Stop Putting So Much Effort into Dying Friendships: When to Walk Away

Stop Putting So Much Effort into Dying Friendships: When to Walk Away

Have you ever been in a friendship that felt like it was dying? You text your friend to invite her over and she casually ignores your question (for the third time). She texts you back but about something else or she doesn't text you back at all. When you see her, the conversation is awkward and you get the feeling she's in a hurry to end it.

It could be something more substantial. You were friends as single women, but now that one of you is married, the friendship has changed. Or you were friends through your children, but now that your kids are no longer friends, neither are you. Sometimes one friend gets a new hobby that takes up a lot of time.

Then there are more serious circumstances. A friend enters into a pattern of sin and it becomes healthier to distance yourself. Or she starts struggling with depression or a major life change, and pulls away from you.

Friendships die for different reasons. But is there ever a time to say, "I'm done!" or walk away from a friendship?

Even in middle age I ask myself these questions. I never like it when a friendship dies. And stopping one is a hard decision to make, and it's sad.

At the same time, not all friendships continue forever. This is one reason I believe social media is often a burden for us instead of a blessing. Alongside the comparison war, we also struggle with keeping friendships alive that were meant to end. Or we wrestle the pressure to rekindle a friendship that has long passed.

A friend once told me something I've never forgotten. She said, "A friend is a friend for a season, a reason, or a lifetime." I think about that often. It frees me from feeling guilty when a friendship either dies against my will or it's time to step back. It's okay to let a friendship go.

But when should we let friendships go? When is it okay and not okay?

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  • 1. It's rarely okay to be completely "done" with a person.

    1. It's rarely okay to be completely "done" with a person.

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    When there's conflict in a friendship it's easy to say, "I'm done with her!" But as a follower of Jesus, it is rare for this to be the right answer. The Bible instructs us to "bear with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:3), and "bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:13). Our first response should always be compassion, forgiveness, and love.

    However, there are times when a relationship needs to end. In order for your health to be maintained, firm boundaries should be set. This is appropriate when there has been betrayal or abuse in a friendship that has caused it to become toxic and unhealthy. That doesn't mean that you don't offer forgiveness. A person can forgive a person and at the same time be done with their friendship.

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  • 2. Annoying personality traits should not end a friendship.

    2. Annoying personality traits should not end a friendship.

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    Every one of us has a personality trait that is annoying. For example, my best friend told me once that I repeat myself a lot. When I started paying attention, I realized that I do. Some people talk a lot, interrupt, are negative, or name-drop. Yes, all of these are annoying, but they're not a reason to end a friendship.

    Again, Colossians 3 instructs us on how to handle annoying traits in a friend. It says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience" (Colossians 3:12). We are to be humble which means we recognize that just like there are annoying traits in other people, there are also annoying traits in us. These annoyances help us to grow in Christ's likeness. So instead of running from them we should embrace them by loving our friend and her annoying habits.

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  • 3. It's okay to walk away when your friend tells you it's time.

    3. It's okay to walk away when your friend tells you it's time.

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    A few years ago a good friend of mine broke up with me. I'm serious. She emailed me and in so many words told me she didn't want to be my friend anymore. It took me back to the playground in fifth grade. The rejection felt just the same. When I think about our past friendship I still get sad.

    The friendship didn't end because of anything serious. It was circumstantial, and even though I tried to talk to my friend about those circumstances she had made up her mind. For a while, I tried to hang on. I continued to send her invitations and Christmas cards. Then I realized that she had the choice not to participate in a friendship with me and I couldn't change that. It was best to honor her wishes.

    Sometimes friendships cannot be revitalized. At this point it's best to walk away, accepting that it was either for a reason or a season.

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  • 4. It's okay to walk away when a friendship is not reciprocated.

    4. It's okay to walk away when a friendship is not reciprocated.

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    Have you ever felt like you're the one doing all the work in a friendship? You do the texting, inviting, and calling, but your friend doesn't do it back. Or maybe she doesn't even respond. I'm familiar with these friendships, too. Again, they are hurtful, confusing, and leave you feeling rejected.

    First I want to stress that patience and long-suffering are always the first choices in friendship. As Christ followers, we do not end friendships just because someone doesn't text us back. We all go through hard and busy seasons where responding to friends is difficult and grabbing coffee is even harder.

    However, when there is a pattern where the friendship is not reciprocated, and this causes the friendship to dissipate naturally, then it's okay to allow that to happen and not fight it. Relationships take two people. One person cannot carry the whole weight a friendship.

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  • 5. There is always room for forgiveness.

    5. There is always room for forgiveness.

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    I want to emphasize this point: There is always room for forgiveness. Outside of the rare circumstances of toxicity and abuse, a friendship should always have the potential for forgiveness and growth. This means that if a friend who you ended a relationship with for one of the reasons above called you and asked for forgiveness or said she wanted your friendship to continue, then the loving thing to do it offer that back.

    Jesus is our best example of this. He valued relationships with people and God above all else. He taught us to bear each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2), and that by loving each other the world will know His disciples (John 13:35). This is how we should live.

    If you are having a friendship struggle right now, and you're either deciding whether it's time to walk away or maybe a friend has walked away from you, let me encourage you to pray about it. Ask God to give you a clear perception of the relationship without anger, pride, or envy. Ask Him if the friendship is meant for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. And regardless of the decision, ask Him to help you forgive your friend. We are to live in peace with everyone – people who are in our lives and people who are not. Ask God to help you find peace.

    Brenda Headshot Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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