What to do about old friends

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“To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown−ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures.”– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Friends come and go. Do you remember your first friend? Most of us found our best buddy to be a classmate, for others it was the neighbour’s kid or a family relation. We thought that friendship would never die – there was a lot of heart crossing and spitting in little palms in order to seal that pledge. How important those first experiences with relating to someone who shared your interests, dreams, and time! How solid a bond these moments created! How we could feel what the other went through! These were to be the foundations of how we would relate to others. This was the basis of becoming a truly social being.

Some of those early friendships lasted, continuously or through later reunions. Some faded away as our journeys took different directions but always the memory will stay with us for these relationships were so intense and helped us grow.

Nurturing a friendship should not be hard work but a continuous effort to keep it alive once the discovery, the growing and maturing phases have evolved into a full blown solid relationship. Like any other relationship it requires an ongoing interest in the other person’s life. Through the changes in our lives, it must adjust to each other’s circumstances. It is only fair to say that it is easier said than done.

Some of our most beautiful and gratifying friendships do not pass the test of time for common interests might evolve into separate ways. Moving places, jobs, falling in love, starting a family can put our friendships to the test. They can simply fade away like when we fall out of love. Sometimes they sour due to resentment, jealousy, fear of abandonment.

There must be a distinction between acquaintances and friends. Some might have their entire address book blackened by names and numbers but might find out that only a few, if any, are true friends. In this era of virtual friendships where social media popularity status is measured by the number of ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ you gather on your profile page, it is not always easy to distinguish real friendships from stalkers or popularity point gatherers. How lonely can one be once the computer is off and the phone does not ring?

But what if some friendships don’t last? Should we battle, make sacrifices, pretend so we please the other for fear we will lose that presence, that bond?

Unfortunately, it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that some friendships may be toxic. A friend does not judge harshly, is not tempted to make you feel inferior to assert his superiority, to quiet his insecurities. A friend is neither evasive nor constantly absent when you most need support. A friend does not use you or relish gossiping about you. The keys to real, meaningful friendship are acceptance, honesty and loyalty to the person you consider a friend and expect the same in return. If you feel you need to work hard on keeping this relationship alive, if you need to be what you are expected to be, to say what you are expected to say, to agree, to please in an attempt to hold it together, then there is little chance you will succeed. Sometimes we just need to let go, cut loose the threads so as to let the other move on and so can we. 

New friendships will flourish, more suited to our present state of mind, morals and values. We can grow to open our minds, our hearts to people who might have been there all along but to whom we never thought we could become close. 

Surprisingly, faded and even lost friendships can be rekindled by chance or actions. A phone call, a postcard, an email can easily be directed to someone you have missed. It takes a little courage, sometimes a lot of courage if an apology must be offered as a gesture of goodwill. The important thing to remember is how you will feel and not focus on the outcome. There might be rejection, simmering anger, but the possibility of relief, forgiveness or even closure on both parts can be of great comfort.