Monday, July 9, 2012

The Friendship Crisis: Revisited.

After a long conversation with a friend this weekend I went back to find this post I wrote in February of 2009 titled, The Friendship Crisis.  My heart was breaking for this friend who's experiencing much the same growing pains that I was back when I wrote the original post.  This remains to this day one of my favorite and perhaps most honest blog posts here.  The friendship crisis is real and as I try to encourage several of my friends through these trials it brings it back to the surface for me, as well.

The Friendship Crisis isn't over.  It's now 2012, halfway through actually, and I'm still hitting weird patches in my own friendship crisis.  I've lost and gained friends since 2009 and my feelings about how hard it is to find, keep, and be a great friend remain the same.  I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I voiced this frustration: I feel like I never know who I can trust anymore.  This could potentially be the theme for the phase of the friendship crisis I am currently in.  Trust.  How DO you know who you can trust and what do you do when that trust gets betrayed?

I've had a few good slaps in the face from 'friends' in the past 3.5 years since writing The Friendship Crisis.  People I trusted.  Friendships I valued.  I've been blindsided  by people I truly loved and didn't think twice about trusting.  When this happens you have to face the tough challenge of how you handle them.  Do you forgive and forget?  Do you forgive and remember?  And sometimes I feel the way I can only express by giving you the semi-immortal words of Lauren Conrad, 'I want to forgive you and I want to forget you' (said to Heidi Montag in the Hills, of course).

Rachel, my older sister and closest friend, could attest that I am a champion grudge holder.  I can't remember what I ate for breakfast on any given Monday but I can tell you exactly why I quit liking each of her high school boyfriends.  I am fiercely loyal and my memory of those who wrong the people I love runs deep and stays strong.  In fact, this will be the first year I bury the hatchet on my long time grudge against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for firing some of my favorite men more than a decade ago.  I'm burying it in honor of a few of their new hires that I adore.  It's time.  I'm letting that one go.  But it's been a fierce 10 years of grudge holding, be assured and I think it's proved it's point.  You know, to me.

I've written before about the lessons I've had to learn about forgiveness and most importantly about forgiving people who may never be sorry.  That was a tough life/spiritual lesson for my grudge loving self.  But the friendship crisis and especially this chapter on trust, isn't really about forgiving.  See, I've come a long way in the forgiveness department.  The crisis comes in what you do after you forgive. The damage has been done and forgiving someone isn't the same as rebuilding.  I find it almost impossibly hard to decide which friendships to rebuild and which to let go.  Letting go not out of hate or anger, but in gentle, respectful forgiveness.  Parting ways doesn't mean you haven't forgiven, sometimes it's the final step in the process.

Unfortunately I can't wrap this chapter up for you and tie it with a neat bow because I'm still living and learning it.  So let's talk about another chapter I'm experiencing of the continued saga of the friendship crisis...the priority chapter.

I shared in 2009 that I have been surprised by some of my friendships that have lasted and some that have not.  Three years later this remains true.  I'm surprised by the people who have made staying in touch with me a priority, and those who have not.  I'm surprised by the people who make the effort to see me when I'm home, visit me here in Florida, and call me more than I call them.  I'm equally surprised by those who do not.  In fact, what may be true as I write this is that I actually stink at knowing people.  Maybe this should all have been obvious and I think the opposite of what happens because I'm an idiot. I'm not beyond believing this could be true.

I have said, written, tweeted, fb posted, and said again: people's time and money are a perfect way to measure their priorities.  They spend both their money and their time on exactly what they value.  Before you start thinking of someone else's out of whack priorities know that you and I have some work to do too.  But the more I identify and pinpoint people's priorities in this way the more guarded I feel about my friendships.  I know who values and prioritizes me and I know who doesn't.  I warn you that allowing yourself to realize this stings.  It also leads to some tough choices that start with - so what do you do now?

