When To Let Go of a Relationship



Cherishing life sounds like everything is perfect. Or if it’s not, I’m just approaching it in a Pollyanna way and telling myself it is. As if I can pretend enough that everything is beautiful and make it so, like seeing through the proverbial rose-colored glasses.

But really, I feel I need to cherish life because it’s not perfect. Tragedy happens. Sorrow grabs us. There are days filled with spilled milk and tempers, unexpected news and deadlines and a headache that just won’t go away.

Yesterday, I wrote about relationships and a few of the people who impact my life as mentors. I have written about my family and how much they mean to me. My life would never be the same if it weren’t for my parents or my husband or my children.

However, there are a few other people who have impacted my life. These people, whether intentionally or otherwise, impacted me in a painful way. It seems those would be relationships and associations I would not cherish. Yet, I find that without these people, my life wouldn’t be the same either. And I’m actually better for it.

You see, I’m finding that it is perfectly acceptable to cherish a relationship for what it was. Although I choose to love every person, friend or enemy, I have also found it is perfectly acceptable to let a relationship go.

I had a friend once. Thankfully, I do not say that in the past tense about many people. However, this is one friendship that I ended. I hold no ill will against the person, and I would welcome her friendship again. So why did I choose to end the friendship? This is what happened:

1. I set boundaries and lovingly guarded them.

My friend and I had vastly different opinions on some political and sociological issues. This was true from the beginning of our friendship, but we each respected one another’s differences even while disagreeing. We would discuss them and see the other’s perspective. It was a great way for iron to sharpen iron as the Bible teaches.

However, as time went on, our differences became more pronounced to the point that she began to make unkind comments about me. It ceased to be a difference of opinions when she turned it into a personal attack. I spoke to her about it, and let her know that her comments were hurtful. She refused to stop the behavior, so I finally had to tell her I was thankful for her friendship but I would not allow her to bully me any longer.

I felt badly, but the truth was I cherished myself enough to not allow her to mistreat me. That is not the behavior of a friend. We broke off contact since she refused to be kind.

2. I gave it my best serve, then left the ball in her court.

I gave my friend the opportunity to be kind. I didn’t demand an apology or hold a grudge against her. However, she wasn’t content to stop the behavior and kept up the name-calling and hurtful comments. I had set my boundary, and she continued to cross it.  After doing all I could to repair the relationship, I left it up to her to change and respect me. Sadly, she chose not to do so.

3. I keep my mind and heart open to a change of circumstances. 

I gave it some time and months, maybe a year later, I decided to contact her again just to check in. I sent her an e-mail. She never acknowledged it. After several attempts, I got the idea that she was content to move on from the friendship. I left it that any time she wished to contact me, I would be happy to speak with her. Of course, the boundary line stayed the same. She has never contacted me yet, but I am open to it if she chooses to do so.

You might not think an ended friendship is much to cherish. Yet, looking back, I remember the good discussions we had, the lovely baby outfits she purchased for my children and the long phone conversations we shared. She was the first one to call me and let me know the tragedy of September 11. She asked me to be in her wedding then I walked with her through the pain of a broken engagement. I can smile as I recall our friendship that was.

Though not as pronounced an ending as that one, I’ve had other friends who have drifted out of my life. Most of the time, we just were too far away geographically to continue the friendship. Sometimes we were too far away ideologically and did not have enough in common to keep the ties strong.

A few good, close friends mean so much. Truthfully, most of us cannot maintain a large number of friendships for a life time. So, let’s cherish the relationships we have and the ones we used to have. Maybe Pollyanna was on to something….there can be a good side to every situation.

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