In many ways, friendship should be the easiest relationship to maintain. We can choose our friends, we choose who we like and who we spend time with. However, many people (as they get older) find it awkward to make new friends, or just lose touch. So why are friendships so easily broken? Part 1 of this blog begins to think about this important issue.
Friendship is one of those things that should be easy to define, but it’s actually harder than we might think. What are the expectations? What are the boundaries? Does it change from person to person?
I guess the idea I’ve been thinking about for a while is the underlying assumption that friendships should be easy. This idea is true in many ways, but untrue in other ways too.
Friendships Are Easy (?)
We hang out with friends because we enjoy being with them. If it gets awkward or hard, we can stop contact, unlike with family or work colleagues.
If we get a job offer and move city or country, we aren’t ‘betraying’ our friends if we go. Yes, we can ask their opinion, but we don’t make the decision with our friends in the same way we would with our spouse, for example.
There is a different level of commitment and expectation in a friendship compared to other relationships. It’s primarily based on enjoying each other’s company.
A Unique Trait
But what about when it isn’t easy anymore?
Should we stick it out when it gets hard? Or when we get a ‘better offer’ and move to a different place, should we just leave friends behind? Or as we get older, do we just need fewer friends somehow?
In a recent talk at church, someone was speaking about our relationship with Jesus, and specifically on John Chapter 15. They shared this quote from a guy called N.T. Wright:
‘The vine-dresser is never closer to the vine, taking more thought over its long-term health and productivity, than when he has the knife in his hand’.
The idea that God will challenge us, ask us to sacrifice, and change us through processes which may be hard work, is easy to understand (maybe harder to live out and accept though).
Thankfully that isn’t the only trait our loving and gracious God shows, but the idea that a relationship will be hard at points is clear and accepted.
This is true in marriage too. The overall experience should be fun, enjoyable, and mutually fulfilling, but we accept there will be hard times, and we can’t just walk away when we get challenged.
But what about friendships?
We don’t have as many people as we used to have, or want to have, around us
I think this question is vital because so many people, me included, move cities and/or get caught up in the busyness of life. Then before we know it we don’t feel as close as we once did to our old mates.
Or we end up in a hard situation and realise we don’t have as many people as we used to have, or want to have, around us that we can ask for help.
Friendships are different from other relationships, and rightly so. We get to pick friends, unlike family, and we can choose to see friends, unlike work colleagues. But unlike romantic relationships, which we do also pick, friendships have a different type of commitment and dynamic.
When Easy Gets Hard
I think friendships are easily broken because they are seen as ‘easy’ and just there to enjoy. This means the work needed to maintain it is often not prioritised or appreciated. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)
Deep down we may not want this to be the case
After all, friendship is there to energise us. Obviously, our friends may go through tough times and we support them through it at personal cost, but overall there’s a goal of mutual enjoyment.
So when it gets too hard, or we get too busy, or we get a better offer (like a job in a new city) we feel like we can drop the friendship. Easily make new friends. And walk away.
Deep down we may not want this to be the case. Yet it can be. And there are people who really struggle to make (new) friends for various reasons.
So how can we view this relationship differently to avoid breaking a friendship unintentionally or too easily?
In Part 2, we keep exploring how we can change our perspective to make our friendships stronger. For now, imagine if we realised how important friendships are before it’s too late. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving)
Friendships are different from other relationships that are often seen as more important. Nevertheless, friendships are vital if we want to thrive and feel fulfilled.
How would you define friendship? Comments welcomed below.