Dear Atticus, on friendship

Party planners extraordinaire.

Dear Atticus,

This is a letter I have hesitated to write, because if there is an area in which I feel the most inadequate, it would probably be in relationships with my friends. But there is a reason that one of my most popular posts is about the moment when a friendship ends: relationships are difficult. And they end sometimes, and it’s sad. They end, not in blows of anger or in the click of a mouse, but in small moments we don’t usually recognize at the time. The longer I live, the more I feel as if I don’t know anything at all about maintaining relationships. I certainly don’t know anything about what it looks like for boys to be friends. But there are a few things I have learned, a few things I can share about myself and about your dad that might be helpful as you learn about relationships with the people around you.

I believe that friendships have to grow and change in order to survive. My relationship with your dad has certainly changed over time. My closest friends have changed and grown and have allowed me to do the same. If we all stayed the same, we wouldn’t be very interesting people or have much to talk about. Sometimes we no longer agree on things, but it really is true that variety is the spice of life. I don’t need friends who share my opinions on every little thing. I need friends who care about me and support me in who I am. The best friends you can have are the ones who will let you disagree but who won’t make you argue about it. Who will let you express your opinion without being offended by what you say. And you will be a better friend, too, if you learn those same things.

Sometimes, things just end and it’s not anybody’s fault. I am fond of saying that friendships have a shelf life, because sometimes they do. People can grow apart, and it does not have to be cause for bitterness. It’s better to look back and remember the good times and to let the other person be free to move on, just as you will feel better if you are free to move on as well.

There are many ways that I fail when it comes to relationships, but here are the biggies: I am bad at believing that people want to spend time with me. And I forget, sometimes, to initiate. The second is closely tied in with the first. I forget to initiate because I have a hard time feeling secure. This hurts people, sometimes, and I remember to make an effort. And then I forget again, because a hard week turns into a hard month. Or because I am a homebody and I want to come home from work and put on my pajamas. Or because I don’t have the gift of hospitality. Mostly because I still think primarily in terms of family when it comes to how and with whom I spend my time. I want this to be different for you, want you to know how to value your friends in ways that I don’t always know how to succeed. Your dad, who struggles in similar ways, wants these things for you, too.

If you are lucky, like me, you will end up with some pretty amazing friends. Like the women in the picture above, who have been my friends for over a decade. They have loved me well for a long time, even though I am prickly and difficult to love. They have stood by me through difficult times and have believed in me when I could not believe in myself. And they aren’t the only ones. Tonight, a different group of friends is throwing me (and my friend Beth) an “end of coupledom” party, complete with fondue. I have let all of these people down, but they continue to offer me the gift of friendship. On this earth, there is nothing that teaches me more about grace, about unmerited favor, than those relationships with friends and family who do not quit, who forgive, who believe in me even when I cannot believe in myself. Their continued presence in my life helps me believe in a God who cares about me, because they must get that strength from somewhere else.

Parents always want better for their children than they were able to do for themselves, and this is no exception. I want to continue to learn about friendship so that I can model better and more healthy relationships for you. It is, for me, a daunting task, a mountain I do not know how to climb. But I will try, for you. One phone call, one email, one extended hand at a time.


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