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Last week I heard a discussion on National Public Radio about friendship. A caller stated that she had to start drawing boundaries with a few of the women in her life because they were weighing her down with their negative comments and attitudes about life and the aging process. She felt used and abused.

That started a rich conversation between the host and various guests and other callers about the value of friendship, including when it’s time to call it quits with some people for whatever reason.

That got me thinking about the women and men in my life who I once considered close friends but who have since fallen away (or did I push them away?) for one reason or another–death, relocation, illness, unresolved conflict, an unfulfilled need or lack of common interest. I feel a pang when I think of some of them now. How could such a change occur when the bond at one time was so strong? I can’t explain it. It’s how life goes sometimes. We can’t always wrap up each relationship with a red bow. Some simply go away from neglect, a one-sided passion, or a change of heart. And I see now that just as we let go of some gifts we once delighted in, we also must let go of friendships that no longer serve either person. Sad, maybe, but true.

When I was a shy and quiet schoolgirl, I remember feeling ‘lucky’ when someone wanted to be my friend–as though I didn’t have anything to do with attracting the girl or boy or creating the relationship between us. I felt honored that she or he picked me! Poor little Karen. But that’s not the case anymore.

Now that I’m an older adult, I’m considering Robert Louis Stevenson’s words in a new light. I realize that yes, each one of my friends is a gift I give myself, one to be enjoyed, respected, and appreciated, as well as one to invest in and to be truthful with, as suggested on the NPR radio show. And also one to hold lightly so that if a time comes when we are no longer in sync, we can let go with love and gratitude for what we had.

Sometimes friendships go the other way. Former friends return at a new time and for new reasons. They’re to be welcomed too. I had such an experience after my husband died. A caring phone call prompted a renewed connection between one woman and me. And a couple I hadn’t seen or heard from in ages was suddenly on my doorstep with a meal and flowers and condolences and a new and deeper regard for me. I felt so blessed.

Just as there are gifts for special occasions there are friends for special occasions. I have women to walk with, to shop with, to talk with, to see movies with, to line dance with, to enjoy a meal with, to pray for and with and to hang out with from time to time for no particular reason. Not all of them can be all things to me. Nor can I do and be all things to each of them.

Now that I am living alone, my friends have become even more important to me than ever before. I relish the variety of these women (and some men too) in my life, their warmth and advice and playfulness and curiosity, and their intelligence. I’m richer for knowing each one.

And so it goes. People come and go in our lives, some for a season, some for a lifetime and some as faithful readers of my writing. πŸ™‚Β  Thank you!

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you.

(John 15:15 MSG)

How does friendship play a part in your life? I’d love to hear your story.

 

 

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“A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself.” — 12 Comments

  1. Fantastic Karen. So well expressed. Yes, friendships do come and go …. but some stay constant just like you said. Our friends are SO important for our comfort and for our growth. Some do change so much that they fade away or become very remote. Like any relationship friendship requires nurturing and caring, understanding and love. Blessings to you dear friend for this beautiful sharing. I look forward to our walk, talk and lunch together soon. XO.

    • Thanks, Kathleen, faithful friend over the years. I look forward to our next time together–soon.

  2. Wonderful post, Karen, and timely, too, in that two of my dearest friends drove all day to my home this past weekend. We met 37 years ago, and they endeared themselves to me forever when they came alongside me with amazing support and caring after the death of my third child at birth. On this visit they empathized with me the loss of my mom in June.
    Decades ago we all moved and eventually ended up in different parts of California, but our bond remains strong. I’m so grateful for their prayerful presence in my life. In fact, praying together was the last thing we did before they left yesterday. I’m so thankful for them and the new memories we made. I’m grateful you are also blessed with wonderful friends–but, no surprise there!

    • Thank you for this lovely addition to my post, Judy. I can imagine how you are missing your mother. It’s wonderful to know you have friends who came to your side during such times of loss and mourning. There is nothing like a true friend during the ups and downs of life.

  3. Very good, Karen!! THANK YOU ! I certainly do not know what I would do without my friends. They love me in spite of my faults! I cannot remember the exact words but you touched on it – about some friends come into your life for a little while, others for a lifetime, but all of them serve a purpose and a need that you have at the time they are with you. I am so thankful for my ‘new’ friends here in Orlando.
    One thing I remember reading that is so true:”you have to be a friend to have a friend”!
    Love to you. Margaret

  4. Thanks, Margaret. Yes, one has to be a friend to have a friend (as you were to Charles and he to you). So true. I’m happy to know you have made new friends in Orlando and are enjoying life there. And I’m grateful to have enjoyed your friendship through Charles. God is good, always providing what we need when we need it.

  5. Karen, I appreciate your realization that sometimes friendships go, for a variety of reasons. And that they also can return and once again, be meaningful and significant in our lives. I spent Sunday and Monday morning with four friends who were close college girlfriends. Four of us were attendants in the 5th’s wedding. We’ve been friends for just under 50 years – not always in touch with each other, but weaving in and out of each other’s lives over the years. What a precious gift. And newer friends bring a whole other dimension to our lives. So meaningful.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Carol. One of my gym buddies is getting together with her ‘bridesmaids’ from 55 years ago in a coming weekend and like you, my sister-in-law meets with her college chums and former roommates once a year to catch up with each other. How special for all of you.

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