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Changing Friendships: How Do You Do It?

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes about love in the context of friendship and regarding the death of his friend and fellow writer Charles Williams.

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald… In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.

One thing I’ve navigated throughout my late-20s and early-30s is the shuffling of friends and the changing dynamic of my core group. It’s a strange thing to find new friends every few years because my closest companions are getting married and having kids, or moving, or going away to grad school, or any number of life changes that happen among young adults. Strange because nothing in my life has changed — I’m still living in the same city, working the same job and attending the same church. But as friends cycle in and out of my life, I’ve learned what kind of friendships I truly need. For me, it’s no longer how many friends I have,  but more about the quality of the ones whom I decide to invest in. I want the kind of friends Lewis writes about — ones that offer a glimpse of heaven. Friends who can bring out the unknown parts of me.

One thing I learned is that it’s OK to let go of friendships. I highly value loyalty, and in the past, I would get frustrated when friendships slowly faded away as life circumstances changed. I saw it as a failure, and I didn’t want to fail. But not every friendship is meant to go the long-haul. That isn’t a failure; it’s just life. I’ve learned to admit that and to figure out when to let go and accept that we’re both moving on to new things.

I’ve also learned that friendships aren’t always 50/50. I have several close friends whom I met when we were both single, and our friendship grew because we had a similar not-yet-married lifestyle. But now they’re married moms so that means we’re more likely to meet for a quick lunch at Chick-Fil-A than see a late Friday-night movie. We’re more likely to catch up over a cup of coffee during nap time than a two-hour dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. So this means that often I’m the one initiating the get-together and being flexible with the schedule, because as a single, I can. Not always, but usually I have more unscheduled time.

For friendships to succeed during transitions, there’s no keeping score or trying to keep things even. Flexibility and graciousness are key. Tweet This When you find a friend whose absence you mourn, like C.S. Lewis did, thank God for the richness they add. And when you need a new friend, find one who enlarges your view of God.

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