Learning to Handle Friends Who Have Changed
Picture this. You’ve just survived your first semester of college and it’s finally time to head home for a well-deserved break. You love school, but you miss everything in your hometown: your dog, your room, even your mom’s cooking. But most of all, you miss your friends. You can’t wait to see them, share some laughs and swap stories from this incredible time of life. But once you’re reunited, you notice something isn’t right. Suddenly your friend isn’t the same person you remember and you’re not exactly a fan of who she’s become.
True friendships are great gifts and when something goes wrong, it’s easy to feel hurt, confused or even angry. But when faced with a relationship that’s changed, don’t let your feelings be your only guide. Instead, take a moment to think. Examine the facts around you and consider a variety of perspectives. Don’t remain attached to a monotonous way of life, but embrace change as a natural and necessary part of maturity. Dealing with an altered relationship can be tough, but in times like these, asking a few basic questions can help make things clearer.
Has she changed or have you?
When a once solid friendship begins to go awry, your first instinct might be to list the ways you’ve been wronged. But, have you considered your contribution to the situation? Communication is a two way street. If you accept change as a natural part of life, you must also be willing to acknowledge how your role affects the overall relationship. In these transitional times, it’s extremely likely that you’re not the same person you used to be. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s certainly important to consider before condemning the change of a close friend. Before jumping to conclusions, examine yourself. Are you expecting too much from your friend? Or is the change you see just a reflection of your own attitude?
What can you learn from this change?
If everyone remained the same for their entire lives, there would never be any potential for growth. In your acceptance of change, ask yourself what sort of lesson can be learned to help you grow and mature. The transitions you go through in your life simply help you to become the individual you’re meant to be. Perhaps the change you see in your friend is a bit unexpected and you may not like it at first. But, be willing to acknowledge when change is needed and when it’s being done in a positive way. If your friend is becoming stronger in the Lord or growing in maturity, be happy for her! Encourage her growth and see what she can teach you as you also begin to change. Every relationship is placed in your life for a reason. Treasure them and never cease to ask what you can learn and how you can use them to grow.
What if the change you see is bad?
Although change can sometimes be beneficial, it’s important to realize it can also be destructive. If you notice a friend is going down a bad path, there are certain things you can do to help. First, recognize what is truly bad change. Is your friend moving farther from the Lord? Is she engaging in activities that are dishonorable or harmful? If so, don’t cut her loose. Be her support. True friends are there for each other. As an ambassador of Christ, you have a responsibility to help even when things are tough. Be strong enough to confront destructive behavior. Stand up for what you know is right, but do so with love and humility. Don’t condemn your friend but let her know you’re available to talk and you’ll always do your best to stand by her side.
How do you know when to let the friendship go?
Though you should always pursue reconciliation, be wise enough to recognize when a relationship is damaging and has the potential to influence you in a negative way. If you’ve confronted your friend, shown her love and offered help but things have not improved, it may be time to reconsider. But, difficult friendships aren’t the only ones that require a little distance. God may send your dearest friend on a different path – one you’re not meant to follow. In the best interest of your friend, know when it’s time to separate paths and go your own way. Letting a friend go is never easy, but this is certainly not a time to mourn. Do your best to hold on to the people in your life but remember there may be a time when you must distance yourself and know when to walk away.
Don’t shy away from change. Instead, learn to love it as a necessary part of life. Sometimes change is good and sometimes it’s bad, but real change will always teach us valuable lessons about love, loyalty and friendship.