C.S. Lewis, legendary creator of Narnia and author of over 50 titles of Christian and secular books, wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art … It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” We humans are naturally very social beings, and few things in life give us as much pleasure — and as much displeasure — as friendship.

Even Scripture, of course, speaks of the importance of friendship in our lives. Take, for example, this little nugget of wisdom from the Old Testament:

Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s countenance. Proverbs 27:17 

No doubt about it, for most of us, friendship is one of the most important pursuits in our lives. School-aged children are given countless lessons on how to make friends and how to be a good friend.

Social groups and cliques start forming as we enter our teen years. Even as adults, we join book clubs, join the bowling team that meets after work, and seek out people with similar interests with the hope of meeting new people and making new friends.

Sometimes, keeping friends takes as much energy as making friends. No one is perfect and life is unpredictable. Sometimes things happen that may be the fault of one or both people in the relationship, and sometimes things happen and it’s nobody’s fault, which is often equally frustrating and painful. So how do you decide when to call it quits and move on?

There are occasions when the reasons for friction in a relationship are clear-cut. Perhaps you blabbed something you promised to keep secret. Or maybe you felt betrayed when your friend threw you under the bus at work. At times like this, the first step you need to take is to calm yourself down. That can take five minutes or five days, but just be sure to give yourself the time you need to approach the situation calmly.

When you’re ready, state what you’re feeling and why you feel that way, and sincerely apologize if you are the one at fault. Unfortunately, even if you do all that, it might not repair the damage to your friendship.

If days, weeks or months go by with nothing but awkward hellos and ignored phone calls, it might be time to let go. Even if you are reaching more than half way, your efforts are futile if the other person isn’t reaching back. It may be painful and it certainly isn’t easy, but you will save yourself a lot of hurt in the long run if you accept that it is time to move on.

Other times, reasons for distance might be a little less obvious. Plenty of times, people have made choices to distance themselves from friends who are in toxic relationships, experiment with drugs or engage in otherwise questionable behavior. If you have chosen to quietly back away from a friend who is developing, say, a drinking problem, knowing where to draw the line might be a little more difficult.

It is in our nature to want to help someone that is on the path to self-destruction, especially when it is someone we care about. In this type of situation, it is important to respectfully confront your friend with your concern, but realize that it may not be taken well and your “help” might not be wanted. If that is the case, and you have done everything you can for a friend who is struggling with some kind of self-harm, you may need to let go for your own sanity. You can always tell your friend that your door is always open when he or she is ready to get it together.

Finally, sometimes people drift apart and it’s no one’s fault. Things just happen. People discover new interests, get a new job, meet new people, any number of things can happen that can quietly chip away at a friendship over time. This can be hurtful, but you would inevitably feel worse trying to force a friendship that just isn’t the same any more. It’s okay to let go. Cherish the memories you have and give yourself permission to move on. There are plenty of people who can’t wait to meet you!

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