For years, my middle school best friend and I thought we would be friends for life. We instantly connected and bonded over the fact that we were two “outsiders” in pre-algebra. Everyone else already knew each other, but we bonded over being on the outskirts of the social circle. Over the years, we grew closer and quickly became inseparable. We always made jokes together that we would become bitter old ladies in wheelchairs throwing oranges at people. I can’t even remember how that inside joke started, but it was one of many!
However, my junior year of high school was rocky. My depression and anxiety reached its peak (thankfully, never to be that bad again). Needless to say, my relationships weren’t going well and this friendship was no exception. After I recovered from the emotional stress of that year, I started working at a movie theater part time. I instantly attached myself to my coworkers; finding social refuge in fellow weirdos. As a result, my relationship with my best friend greatly suffered. I pushed her to the side and diminished her importance in my life. We grew distant and began to exclude one another, yet not wanting things to change when we did manage to spend time together.
Fast forward two years and suddenly, we started college without speaking to one another in months. I know that I never imagined that happening all the time we were friends. For the next few years after, I tried to reconnect and profusely apologized for my behavior. I sent her birthday cards and friend requests.
But she didn’t want to connect with me. And it was excruciating. We were so close at one point, but now I felt like I was the plague. I just couldn’t understand nor accept the fact that she didn’t want me in her life at all. At the very least, I wanted some closure to our friendship. We never “broke-up”; we just drifted apart. And the entire time I blamed myself.
So how do we move on from a failed friendship?
Loss is Always Painful
Friend break-ups can be awkward. There isn’t an obligation to outwardly end the friendship as there is in a romantic relationship (although it can happen). More often than not, we avoid the explicit break-up conversation, drift apart, and wait to move on.
While I’m fully supportive of avoiding hurtful and unnecessary confrontation, a passive end to a friendship can lead to a lack of closure. In some cases, we don’t even realize that friendship has long been dead. The lack of action and explicit acknowledgement of the end of the friendship can also lead us to misplace blame. Maybe we blame ourselves or the friend when sometimes (more than anything) the friendship had just run its course.
If you’re anything like me, you tend to blame yourself for failed socialization. Sometime takes too long to respond to you and you assume that you’re the problem. Maybe the words were too harsh, you asked for too much, or there was just something wrong with you. And I know that I always have to validate my feelings through someone else. I’m constantly asking my friends and boyfriend “is it okay that I feel that way?” Because I often feel guilty for harboring negative feelings towards someone or feel like I need someone else’s approval to justify my feelings. Do you do the same?
For the longest time, I exclusively blamed myself for my immature behavior. I always thought that I was the sole problem at the end. But when I lamented my stress to another long-time friend about my failed friendship, she told me something that completely changed my outlook.
She said that if this friend (who I was once so close to) could treat me so poorly (even after the fact), then maybe she wasn’t the person you thought she was in the first place.
For the first time, I realized that the failure of my friendship wasn’t all my fault. As I looked back, I realized that my former friend also made some questionable actions. There was no blame to placed on a single one of us. Ultimately, we grew apart and it was just an end of an era.
When I felt like I wanted closure from this friend, I later realized that I truly wanted forgiveness. I was utterly ashamed of myself for how much I pushed her to the side when I started my new job. I always (and still do) pride myself for being a steadfast friend. But I lost control of myself my senior year of high school (a combination of dying to graduate, being 17-years-old, and working through depression and anxiety all at once).
Unfortunately, I would never directly receive her forgiveness. But instead, I realized that I had to forgive myself.
Forgiveness is Key
There will be many situations in life where you can’t directly receive the forgiveness of someone. Maybe because the person refuses to see you, moves away, passes away, or many other possibilities. At one time or another, we all crave closure from an explicit confrontation but can’t receive it. No matter what, we feel like we can’t resolve our unfinished business. And as a result, we continue to punish ourselves because the person we seek forgiveness from isn’t there to inflict it (whether they would actually do so or not given the opportunity).
But more important than that person’s forgiveness, you must be able to forgive yourself. Because at the end of the day, you will only find peace and redemption when you give it to yourself.
So, my challenge for you today is…
Be gracious, be compassionate, and be forgiving to yourself. It’s time to let go of that blame, move on, and grow into a better person than you were before.
I know you’re ready for it. Do you?
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