A number of years ago, my heart sank as I once again heard the words, “I didn’t want to say anything but….” from a close friend about another friend. My friend didn’t realize it but his words once again exposed yet another disappointing and mind-blowing truth about a close friend. In fact, I’d heard the same thing at least 5 times in the previous 3 months. As much as I wanted to believe otherwise, this was another confirmation that I had to make a heartbreaking decision concerning that friendship. The decision was to end it.
I shook my head and closed my eyes as I braced myself, once again, for the blow by blow account of how this “friend” had shown how little she valued herself and our friendship. When I continued to press him on why he hadn’t told me sooner, his reply was that at first he didn’t want to say anything because she was my friend and I’d always spoken highly of her. “Did you ever think I was the same way?” I asked.
He hesitated before his reply. ”No..but…well, I wasn’t sure at first, ” he finally stammered. His response reminded me of what someone else once stated about how your friends are often a reflection of you. For example, if you see a preacher and a drunk hanging out together, you are either going to think that the preacher is a drunk or the drunk is trying to be a preacher. More than likely, you are going to think that the preacher is a drunk. In other words, ”birds of a feather flock together.” Proverbs 22:24-25 even provides advice on choosing our friends, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Keeping this is mind, I knew that this time I couldn’t excuse away the behavior because the behavior was inexcusable. I’d been through situations like this before, so I knew that the worst thing to do was to do nothing. But doing something would put me in a place where I’d have to face some things that I didn’t want to or think I’d have to revisit.
Even though I struggled with letting go of what was once a very close friendship, more than anything I’m thankful because God warned me of this shift nearly 1 year prior while in prayer.
I couldn’t pinpoint one specific reason why this new information affected me so. There were feelings of betrayal, disappointment, hurt and anger that I was trying to deal with it. Maybe I’m just a coward and didn’t want to deal with the reality that we placed a different value on our friendship. Charles Caleb Colton wisely said, “True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.”
What I learned in that situation is a lesson that I still cling to now: when a friendship ends, it’s not about you or the other person. It’s about the next season of your life and God preparing you to have the right people in your life. In other words, friendships ending are not a punishment but preparation.
Shewanda Riley, PhD is a Fort Worth, Texas based educator, speaker, and author of the Essence best-seller “Love Hangover: Moving From Pain to Purpose after a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of Gods’ Heart: Prayers for Writers.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.