What is a Friend?

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. ~William Blake, English poet and painter

I don’t know why we stayed friends as long as we did, but it’s my opinion some friendships are destined to die.

She and I first bonded more than a decade ago over our love for dogs.

As time passed, we did more interesting things together — lunches, shopping trips, spirited discussions on politics and religion. She introduced me to adult coloring; I proof-read the articles she wrote for a newspaper and a magazine.

Friends share like that, don’t they?

I let myself rely on the wisdom she’d gleaned over her years of living. Made excuses for the things she said that hurt my feelings. Shrugged off others’ not-so-generous opinions of her.

Friends are loyal like that, aren’t they?

We’d e-mail each other with funny or thought-provoking messages. We’d call and chat on the phone. We’d share insights into Scripture. When her husband took ill and died, I visited more often, trying to shore up her despair and lessen her loneliness.

Friends communicate, don’t they?

But one day last summer, she said some things that cut me deeply. Looking back, I don’t recall exactly what was said, but I knew it was unforgivable.

And so I returned the things she’d loaned me, fully intent on severing ties.

She refused to let me go. Said I was her best friend. Apologized. Promised she’d be more sensitive so nothing like that would ever happen again, and I succumbed.

Friends forgive and forget, don’t they?

Still, I found myself cautious around her. Made excuses not to get together with her. Steeled myself against more verbal barbs and arrows. As the proverb goes, Once bitten, twice shy.

And I was right.

Over the Christmas holidays — when most folks are on their best behavior — she again hit me right between the eyes.

Lambasted me for a decision I’d made. Reproached my actions. Ridiculed my feelings. Prophesied danger if I refused to follow her advice.

Sorry, but this time, I’m done.

Finished.

I don’t treat anybody like that (especially a friend), and I won’t stand for anybody to mistreat me. If I don’t stand up for myself, who’s going to?

There’s a wonderful poem about friends entering our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Since this friendship has come to an end, it’s obvious it wasn’t meant for a lifetime.

So be it.

After all, friends don’t malign each other, do they?

39 thoughts on “What is a Friend?

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I noticed you didn’t go into specifics – which is OK. As a matter of fact, I think you made your point without that, and you did it well. From what I could gleam, you did the thing. Several years ago (i think 2020), I walked away from a friendship first established in 1972. Seldom get together because we were on opposite sides of the city – but we would talk on the phone a lot. We know each other well – and I know I overlooked some points that actually bothered me. On that day in 2020, I had my phone in hand to call him. Then what was in the news that day, and feeling he would bring it up, I stopped myself from calling … No …. I don’t want to hear his BS. We have different views of the world and I no longer want to hear his …. I still have called. He hasn’t called either, but given his personality, he feels he knows why I haven’t called. I’m guessing he doesn’t know because he’s not very reflective. So I continue letting him think that he knows. I tell you this in support of your decision.

    • Frank, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you had to go through something like this, too. It’s not easy losing somebody we thought was a friend. In fact, it’s almost like a death, causing us to grieve the relationship. I find it interesting that we make excuses for bad behavior at all. Maybe we feel that, since we’re not perfect, our friends don’t have to be either. But that kind of bad behavior shouldn’t take over an entire relationship. And apologies (while nice) shouldn’t substitute for kindness and consideration from the get-go.

  2. Friends come and go even when there’s nothing specific that has happened to sever the ties. Sometimes, however, as in your case, there is more. Always sad, though, isn’t it? A real loss that comes with a kind of mourning. However, as has been noted in the Miss Read books, we shouldn’t mistake being blunt for being frank. Also, here is a golden rule l never break: Never ever say anything negative about a friend’s family, no matter what the friend might say. Family is always off limits. Anyway, sorry, sorry you had to end the friendship, but it certainly sounds as though it was the right thing to do.

