Ending a Friendship

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Ending a Friendship

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I didn't want to do it. Even though I knew things weren't working out with the girl I was dating and that continuing to date her would be misleading her, I didn't really want to tell her because I thought she would take it pretty hard. Finally, I knew I had to break it off and told her so one evening. Man, was I right. It was hard for me to do and she was hurt. What could I have done differently? How would you do it?

Ending a friendship (or a relationship) is something no one likes to talk about. It's definitely more enjoyable to think about friendships that are fun and uplifting than ones that are ending. And unless you are facing such a decision right now, chances are you haven't really focused on this aspect of friendships. Yet we all know that occasionally friendships end. Sometimes it just has to be that way. But stay with me on this. Sooner or later, you are going to have to end a friendship, too, and you need to know how to do it properly.

As we all know, sometimes friendships end themselves. We don't have to end them because they have already come to an end through an announcement or confrontation. You know the scenarios. Your friend tells you that he or she is moving out of state. In this case, the matter is out of your control. You are sad, but you know the end didn't come because the friendship failed. You may even try to stay in touch with this person via E-mail or the phone.

Other cases end with bitterness, anger and confusion. Many girls have had another girl come up to them and say, "We're not talking to you anymore because we don't like you." Guys and girls alike have at times discovered that former friends just don't have time for them anymore. And then there is the situation I mentioned earlier when a guy and girl break up because one is no longer interested in the other. These kinds of endings can leave people discouraged and depressed.

Surely, there has to be a better way to close down or minimize a friendship or relationship than having an angry confrontation or leaving someone depressed! And there is.

When to end a friendship

First, let's consider when it is appropriate to end a friendship. The Bible explains that friendships can have a powerful effect upon us. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 it says, "Evil company corrupts good habits." On the positive side, Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." Friends with good, Christian, moral behavior have a positive effect upon us. But when the effect of a friendship is negative, it may be necessary to make a change. If you find that your friends are a bad influence, you may need to consider ending those relationships.

I know a young woman who had to make such a decision. She had grown up with friends she had met in grade school. Now that they were in high school, she found that her friends had very different values. Like many other girls in that school, these friends were sleeping with boys they dated and it was certain that they weren't interested in changing their behavior. One of these girls had gotten pregnant and was contemplating having an abortion. Under these circumstances, this girl knew she wasn't going to change her friends, and if she continued her close relationships with them, they would likely change her. So she made the decision to end her friendships with them.

The need to end friendships with others becomes obvious when they live in ways that continually break God's laws. Those who do drugs, abuse alcohol, participate in gangs, sleep with their boyfriends and girlfriends, commit crimes and ridicule godly behavior are not good people to keep as friends. Unfortunately, some young people think they have to keep their friends regardless of their friends' behaviors. This, of course, is nonsense and dangerous because God specifically warns us against following others who are doing wrong. Exodus 23:2 says, "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil." (Read some of our other articles in this issue if you want to know how to make new friends.)

When a man and woman are of age and ready for marriage, one or the other may come to the conclusion through dating (without committing fornication) that they don't want to marry. Ungodly action by one party or simply a matter of personality or personal preference may lead one to such a decision. Remember the account of Joseph and Mary? When Joseph heard that Mary was pregnant, he determined to end their relationship and put her away. After learning via an angel that she was pregnant by means of the Holy Spirit, he changed his mind (Matthew 1:18-24). Yet he was considering putting Mary away. Once we know that a relationship will not lead to marriage, we have an obligation to let the other person know.

When not to end a friendship

Before we consider how to end a friendship, it is important to note two situations in which we shouldn't end a friendship. Some people will end relationships whenever a friend says anything critical of them. Yet this shouldn't automatically happen. Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." A really good friend is one who will tell us when we misbehave—and everyone does on occasion. As 1 John 1:8 explains, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." So don't end a friendship just because a friend tells you that you've done something wrong. You may lose one of the best friends you could have.

On other occasions, we may find ourselves in the opposite position—that of telling a friend that he or she made a mistake. If our friend acknowledges the problem and tries to change, we should be there for him or her to encourage the friend to live in a godly manner. This isn't a time to end a friendship either.

Now comes the tough part—ending a relationship for a proper reason.

How to end a friendship

If you have to end a friendship with a person who is continually breaking God's laws (not just someone who slips up and makes an occasional mistake), one way to make such a change is to simply start doing things with other people. You can still be friendly to the person but do different things with others and spend more of your time with them. We could call this gradual withdrawal or widening your circle of friends.

In other cases you may need to completely sever your contact. One way to do this is to tell the person that we wish him or her well but want to spend more time with other friends. In ending a relationship, there really isn't a need to get angry, confront or tell someone off. Being kind, yet sincere and honest, are the concepts to keep in mind.

In the case of the young woman who determined that she needed to end her close friendships with girls who were sleeping with their boyfriends, she talked over the situation with her parents. She and her parents decided to send her to a different school the next school year. She told her friends that she would be attending a college preparatory school that fall. This accomplished her purpose. In a new environment, she made new friends and her old friends didn't influence her to commit ungodly behavior.

The same principles hold when ending a dating relationship. One needn't get angry and insult the other person. Just a kind, "I've come to see that I'm not the right person for you" statement is a good way to start. Someone doesn't always have to be at fault in these situations. It can just be a matter that one realizes his or her expectations will not be realized with the other.

Looking back at the time I had to tell a young lady that our relationship would not lead to marriage, I now wish I had spent more time using these concepts in a kind, caring way. I tried to do the best that I could at the time, but I now have a better grasp of the tools required. Hopefully, you will have these in mind too, should you need to have such a conversation.

Ideally, we should strive to end friendships without being unfriendly in the process. Many times our paths will cross again with the individuals involved and it is better to be on pleasant terms instead of an enemy. Romans 12:18 says, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." This is true, even when we end friendships. May you find courage to end friendships when you must and tact to do it as peacefully as possible. YU