Friendship is a major part of human life. It is in our nature to have friends and to build a community with people that we enjoy spending time with. Friendship can bring great joy, a fulfilling sense of trust, and an unwavering support in times of crisis; but since it is a form of love, some vulnerability must be shown in order for it to grow. This opens us up to the possibility of experiencing the antithesis of the goods of friendship: sorrow, betrayal, and abandonment to name just a few. While there are, unfortunately, friendships that end in negativity, there are also some that remain for a lifetime; these lifelong friendships of platonic love are modeled after God’s commandment of love of neighbor.
Some friendships end horribly and some last a lifetime, but what about the others? I’ve made quite a few friends over the years, but I don’t have very many who I still talk to regularly; furthermore, I don’t have very many (if any) friendships that have ended suddenly in an explosion of anger, resentment, betrayal, etc. So what happened to all the rest? What is my relationship to the people who I have become very good friends with, but who I no longer speak to? I think that most of the friendships I have formed throughout my life have fizzled out into this sort of ambiguous anticlimax. I still consider those people my friends, but I don’t really know anything about their life or their current pursuits. So what do we do with friendships that were once very strong but, due to the circumstances of life and the propensity for things to change, have become inactive?
As an example, I have an inactive friendship that started when I was in high school. This friend of mine is someone who I thought I would be friends with forever. We became friends when we were fifteen, so we went through the major phases of “coming of age” together: high school, driving, girls, and general teenage semi-independence and mischief. But, when graduation came around, we went off to different colleges and we lost touch; we both made new college friends and that was that.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have tried to combat this fading of a relationship – by keeping a person “connected” to all the people he or she has become acquainted with over the years, those platforms aim to keep friendships alive (artificially, I would argue) that would have otherwise run their course and ebbed with the passage of time. There is something to be said for moving on, and it could be stated that friendships becoming inactive is a natural, healthy part of life.
I’ll go back to my example now. He and I are both fairly inactive on social media so I’m not really sure what he’s doing these days and I would wager that he doesn’t know what I’m up to either, but I think about him pretty frequently. I’m not reminded of our time together by some picture of his food or his new friends on Instagram; I’m reminded of him when I hear a song that we used to listen to together or in a moment when I know he and I would have laughed at something together. During these times, I’m brought into reflection on what we had, but not in a negative sense of loss or sadness; I remember what we shared and the good that it brought to us then, and it makes me smile.
A good thing doesn’t need to last forever. A good thing, like a faded friendship, can exist when it needs to, but it doesn’t need to be dragged on unnecessarily. Just because I stopped talking to my friend doesn’t mean the friendship is destroyed – it can exist in the past tense and still bear fruit even years later. People come and go, seasons change, and time moves on; that’s okay. Even though a friendship may seem over, its effects can still be felt throughout one’s life; and if that is true, then it stands to reason that faded friendships do in fact last a lifetime.
So what do we do with friendships that have fallen dormant? I think we should remember them; let them exist in the past and let them be as they are, but remember them. Don’t feel sad or guilty that they’re in the past, celebrate that they happened.