As I discussed in the first article of this series, bonds between teammates can provide a unique blueprint for tight-knit friendships, but they’re not immune to challenges.
Good friends transfer to different schools or walk away from sports altogether or situations change. Before you know it, that teammate who was a primary partner seems like a ghost. All of a sudden we find ourselves in a grieving process we didn’t anticipate enduring.
It’s tough when friends drift and the reasons why aren’t clearly defined. We can spend months trying to figure out what went wrong and replay every interaction in our heads, mystified by why our connection with our best buddy isn’t as magnetic.
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One year we’re practically cousins with our teammates and can’t be seen anywhere without the other close behind. In the next, we can barely trade pleasantries or make small talk.
Friendships change for a number of reasons. Maybe there’s a love triangle that causes a riff or disagreements go unresolved. Or perhaps there is no obvious animus at all. Priorities shifted. Commitments changed. Life just happened.
Though movies like Bridesmaids and the series of Hangover films are blockbuster comedies, the underlying themes of those films give us some honest depictions of how people have difficulty coping when friendships change, on dependence, and what it’s like when the timelines of our lives don’t sync up anymore.
Whether there’s an explanation for the sidekick separations we experience or not, we’re still left feeling pretty lousy trying to figure out how such a life-affirming friendship became so iffy and inconsistent.
So how can we rectify these relationships? How can we avoid letting conflict cause an irreparable fracture in friendship similar to the way it did for Paul and Barnabas? (Acts 15:36-41)
Take time to re-engage, reassess, and reflect on your friendships in these three ways:
Staying connected through social channels is an easy way to stay in the loop with teammates we’ve drifted from, but Facebook and Instagram posts may not give an adequate depiction of how life is really treating them. Don’t settle for the highlight reel. Be deliberate. Get the deets! Get the rundown on the deleted scenes, bloopers, and the unedited versions of your buddy’s life to get a full picture of how they’re doing. Write a note. Schedule a phone call. Plan a meetup. If there’s an issue to address, initiate that conversation to clear the air and make known your desire to make new memories together.
When in doubt, check the fruit.
Unsure about the status of your friendship? Check the fruit. Matthew 7:16-18 reminds us to pay attention to the fruit people are producing in our lives. Take time to think if love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the main elements that bind your friendships. (Gal 5:22-23) Are you becoming more like Christ because of this person’s presence in your life? Are they actively helping or hindering you from flourishing in your faithfulness to God? Check the fruit of your friendships and consult with God on whether the friendship in question needs to be restored in full, rearranged with proper boundaries set or amicably released.
Take the lesson. Accept the gift.
Friends will come and go. Some are seasonal and some will last for the length of our lives and beyond. But we don’t always know who those people will be. It’s a hard fact to accept. Know that every person who comes into in our lives teaches us something. Those lessons can run the gamut from being hard and heartbreaking to joyful and sweet. We have the opportunity to be students, to be scholars in empathy and compassion. Whether friendships last for the long haul or are blisteringly brief, be open to receiving the gift of knowledge those interactions present. Be in the habit of extracting and applying those lessons to not only grow in wisdom, but to become better stewards of existing relationships.
Sometimes friendships change and that’s ok. The coordinates of our life journeys aren’t always perfectly aligned. Our seasons of life will take us in different directions to develop us, to strengthen us, to humble us, and to show us who to properly place our dependence on.
Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and a friend we can always count on. Whenever there’s a rough spot in a friendship, I recommend marinating on lines from one of my favorite hymns:
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
When there’s a break between BFFs, be encouraged to know that we have a Heavenly Father who knows precisely how it feels to have His beloved drift away and be beckoned back into a right relationship with Him.