    • Mourning, indeed, Laurie. I expect my friends to tell me the truth … but tactfully. Berating me for a decision I’ve labored over and prayed about isn’t helpful; it’s hurtful, and sometimes we need support and encouragement from our friends when we’ve got a quandary on our hands. Not threats of woe. Not ridicule. And you’re right: we can complain about our family to friends, but they’d better not get drawn into that!

        • I think you’re right. Perhaps she used toughness to cover up sensitivity, but I don’t think true friends need to put on false fronts with each other. Walking on eggshells around people is no fun; nor is never knowing when somebody is going to explode. I’m better off without that kind of drama.

  3. “I don’t treat anybody like that (especially a friend), and I won’t stand for anybody to mistreat me. If I don’t stand up for myself, who’s going to?”

    A-MEN, Debbie! And good for you for respecting yourself enough by not allowing her to mistreat you anymore. I think you gave her more than enough chances; looked the other way; and forgave her enough. But, sometimes enough is enough. It’s sad when something like this happens because we always want to believe that people are good, but some people aren’t. Some people are just nasty and mean. And that’s the truth.

    I’ve had this happened to me too. I had a friendship in Florida that I thought would NEVER end, but there was a lot of jealousy on her part, which I didn’t really see until I moved back East in 2001. Little by little, I began to see things I hadn’t seen before. Needless to say, I ended it.

    I don’t expect someone to be perfect, however, if someone it depleting me of energy, to the point where I feel tired whenever I talk to them, then it’s time to go.

    I’m sure your friend feels bad about how she acted towards you. However, you gave her more than enough chances.

    HER loss.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, my friend! X to you.

    • Ron, I’m sorry you, too, had to go through something like this. Yes, it hurts, but it hurts so much more to endure mistreatment. After a while, you look at yourself in the mirror and wonder why you’re subjecting yourself to abuse.

      I think you hit the nail on its head when you called it depleting your energy. I’ve heard it said that, when people disrupt your peace, they’re probably wrong for your inner circle … and this situation was very much like that. I found myself walking on eggshells to protect her feelings, but she was like the proverbial bull in a china shop trampling all over mine!

      Are you getting snow, my friend? Or nasty ice? Looks like we sent you a wicked storm for the holiday weekend. Take care, okay? xx

  4. It’s always sad when you lose a friend, no matter the reason, or how it ends. These years when the country is so divided it’s inevitiable that we find out things about people that might not fit our own sense of ethics. Loss is inevitable. But still sad. I’m very sorry your friendship ended. I’ve been there, I know it hurts.

    • You too, Dawn? I’m sorry you’ve had to experience such loss. You’re right, it’s hard. With some people, it’s easy to “agree to disagree,” but others are determined to shove their opinions down your throat. I can’t just roll over and play dead for anybody. Sure, I miss the friendship (and it’s hard during these COVID-driven days to make good friends), but perhaps some relationships are like old dish towels, which should be donated or trashed periodically.

  5. There can be bad behavior, or specific conflicts, but sometimes people do just grow apart. One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older is that the inability to share activities sometimes can bring about changes in relationships. There’s nothing ‘wrong,’ per se — things just are different. A couple of my friends who used to go hiking and traveling with me no longer so, mostly because of the physical changes that come with age. We’re still friends, but we see each other far less frequently, and the lack of shared interests does make a difference. Like every living thing, friendships, too, have a lifespan. Some endure for decades; others naturally wither, and go away.

    • You’ve made a good point, Linda. As people get older and experience physical challenges, their friendship circle must adapt. I see that with my mom. She and her friends — many of whom no longer drive — spend lots of time chatting on the phone these days. And I think that’s one reason my “ex-friend” wanted to keep me around — she knows I still can drive her to interesting places, I’m still working and can entertain her with stories, and I do things like band so I have more to talk about than gossiping about other people. Ah, well, her loss, as somebody here has already said.

      • You just reminded me of the great line attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Gossip does become boring after a time, and it’s not a great basis for a friendship.

