When do you let go of someone you love? I've had a best friend for very many years but I made some major life decisions affecting my belief system which she does not approve of. She feels I betrayed things we both agreed on and for her that betrays the relationship. I considered that our friendship should be able to survive on the merits of each of us - that we could love each other as is and not for what we believe.
Recently she called me out of the blue and we had a cup of coffee and I thought things went very well. We avoided topics of controversy and it was like the old days. Afterward I sent her an email saying how much I enjoyed seeing her. She wrote back saying she was glad that I was doing well, but that she did not enjoy our meeting. She said I made her uncomfortable at the start and that it stayed that way for her. Should I just give up on this friend and not try to stay in touch?
I'm conflicted because I don't want to bother her but at the same time, I feel that she is my friend and I should stay in touch in case she has a change of heart one day. I know Jesus taught "love" as a primary motivation in living one's life. Would it be more loving to leave her alone or at least stay in occasional touch?
- AL from Matinville, Ga.
Basis of real friendship (Part 1)
Immediately upon reading your question I could feel a heart tug. I have had a similar experience in my own life and it was quite heart wrenching. I agree with your sentiment that the "friendship should be able to survive on the merits of each of us…not for what we believe." Why can't it?
This begs the question of why someone becomes a best friend. Is it a shared sense of agreement on issues that are important to both people? You simply have a large pool of things on which there is mutual understanding? Or is it deeper and does it transcend the agreement pool? The way you find out is when something you both agreed on changes.
That is what has happened to you. She has found out that her friendship to you is based on believing the same things and for you it was deeper than those things. Maybe your change is scary for her and she feels threatened by it. Maybe she is not really secure in what she believes. Her sense of betrayal may be rooted in fear or insecurity. She may wish to drop the friendship so she doesn't have to deal with questions to herself that she can't handle at this time. I suspect that is the case based on her email to you saying you made her feel uncomfortable even though your meeting avoided controversial topics.
Now the question is: how do you continue loving her and respecting her in the way she wants? Jesus said; "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) It means loving the person in the way they want to be loved; not doing things the way you would want them done for yourself. And then there is this from the great "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13; "Love suffers long and is kind…does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked…Love never fails." (Verses 4-8) For your case, does this translate into keeping in touch with her or leaving her alone? This is where we will take up next.
Next: Give up or keep up?
Open Doors (Part 2)
If you take the road of real love you are taking the hard road. You are putting another person over yourself. In that you are willing to do that, you are following in the path that Jesus always took and recommends to his followers.
I'm going to suggest that you both leave her alone and yet keep the door open. I think you are right in feeling that things may change for her someday in the future and you want her to be comfortable to re-enter your life.
How about starting off with an email along these lines: "I know we've gone in different directions in life but I want you to know that I will always love you and be grateful that we were friends. If time passes and you ever want to connect again you will be so welcome. I hope that happens someday. In the meanwhile, I respect where you are for now." After that, I would let the friendship lapse for a good long while, but not forever.
In a year or so, you might email again in a casual way that says, "I'm still here and friendly and I hope you are doing well." Maybe do that kind of thing every once in a great while. In the meanwhile you can pray for her. You can ask God to bless her life and protect her. You can also ask God to heal the relationship and then leave it in his hands as to how he does that and in what timing. Remember that no prayers go unanswered. You may be surprised someday on how all this turns out.
For instance, only yesterday a minister told me a story about a very surprising call he recently received from someone who had so opposed him five years ago because of certain beliefs he held. Yet now the person has come to hold those same beliefs against all odds. God has been quietly at work. The call was to say; "You were right all along and I want to reinitiate contact."
I don't know how this will turn out for you but I believe if you continue to leave the door open you will never have regrets. You will know you have done all you could do. You will have made your decisions based on hope and love and as we said before; "LOVE NEVER FAILS"