The Truth About Outgrowing Your Childhood Friends


“Some people are in your life for a season. Some people are in your life for a reason.” This saying speaks a truth that we’ve all experienced: the challenge of preserving friendships for the long term, not just for a situational duration. That seems easier said than done. You’d think with all of the ways to connect, like, and follow people from our present and past that besties would never have to become frenemies and schoolmates and the people we grew up with would remain close comrades: BFFs when the final “F” for forever is not infinite. You are one of many with this title. The more BFFs there are, the less value that title has for the originating friend.

Perhaps it is too easy to “friend” someone, making it harder to have a real friend. Girl, you know: the kind you can call at three in the morning from your darkest tragedy or who will be there in case of an emergency. Although there is no legal social contract for friendship like there is with marriage, there is an expectation, understood from a surface level to a deep meaning: you will be there when it counts for that person and they will be there for you.

Maybe it’s harder to open up to more than a significant few in your inner circle and there is a mix of people in your life for a season and no better reason? But beyond that, how do you keep true friends as seasons change? Or would you want to force what is no longer working or mutually beneficial?

Nurturing a friendship to weather the storms of life together takes more difficult work than a surficial “like” or “follow”. It deserves give and take, not the least possible effort or commitment from both friends. What we have that the selfies don’t tell is casual acquaintances we are sharing our surface emotions and events with, but doubt that there is any other connection that goes any deeper. Something is missing that not even a trip to the Wizard of Oz could remedy with a wholesome wish that becomes a solid save.

Life is composed of all kinds of experiences. You have one and you learn from it. You have a new, additional experience and what was satisfying before becomes different from what you need now. It is different from what you had (or thought you wanted) then. The people you were close to in the past may stay the same, leaving you to feel like you have outgrown them, or you both go in different directions or choose different paths. Their life journey is no longer compatible with yours and keeping the old friend connection with your new phases of life is strained and seems unnecessary and stops being useful. In school, this is marked by moving through grade levels and schools. High school friends may not be college friends (if you choose to go to college). Work friends that you made at one job and overshared with while breaking bread together every day in the breakroom may have seemed like besties; but when the job ends, so does the friendship.

It gets harder the older you get. A move to a different city, company, or faith community thrusts you into more new with less old to keep you grounded and socially satisfied. “We just went our separate ways” applies to relationships that change from season to season. It is the acceptable postmortem to a friendship when no closure or other explanation is possible or polite. From near and dear to far and forgotten, good friendships give and good friends have got your back. In these situations, keeping friendships alive and life-giving is complex. You may be the one doing the outgrowing or you could be the one who has been outgrown. Life is change. This is the only constant. This is the best umbrella explanation.

Gone are the days when frenemies were ignored in the cafeteria and denied a seat at the “cool kids’” table or challenged at recess and they chose you last for the team in a game of dodgeball or red rover, in person and onsite. Frenemies can bully much better from the comfort of their own home, the coward’s post, via social media where artfully crafted character assassinations against the sinless or the sacred stand a chance. Mean girls use their popularity and power for evil not good and, just because of their popularity and power, they can.

Healthy friendships are a necessary part of our mental health and social survival as we age. Blue zoner centenarians attest to this. For them, committed relationships are just as responsible for their longevity as what they eat each day. Why is something so meaningful or essential so fluid?

True and deep friendships require vulnerability, sacrifice, generosity of spirit, and commitment. It is not the easiest way to relate to the world, but the friendship response as an act of agape love is by far fulfilling and worth the effort. Having a few people out there who love you for all that you are, good and bad, and accept you anyway is precious and important. This is why a strong friendship is special. It’s always a necessary part of your total health.

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