There's one last chapter I'm currently writing in my friendship crisis that I want to talk about briefly.  What happens when you out grow a friendship?  This is a weird one to write about because some of you probably don't believe this happens.  But it does.  I've been on the fast track for as long as I can remember.  I started college at 16.  I moved to Florida at 22.  I bought a house at 24.  I've always been in a hurry to be grown.  This is not necessarily a good quality, I realize.  But honestly, that growth hasn't caused me to outgrow nearly as many friends as this year has.

This year has been a year of tough self awareness.  In the wake of Haiti and all the spiritual growth that has come for me as a result, I find that the direction my life is taking is in direct opposition of the path many of my friends are taking.  I find that I'm increasingly uncomfortable in some of my relationships and now I'm faced with the question:  am I outgrowing this friendship?

Don't take this to mean that I think I'm above or beyond my friends.  I'm not.  The more I learn the more I realize how little I know.  I am a work in progress.  I am, in fact, a hot mess.  But perhaps the main difference that's driving a wedge is I'm not content to be that way anymore.  I'm constantly feeling challenged and trying to meet those challenges and I find that my desire to quit justifying and just grow up frustrates certain friends as much as their contentment to wallow in their problems instead of fixing them eats at me.  I don't know if I'm outgrowing them or they're outgrowing me or if perhaps where's just growing apart.

I hate to offer these kind of insights without giving you some kind of solution but again, I'm learning because I don't already know.  I wanted to come back and revisit this as I continue to realize that I'm one of many people my age and beyond who are experiencing these same tough situations.  I plan to take a big step back this week to consider and pray about my relationships.  I recognize that I will continue to gain and lose friendships throughout the rest of my life but I want to be mindful of them and make each one a deliberate choice not something that 'just happens'.

Friendships are hard because relationships are hard.  They take work, real work.  They also require the extension of grace and forgiveness because we all screw up.  So don't read this and think that I ditch every friend that messes up.  In fact, it would probably be more accurate to describe me as a doormat.  I tend to over forgive, over justify, and over blame myself.  I'm working towards a healthy medium now.  I want to continue to expect more of myself than anyone else. I want to be gracious.  But I desire to live a purposeful life and this includes placing the right amount of time and effort into the right relationships.

And so, the friendship crisis continues.  3.5 years later I am battling with who I can trust, who to put my effort into, and which friendships to let fall by the wayside.  It is a struggle.  It comes at a cost.  And I know that many of you feel like you're in the same place.  Know that my heart hurts for any of you struggling through similar situations.  I'm glad that so many of you have come to me to talk about these situations and I hope that as I figure them out, I'll be able to help you do the same.  We'll see where we all are the next time we revisit The Friendship Crisis.



Neely said...

I think everyone goes through this periodically. We all want to have certain friendships last and I think once we realize that certain people are in our lives at certain becomes easier. I can remember having people I thought were close friends for really only a few months but maybe thats all they were supposed to be there for. If that makes sense.

Katie said...

I am wholeheartedly of the opinion that some people are in your lives for only a period of time. (My fiance completely disagrees with this, btw, but he's a boy.) I recently watched one of my best friends walk out of our small group Bible study and basically out of our lives. It's so sad, but at the same time, I too felt like we had reached the end of our friendship. Sometimes no one does anything wrong-- it's like romantic relationships. Sometimes it's just not a relationship that's meant to last. Sad, but true.

meghan said...

I definitely understand the growing and changing friendships, and I think it also has a lot to do with choices and priorities that people make. I think it's totally normal. And I have to say, in regards to people choosing how they spend their time and money, there is no other place where this is more apparent than when it comes to weddings. I have been so surprised to find out who makes things a priority, who expects me to make things a priority and then doesn't in return, etc. It's a very eye opening time period for me right now in regards to friendship, I do have to say.

Established: 2008 said...

I am totally going through this too. It is just so hard to be friends with people when you're in different places in your lives. No matter how much you love them, sometimes, you have to let people go and it's terrible! I'm glad to know that others are going through this because I tend to blame myself. I'm too busy or I'm not trying hard enough. Sometimes, I need to sit back and remember that it's a two way street and maybe things are different now. Great post!