friendship: learning to let go

friendship blog letting go* this is the 4th post of highlights from our sacred friendship summer camp, practical ideas for becoming better friends.   you can look back on the past few days to see the other posts; they are centered on the crazy stuff in our heads, safety & boundaries, and conflict.  

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one thing i’ve learned over the years is that every strength has a weakness.  and sometimes the stronger the strength, the stronger the weakness is on the other end.  one of my strengths is that i am fiercely loyal.  i give my whole heart.  i hold on to friends forever.  i don’t give up.  there’s a problem with that, too–i often don’t know when to let go.  i have been known to do all kinds of crazy things to hang on to some relationships that actually just needed to end.

part of my healing in the past chunk of years has centered on learning to let go more gracefully.  friendships can’t be one-sided, harmful, or unhealthy.  things change, we change. we grow, others grow (or don’t). whatever the reasons, sometimes friendships just don’t work anymore.  shifting friendships are painful, uncomfortable, and weird in all kinds of ways, but i believe wholeheartedly that God wants to heal our hearts and reveal something to us through them.

God keeps teaching me something really important about friendship—i’m human, my friends are human, and sometimes certain relationships just aren’t meant to be any longer, no matter how deep our desire might be for it to work.

one of the extra-exercises we walked through together this summer was a way to process some of our feelings about friendships-that-change and learn to let go better, to honor and celebrate what was, and learn to move forward without carrying around old relationship baggage forever.

i made a template that might help process letting go of friendships that have shifted too far to save, and we added a few things to it together in the large group.  these questions aren’t all-inclusive but a place to start.  i know, too, that some friendships we have lost are very complex and painful and this exercise will only scratch the surface; at the same time, i think it’s really healthy & wise to give it some intention and see what might help heal.

i put these questions in a word document for our group, so you can download it here.

or here they are below, too–questions to journal through, talk through, process through, in any way that works for you.

moving forward when friendships have changed: a template to help us process 

there are all kinds of reasons friendships drift apart.  sometimes we change personally or geographically and it impacts the relationship.  other times there is unresolved resentment underneath that never gets addressed and over time builds a wider wedge.  tet other times, there is direct conflict that we fail to resolve and bad feelings linger.  part of our healing and growth is honoring these different relationships and being more honest about them so that so that we can learn from our experiences and continue to grow in our ability to love God, others, ourselves.

these questions can help us process some of these friendships so we can move forward, either with them or without them. 

  • describe the friendship.  when it was, the basics.
  • a critical first question is:  is this a relationship that is about forgiveness (the past and needs to be put to rest) or about reconciliation (one that you might want to work on restoring?) most all of these questions are applicable to both, but a few are specific so keep that in mind.  if we aren’t sure, sometimes walking through these questions can help us discern more clearly.
  • what was good about the friendship?  remember the good things.
  • what was hard about the friendship?  be honest about the hard things.
  • when you think about this friendship, what are some feelings that are stirred up for you?
  • what went awry somehow?  how did you drift apart?  was it a conflict or a slow shift or ?  describe it.
  • what part did you play in the change?  be honest about our circumstances, ways we’ve changed (often, when we become healthier the relationship can change), sin, character defects, or ways our woundedness or immaturity played into it.
  • how did that friend hurt you?  what are some things about it that you remember that are still painful or hard about it?
  • if it’s forgiveness, what do you need to forgive yourself for when it comes to your part?  i need to forgive myself for….
  • what do you need to forgive them for?   consider how you can do this without their asking. how can you see them through God’s eyes?  how can you offer them grace?    God, help me forgive them for….
  • what did you learn about yourself through this friendship?  what did you learn about others?
  • take some time to honor what you learned from this friendship.  express gratitude for this person and what you gained from your time together.
  • write a blessing for them, one that you don’t need to give to them but expresses your heart and hope for them and helps you let go.
  • if it’s reconciliation, what is your part that you need to own?
  • what are you sensing might be a next step that you need to take?

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i still feel a sense of sadness when i think through a few friendships i have lost over the years, but in reflecting back i can see how they helped me grow in all kinds of good & beautiful (and sometimes hard) ways; and for that, i’m grateful.

God, help us learn how the art of letting go gracefully.  

 

9 Comments

  • This blog post has come at a good time for me personally. Having struggled with friendships that ended when I left my church and a women’s organization where I was a leader it has on some occasions been difficult to deal with friendships that are no longer there. There is also an awkwardness when I do see anyone from those two groups and I tip-toe (as do they) about how they are doing in the groups I left, explaining reasons for my leaving etc. I’ve downloaded the article you provided and I’ll look at it closely and it may help me to sort it all out. Blessings.

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    • awkward is such a good descriptor. i know that feeling! peace to you as you heal and continue to move forward. i am glad you are here.

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  • Kathy, these posts on friendship are remarkably good and touching me in such important and good ways. What a gift you have at describing and guiding in these deeper places. I am grateful to know you because your depth of struggle and honesty encourages me in mine. Hugs my friend.

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  • Thank you Kathy! This is helpful.

    I appreciate your ministry regarding helping people forgive themselves and others and move on. Forgiveness is essential and it can be very difficult when we have been severely abused and discarded without a shred of love or compassion from people that go around talking about love and compassion on a regular basis in the church. I have come to the point, after the initial shock, pain, trauma, loss, confusion, crisis of faith, dark night of the soul, deconstruction, and reconstruction process that I have a strong desire to completely forgive all the the people (including myself) involved because the bottom line is because that is what Jesus wants me to do AND because even with all that happened, I still love them. Only the Lord knows why some people do what they do. We are all flawed and broken people to some degree. It is possible to both still love someone and also need to have very strong boundaries with that person.

    Even though I would not wish the ordeals that I have suffered the last few years on my worst enemies, I realize that because of these things I am a different person. I prefer the company of the least-of-these in the world (like me) than to the pharisees any day, anytime! I prefer honest pure worship with a few good friends than the big rock concert performance with professional lighting and smoke and mirrors any day. I prefer a smaller inclusive church community that is truly egalitarian, where everyone is valued and everyone has a voice (not just the wealthy and powerful people). I would rather spend time with a true friend over a shared peanut butter sandwich than sharing an elegant feast with pharisees. I simply do not care about having validation from a certain church or a certain denomination as to doing ministry, I simply do it. I am not down on big churches or denominations, I am just trying to say that for me it isn’t essential to have their validation or approval any more. I live, eat and breath Jesus these days…closer and more intimate than ever before. It feels like a glimpse of heaven and better things to come. Jesus is filling the cracks in my broken heart with love and hope and it is a beautiful thing. I am deeply thankful. Jesus calls us to simply love and serve, the opportunities are all around us every day.

    Again Kathy…thank you for your work in facilitating moving forward into deeper, healthier relationships in our own personal faith journeys, and helping us do the hard work of forgiving both ourselves and others. This is where the rubber meets the road… God bless your ministry!

    Reply
  • Thanks Kathy, this series is really good… and helpful. You guys don’t take a break in the summer do you? 😉 This is some intense stuff!!! I love that you dive into real life issues, especially the not so fun ones.

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    • hey my friend, well we put most of our energy into wednesdays this summer instead of the weekend. it was really fun and not quite as intense as some of these posts might have sounded because when we were together in real life we could process them & laugh & play some, too! but, it is true, everything we do is kind of intense, ha ha. it was one of the best things we’ve done in a while…love from here to there.

      Reply

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