One of the problems now facing many on Facebook is how to “unfriend” someone. Yes, the mechanics of unfriending are pretty straightforward but the emotional aspect is not. It’s hard to tell someone that you don’t want to be their friend any more. After all, we want people to like us, to think we’re good people. We don’t want to offend people or hurt their feelings. What if they don’t understand? What if they retaliate and start a smear campaign against us with all our friends? So, emotional paralysis enters in and we do nothing.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott have some thoughts on the subject of friendships. In their excellent book, Relationships: How to Make Bad Relationships Better and Good Relationships Great, the Parrotts categorize two types of friendships, a) friends of the road and b) friends of the heart. Here’s the difference. Friends of the road are friends who walk with you for a period of time on your journey through life but as you move into a new phase of life this type of friend fades away. Here’s how the Parrotts put it, “. . . we all have friendships that come to their natural end. Not because of discontent or lack of interest. Simply because the road has run out. We’ve hit the end of the trail together and it’s time to move on to other things, other companies of men” (p. 77). There’s nothing wrong with having friends of the road. They are necessary howbeit transitory. They were there for us when we needed them and vice versa but now things have changed and the friendship needs to end, not with anger, rancor, or hurt but with appreciation and honor.
Friends of the heart are different. This type of friend is someone who knows you well, with whom you stay connected regardless of your phase of life and who loves you for who you are. You may live far from friends of the heart, but they’re still your “besties.” You can call them and pick up the conversation with them with no awkwardness. You can tell them your deepest darkest secrets and they’ll love you anyway. Most of us have very few friends of the heart but we treasure the ones we have.
Someone has defined a friend as “someone who accepts you as you are with no immediate plans for your improvement.” I like it! Friends of the road and friends of the heart. We need both, don’t we?
“A friend loves at all times,and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17),