I recently received an email from a reader wanting some godly advice regarding a friendship that had changed over the years. Here is what she asked:
I have a friend and we have been very good friends for the past 3-4 years. We would hang out a lot and I just really enjoyed spending time with her. I did pick up over time that she can tend to be a more negative person. The whole “it (any situation) was so bad/so hard/etc.” But I allowed her that and just listened and tried to encourage her. But over time as things have changed (we do public school;she home schools). So naturally our boys were not in preschool together anymore so with just different schedules we spent less time together. She also became great friends with another home school mom I had introduced her to. I truly was so glad they had each other to help them through those first years of home schooling. I started to see a shift in her negative attitude in that a lot of negativity was aimed at me. Things I involved with at church and just really anything I would say would not be right or good enough. I continued to try and reach out to her as a friend trying to get together but us getting together happened less and less. It really got hard to WANT to be around her since I would feel so defeated after spending time with her.
So my question…do I need to still even invest in this relationship? Of course I will see her at church and ask her what is going on with her but just the investing is exhausting sometimes when I feel all I get in return are negative comments and not much else in return.
I am honored she would trust me with her story. I really considered and prayed about my response and here is what I sent her back:
Because relationships are complicated I’m sure there is more to it than your email could state but based on what you shared I just have a few of thoughts.
1. I think it’s okay for relationships to take natural shifts as seasons of life change. I’ve always heard that our best friends usually end up being the parents of our kids’ friends. So, because of our kids and their individual interests (school situation, sports, etc) we end up spending time with other people naturally and less time with some of the people we used to spend time with. It’s not personal, it’s life.
2. As far as negativity toward you personally, I’m guessing there is probably more to that story than even you know. It could be that the activities you have become involved in have some other negative frame of reference for her and you just happen to be involved. It could be that she thinks that you think something about her and it has snowballed into something it really isn’t just because of lack of communication. Both “sides” are possibly assuming something about the other one and because there has been a natural drift in the relationship those assumptions seem validated by unrelated scenarios that are assumed to be related. Did any of that make sense?
3. Do you need to continue to invest in the relationship? Well, first, I think there needs to be a clearing of the air. It may turn out to be there is something beneath the surface that can be resolved or maybe it can’t but at least you did your part. If it seems that you both really are going different ways just let it be. You can still be kind and speak to her when you see her but you don’t have to force something…unless, of course, you are feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit. And there we have it…
None of what I just wrote makes a hill of beans difference if the Holy Spirit is nudging you to pursue and invest in that relationship. The fact is that some people are just hard to love but God didn’t call us to only love the easy ones. Again, that’s not to say that this is the relationship you are supposed to pour yourself into but what are you sensing the Holy Spirit leading you to do?
When have you struggled with a changing friendship? What did you do? What advice would you add? Join the conversation.