Ending a friendship is almost impossible for some people. There are some, despite numerous and varied complications in a friendship, who will never give up on it. Somewhere in this person’s psyche, there is the belief that things will get better eventually, and a strong and lasting friendship will be the outcome. The question of how to tell when to end a friendship may never occur to them.
In defense of this sort of person, they are the forgivers of the world. They are the people who, no matter what, always make allowances for whatever has been said or done to hurt them, and they always return to the friendship as though nothing ever happened. They may have learned early in life that they should “turn the other cheek,” and that simply ignoring bad behavior on the part of their so-called friend can make the problems in the friendship go away. They have the best of intentions.
These people may also believe that with enough patience and understanding, they can somehow change transgressors into people who can be trusted to uphold their side of the friendship and exhibit loving, caring qualities with compassion and honesty – the very qualities they themselves employ to live their lives in a way that would encourage strong and lasting friendships. They want their friends to be people who would never think of being disloyal. They want true-blue, authentic examples of good and loyal friends.
This way of believing in unconditional friendship is admirable to some extent, but it is not realistic. There are characters in this world who go about ruining other people’s trust in them by lying, manipulating, cheating, stealing, gossiping, demeaning, and generally demoralizing others. Everyone can think immediately of at least one person they’ve known who has let them down, or worse, destroyed the trust that should have been part of that friendship. When any of these transgressions occurred, did the friendship end? It should have.
Friendship that is true and lasting has, at its foundation, principles that should never be abused. The first time one becomes aware that a supposed friend is dishonoring the basic tenets of real friendship, a red flag should go up. If your friend constantly gossips about others in unkind ways, are they not gossiping about you, as well? If you know your friend has stolen something, even a small theft that could be seen as very minor, is it not possible that the friend may be escalating this behavior or stealing from you? If your friend is caught in a lie, what else have they lied about? One or all of these troubling behaviors should be signs that now is the time to end the friendship, or at the very least, start backing away from it.
Forgiveness at this time is always an option and is, from a spiritual point of view, better for you and for the friend in question. But trying to maintain a friendship with someone who repeatedly displays these behaviors is not healthy for you and can lead to further distrust – not just distrust of the person who has dishonored the friendship, but of other people and prospective friendships, as well. Not practicing forgiveness can turn you into a bitter, angry person who feels betrayed and disillusioned with friendship. Being forgiving is taking the high road.
Conversely, if your friend “blows you off” or seems to be disinterested in spending time with you, or habitually disrupts your life by being too needy and expecting you to be available to them at any given moment, or if this person speaks or acts in ways that are insulting, intimidating or demeaning, the friendship has expired. Hopefully, you will have noticed. It is time to get out – in fact, you’re overdue.
Minimize contact with them and begin to be “unavailable” unless there is a valid emergency. Cease issuing invitations to your events if your invites are regularly dismissed. Take the person off your friends list and transfer them to your “former friends” list or your “associates” list. This is difficult at first, but becomes easier with time, and you can actually feel relieved and positive about the action you’ve taken. It is possible that you have learned something valuable from the friendship, or that your former friend has learned something of which you’re unaware, and the friendship has served its purpose in the grand scheme of life.
Life is short. It is important to surround yourself with positive, upstanding, authentic individuals who will not jeopardize the quality of the years you have to spend on this earth. When leaving a friendship, remember to first forgive and then to concentrate on only remembering the good times. Do not dwell on the bad.