

Perhaps you learned this lesson long ago, but it’s something I must be reminded of from time to time: If we’re going to fulfill our purpose and reach our destination, we need other people in our lives. As John Donne famously pointed out, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” And one of our country’s most powerful women reminded the world that “it takes a village.”

None of us is self-sufficient. No one succeeds alone. We are part of humanity and must learn to get along and work together.

This means cultivating true friendships. But we also must realize that we only have a capacity for a limited number of genuine friendships at any one time in our life. (Alright, maybe you have hundreds or even thousands of friends on Facebook. That’s not the kind of “friend” I’m talking about here, but it is true that our online communities can become one component of the powerful network we need on our spiritual and emotional journeys.)

Our relational support system will be comprised of different types of friends, each with its own special function and value. Some friends correct us…others direct us. Some make us think… while others help us feel. Some are catalysts for lofty dreams… and others excel at bringing us back to reality when we’re just deceiving ourselves. At one time or another, we need all of these in our entourage.

I’ve also found that friendships go through various seasons.

Life is constantly changing. People switch jobs or move to other neighborhoods or cities. Couples who’ve been our friends sometimes get divorced. And it’s hard to maintain all the friendships we had in high school or college or on a particular job.

If you haven’t already experienced the seasons of friendship, I’m sure you will. Some friendships thrive when you’re a newlywed…have young children…go back to work…become an empty-nester…or eventually retire. Sometimes life is simply taking us in a different direction from those we once walked with closely. Sometimes priorities change. Values change. Beliefs change. The things that once brought us together are no longer lining up, and perhaps they are even at odds.

Of course, a few close relationships can endure these changes in life’s seasons, but some will diminish. This is sad and painful in some ways—but it’s reality.

Let’s be honest: When friends exit our lives, whether abruptly or gradually, it hurts. We have to adjust and reassess. We may even have to go through a grieving process over the lost relationship.

But none of this should shock or surprise us. The fact is, people will come and go in our lives. This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. You may be tempted to feel guilty or ashamed…but you shouldn’t.

But we do need to understand when to keep pursuing and nurturing a relationship, and when to let it go. When we come to a fork in the road regarding a friendship, we need to decide whether to continue the journey together—even if it’s now long distance— or whether to pursue different paths.

Being separated from a true friend will leave a hole in your heart. Yet sometimes there’s no other way for both of you to move on and grow as the people you need to be in a new season of your life.

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