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Friendships, Old and New

Why is it that there seems to be no shortage of friends like this. . . especially when I’m trying to change the direction my life is headed?

One of the fascinating dynamics of change is the extent to which those closest to me will go to subvert my new choices, I’ve written about how family will attempt to pull me back into the dysfunctional family system but what about friends?

On one level at least some of my family will understand and support the changes I seek to make. Only rarely will friends be so supportive. This is due, perhaps, to the level of intimacy I have with family and don’t allow with most of my friends. This is to be expected and accepted. Only rarely will a friend understand and move into the innermost circle of my support net.

Most often as change occurs there will be a season of losing old friends who no longer share my values and don’t understand or support the direction I’ve chosen. When I attempt to maintain their friendship I will find them eager to pull me back into the old ways I want to leave behind. It will be awkward and everyone will feel the strain. And then the invitations to join them will stop.

If I think back to how I was I can probably remember someone else in my circle of acquaintances that moved off in a different direction. I heard comments like, “Since so and so got involved with church he doesn’t hang out with us anymore.” “Since she got that new job, she doesn’t come around here.” Anticipating these responses won’t ease the sting much or the sense of loss but I won’t be blindsided by them so often.

Then follows a season of realignment, marked by some loneliness and perhaps a sense of being abandoned. I may be tempted to blame my old friends for not being better friends and supporting me. I may feel tempted to scrap the whole change thing. I can also embrace this season as an opportunity to do some internal work that may be needed, incorporating time for meditation, long walks outdoors, Sunday afternoon drives to local spots, a vacation, going to bed early to get more and better rest, or keeping a journal. It is a great time to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and with my own company, all very important.

After a time I will notice new people beginning to enter my life, people who may be more closely aligned with where I am now or at least moving in the direction I am headed. I now have the opportunity to make new friends to fill my life with healthier relationships. I have weathered the storm and its lonely eye. I have made the most of the season I am in. The seeds I planted in my aloneness are growing and their fruit is the new relationships I can now enjoy.

And what of my old friends? I always greet them warmly when I see them. If they ask, I tell them how my life is now and assure them that I miss them and think fondly of them. It does neither of us any good for me to snub them or put them down. That only closes the door to any change they may want to make. It is an invitation in its own right for me to be gracious with them. It reassures them that anyone can change for the better.

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