Letter to Ellie – Dealing with Friendship

Hey Ellie,

At some point in your life, someone will call you a bad friend.

It’s happened to me a couple of times. And it sucks.

When it happens, you won’t be ready for it. You’ll think everything is fine. You may be in the midst of a laugh together. You might be at their house for a sleepover and then the mood will shift. Then the talk will happen. You;ll find out that your friend has felt that you’ve ‘dissed/pulled away/not cared about them. And you’ll be crushed. And it’ll never be the same after that…it’ll change and you may get along but that sting will never leave.

 So as your dad, I want to give you some friendship thoughts to help you navigate through this messy maze.

1 – Friendships require work.

The things that you love will always take a lot out of you and friendship is no different. As you get older, things like making plans, phone calls, emails…what seems easy. But to keep one moving, it takes work. And at times, it can be taxing, especially if you need times by yourself to recharge. Then there are different forms of friendships that do different things to you. There are some that by the end of your time, you feel drained. Then there are others, where you (knowingly or unknowingly) will drain them. And then there are others where you feel completely refreshed and can’t wait do it again. But to get there takes work.

2 – Some friendships have unvoiced expectations

If someone says to you, you’ve been a bad friend, in most cases, you simply didn’t meet their expectation of what they either though friendship is OR what they thought YOU’d be as a friend. And because you’re friendly, a lot more will be put on you. And if you have that attitude towards someone else, they didn’t meet YOUR expectation. Now I’m not saying when you meet people to give them a form with all that you can provide as a friend and what you can expect. That would be weird. But in your heart and mind, know who you are and what you can do, what you need and what you bring to the table. Then when a friendship ends its course, you’ll be able to look back on expectations. The flipside to this is that, if you have expectations on them, it’s not a friendship, it’s a service that someone is providing for you.

Remember expectations, Kid. If you don’t, then you’ll get mad when people don’t live up to yours (when you’re the taker) and you’ll be thrown off when you’re in the blame (when you’re the giver). If you know what’s expected of you (emails, phone calls, hang outs everyday, etc.) then you’ll know whether you can live up to it or not. And you’d think that this is only for high school people. But there are 40 year olds who fall for this too (I tend to think that people never graduate from HS in their brains when it comes to friendships and relationships…you’ll hear me say that a lot as you get older.

3 – There are different TYPES of connecting relationships

Now this is simply MY opinion here, kiddo but This will help you soooo much. First, there are relationships where you are the giver. By this I mean, someone is expecting you to lead the relationship. Second, there are relationships where you are the taker. This is where you’re in need of someone helping or leading you. And at the get go, things will go well. Then over time, communication will fall and it might end. This is tricky because in both of these ‘types’, it’ll end and you’ll be confused. If you’re the giver, you’ll ‘get tired’ and because you’re like me, you’ll just space out of it. The person will be very mad with you. And you’ll be crushed. And when you’re the taker, it’ll end and you’ll be mad and hurt.

Then the last type is the best type. I call it “friendship“. It’s messy, it’s hard but it’s where both people give and take. Conversations are always about making one another better. You look out for how the other person is doing before how they are helping you and in return they do the same for you. It become effortless. Those types of friendships are the ones where you might not see someone for years but when you do, it’s like yesterday. It’s awesome. Those ones are worth investing in. Those ones are worth preserving and having messy convos. As you grow up, those friendships will help you and carry you through some tough times.

4 – Your number of friends will shrink as you get older.

When you’re a kid, everyone is your best friend. Then in high school, you’ll have your ‘girls’ and that one guy friend. I will hate him, by the way. Then you’ll get older and you’ll have 2 or 3 sisters. That’s okay. It’s okay to have a close circle. A teacher once told me that Jesus had 3 besties, 12 homies, a bunch of close associates, a 72 crew and then a lot of people he knew.  Be careful with the crowned title of best friend. That title is earned. And there’s nothing worst than thinking someone is your best friend and they don’t feel the same way. (You’ll feel that about boys too but that’s a blog I’m not ready to write yet. Boys are dumb. And smelly.)

5 – Good friends try to give the benefit of the doubt.

If you’re in a friendship and the relationship runs its course, don’t waste time thinking about how they hurt you. Instead, think more about how the relationship has changed you and made you a better person. Every relationship you’re in (close to acquaintance) can be a blessing, if you have the right perspective. If you don’t, you’ll always be the victim. If someone isn’t able to connect with you for a time, check up on them rather than expecting them to check in on you. This helps with the focusing on others more than wanting it for you. You never know, they may be going through something. OR, maybe the friendship is ending and they don’t know how to say it. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Think kindly and speak highly of them when asked. And if  they get mad with you, give them the benefit…speak highly of them. If someone is your friend, don’t judge them. Talk to them. Ask questions when it’s right. Be silent when it’s right. Grow together.

6 – Friendships require wise honesty

Trust is a careful commodity. And some people can’t carry it. They are good people but they can’t keep secrets. If someone talks a lot, be wise. If they speak bad about others in front of you, chances are they do the same about you when you aren’t there. Just who they are, kiddo. Be smart with who you tell what to and how much you tell when you tell. Be smart, kiddo. And if you know that you haven’t been a good friend, be honest and ask for forgiveness.

7 – Lastly, don’t look for in PEOPLE what only JESUS can provide.

People will let you down. And you will let people down. Expectations suck. But never live off of the words of others. Live off of God’s promises and encouragement and balance everything else on what his spirit is telling you. If you’re being crummy, He’ll tell you before someone else needs to. People will unintentionally judge (though most times, it’s with full-on intention), categorize and say things that hurt you without even knowing it. People will expect much from you and you’re only one person. When they are nice, focus on Jesus and stay wise and humble. When they aren’t so nice, remember WHO He’s told you YOU are. I hope you learn to hear him from watching Mom and me…He loves you more than I ever can. And I love you a lot! He will always be honest with you, kiddo. Always. And His word let’s you know what his motives are. There’s no shady, selfish needs in him. He’s not like people. Which is cool!

Ellie, if you love and serve your friends with all you got (using wisdom as you do it…you don’t want to be a doormat either), the right type of friends will come your way. And they’ll return the love.

And on the days where you come home from school sad because you’ve been ditched or called a bad friend, I’ll be here. We’ll eat ice cream, watch your favorite movie and get through it together.


4 thoughts on “Letter to Ellie – Dealing with Friendship

    • great writing. I hope that’s not the only thing that you took from it (that friendships can’t be made in life now.) because that’s not the voice or choice I’m leaving with my daughter:) Friendships happen all the time but the work takes on a different bend as we get older. And people, while older, still carry some High school ideas on friendship. Either way, I’m glad for the dialogue…thanks for reading, commenting and stretching me as a writer and thinker! You’re awesome, Ed!

      • Hi Chris,

        Thanks for the reply comment. I did take away more than just the older friendship issue. I think it is great that you are writing to Ellie and showing your care and fatherly side, it is wonderfully thoughtful and shows your heart. You want the best for her and will be there for her during all the rough friendship times. As a great father you are trying to brace her for what is to come and try to insulate or minimize the pain that we sometime endure because of freindship. I too remember being a grumpy old man, thank God he changes us and keep on loving your family, they are the true treasure in life.


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