I have reached such an age and lived a life such that I have friends across the planet and across quite an age range. I consider this part of my life to be both essential and empowering. To have friends is to be affirmed, to be loved, to be accepted for who you are. Friends are as important as lovers and family.
Friendship is as much about forgiveness as about sharing and doing things together. We all manage to hurt those we care about, whether through carelessness, or some degree of malice. Being alive, being in relationships means we fall out, we drift apart: we forget why we were friends.
Watch small children, teenagers – what hurts them the most is not bullying (another blog) but when they fall out with their friends. They hate being shut out, ignored or forgotten. Often they don’t really know what’s happened or why – why the nasty comment, the not invited to the movies, the silence in the room?
As a parent the very worst thing is when you can’t mend or fix things for your child, when you can’t make their friends like them again, or explain why they’ve behaved as they have.
It’s also one of the mysteries of our own life – why do we fall out with our own friends? Consider the following:
Distance – when we move apart the closeness and sharing we once had becomes difficult unless we’re willing to work to keep the friendship going. FaceBook has overcome this to a large extent and we should be grateful for that but we’ve still got to post regularly and send messages to keep the love going.
Romance – this is a killer! Your friend’s partner (or your own) may not like you, or you them and it puts an enormous strain on friendship. There are ways around this, mainly to do with patience and kindness and a strong desire to keep the friendship going. Remember love is blind – for all of us – and sometimes your friends endure longer than your lovers and even when you do settle down you still need your friends. Being a friend when your friend has a boor or a fool or a bitch for a partner can kill the strongest friendship.
Core beliefs – this is where essentially you do not accord with your friend on a fundamental basis about questions of ethics, morality, politics, religion. If you see the world too differently it can push you apart. You can adjust to an extent but if it is fundamental to who you are, ie you are a confirmed tree loving Greenie and your friend is all for progress and business development then your friendship will fundamentally fail.
Trauma – illness, death, divorce, some of life’s nastier moments rent friendship in two. Sometimes your friends (you?) cannot muster the strength to be there for your friend when they need you most. Seeing your friend struggling through chemotherapy, getting over a stroke, dealing with the loss of a child or spouse can be too hard for some of us. We can hover at the edges, send flowers, bake a casserole, do the garden but when the trauma is on-going as these matters usually are, we need our friends to hang in and not everyone has that sort of stamina. Perhaps they feel that being too close will somehow taint their lives too?
Treachery – a wide and encompassing category. Sometimes our friends let us down so badly, they betray us so deeply it is a treasonable offence. The friend who steals our lover or partner; the friend who chooses the side against us; the friend who smiles with us but gossips about us; the friend who is so charming and beguiling it takes us ages to work out they are under-mining us, telling lies, betraying our secrets and trust. Treachery comes in many shades of crimson.
But sometimes, sometimes we can come back from these things, sometimes the core of our friendship survives. Sometimes, and usually this is after time has passed and the wound has healed with the scar barely visible, we can find our way to let our friend back into our lives. Forgiveness comes in many colours of blue, shade of forgiveness that heal us as well as our friends.
Time allows the pain of betrayal, of being let down to fade, and if we’re lucky the good times of the friendship find their way back to the surface of your life and you can have your friend back again. But perhaps with a more cautious heart… (Images courtesy Google Images)