Forever Friends? Holding Onto Friendship Past Its Sell-By Date
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships. Pondering the reasons certain people come in and out of our lives for certain periods of time, whilst others stay for the long haul.
There’s a well know quote which states that “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” I wonder if we truly embraced this message and reevaluated the concept of friendship, would it lessen the sadness when friends step out of our lives for good?
Perhaps rather than mourning the loss of that person we could take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Try to figure out why this person was in our lives for that period of time, what lessons we learned from them. In framing the end of a friendship with compassion perhaps it can lessen the heartache when the flame of friendship extinguishes itself.
Of course, it is nearly impossible to know why someone enters your life at that moment; it’s even more difficult to know if they will be sticking around for the long haul. It’s usually not until much later in life that you figure out the reason for that friendship, what it taught you, how it helped you grow.
From personal experience, instead of dwelling on the pain of whether to say goodbye to a friendship or to keep working on it, I’ve found it cathartic to look into the deeper meaning behind it. To ask myself whether that person is in my life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
Friends for a Reason
This is an interesting category of friendship in that you usually don’t know they have come into your life for a particular reason until after the fact. Sometimes they have come to assist you through a difficulty. I recall many years ago working with an extremely difficult boss who I might possibly have murdered if my co-worker wasn’t there to talk me down from the ledge.
I’m quite certain that if it wasn’t for her kindness and humor I would have quit my job and therefore missed out on the amazing opportunities it provided much later down the road. Sometimes these friends teach you a valuable lesson or introduce you to a new hobby that eventually becomes one of your passions. In short, they enter your life to meet a certain need you didn’t even know you had to express, and oftentimes, once their work is done they move on.
Friends for a Season
These types of friends typically show up to teach you something about yourself, to help you grow or learn. This type of friendship manifested itself at a point in my life when I was struggling with my shyness and finding it difficult to connect with people. Through her lighthearted approach to life, this friend demonstrated first hand the power of opening your heart to people. To trust in the kindness of strangers and to be vulnerable.
Interestingly enough, when I first met her I didn’t warm up to her, unbeknownst to me at the time it was because she was mirroring characteristics that I’d hidden deep within me and secretly wanted to unleash. Her infectious spirit taught me not to be so serious about life, and for that lesson, I am eternally grateful. Whilst our friendship might not last forever I know that the lessons she taught me will always remain in my heart.
Friends for a Lifetime
These types of friendships are the big guns. Usually involving the people in your life with whom you feel a deep lasting connection. Whether it’s a partner, a best friend from childhood or someone with whom you share an unspeakably close bond; they are in it for the long haul.
One of my lifetime friends has been in my life since I was an awkward teenager. We no longer live on the same continent and sometimes only speak a handful of times a year, yet when we do it’s as if no time has passed. We are unspeakably honest with each other and there is something magnificent about having a friend who has seen you grow and morph into the person you are today, someone who you can be unabashedly yourself with.
By developing an understanding that friends are in our lives for a particular reason it can set us free from disappointment and expectation. If those times come when you notice a chasm opening up in your friendship, creating an ever-widening distance between you, the urge to hold on tight dissipates in the knowledge that the friendship has served its purpose.
Instead, there is a sense of gratitude for the experiences each of you brought into each others’ lives. A gratitude for those friendships that do stand the test of time; those friendships that bring a sense of unwavering joy between you because it is intrinsically understood that you are always meant to be in each others’ lives.
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