    • Ah, Eliza, I think you might have her pegged. Narcissist? Hm, perhaps you’re right. Why didn’t I see that? Well, maybe I did, but maybe I simply excused it. I know others have. Still, after a few times of being stung, one gets wise and avoids the hive, right?! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • I don’t know for sure, but something tells me you’d never be cruel with a friend (and probably never even with a stranger!). You’ve got a good heart, and I can’t fathom you doing what this person did to me.

  6. I’m sorry that your friendship has come to an end, Debbie, but I think you’ve made the right decision. When it becomes a series of hurts followed by apologies then it’s hard to see how a relationship is worth keeping. I know what you mean, though, about the end of a friendship feeling a little like a death – when someone has been part of our life then we miss them, whatever the circumstances, even if our feelings have become negative about that person.

    • Thank you for empathizing, my friend! I guess we’d all like to think we’re “big” enough to look past another person’s faults and accept the apologies they offer, but sometimes the drama just becomes overwhelming. In this day and age when things are so Topsy-turvy anyway, perhaps what we need most is peace. In our relationships and within ourselves. And this friendship had me upset far too often.

  7. I am so sorry this happened, Debbie. And how many of us can relate to what you’ve been through. It’s tough, this friendship business, and especially when people think and feel differently. My heart is going out to you and the pain you feel.

    • Thanks very much, Kathy. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience it, too. But when I think back on all the friends who have entered and exited my life, I realize I’m fortunate to have known them, regardless of whether they’re still in my circle!

  8. You absolutely made the right decision. She may think of herself as your friend, but a true friend doesn’t act like that. I’m so sorry that happened to you! It seems that these days, far too many people feel the need to blast anyone who dares to disagree with them, even friends and family. But life is too short to put up with that!

    • Ann, thanks so much for reinforcing my decision. This is one I didn’t labor over, weighing the pros and cons the way I normally would. It became pretty obvious that mistreatment was becoming the order of the day — perhaps because of our world’s contentiousness, perhaps because of COVID, whatever. Still, it’s hard to make excuses because we’re all under stress, yet we don’t all behave that badly. You’re so right: life is too short to put up with that!

  9. The loss of a friendship is always a bitter pill to swallow, especially when it ends this way. I’m so sorry this happened to you but I’m glad you found the strength to protect yourself from further abuse.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Barbara. Yes, I suppose it does take a certain amount of strength to extricate ourselves from a bad situation. At the time, however, I wasn’t exactly thinking of that — I was angry and hurt. And it does seem more challenging as we get older to make good friends (probably because of COVID’s isolation, don’t you think?)

      • I do agree that it’s more challenging to make new friends as we get older. I’ve lost friends over the years for similar reasons to yours. But even though I now have fewer friends than I did when I was younger, the friendships I do have are deeper and more meaningful than the ones lost, and all the more precious.

  10. I am SO sorry you’ve had to experience this, Debbie. Though you’ve obviously chosen the path that’s healthiest for you, I know it doesn’t come easily. I hope that you’re reassured you’ve done everything you could to uphold the friendship, but there comes a time when you have to choose your own well-being.

    • Absolutely, Tee! Life is far too short to remain embroiled in drama day after day, or to invent excuses to avoid someone we think of as a friend who causes our blood to boil. With all the people available in our world, it’s much kinder to surround ourselves with those who encourage us. Yes, sometimes we need friends to challenge us and spur us to become our best selves, but this wasn’t like that.

  11. There’s an old Scottish saying that goes something like “False friends are worse than bitter enemies”… As sad as it is to have experienced this hurtful false-friend, the positive side is that you were wise enough to have discovered it now, and not when you were in a dire need of a real friend, and wiser still to act on it.

    • I’ve never heard that saying, but it has the ring of truth. Thank you for pointing out that things could’ve been so much worse. I, too, tend to be an optimist and fully believe I’m better off without all the drama!

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