• Keeping Friends

Should A Friend Always Forgive?

Published: May 14, 2014 | Last Updated: January 6, 2022 By | 14 Replies Continue Reading

When it comes to a long-term friendship, there may be more reason to forgive than there is with new acquaintances.

QUESTION

Hi,

My friend of 50 years still lies and stands people up. After the last two episodes, she knew that we were no longer going to be friends like we were before.

After three months of cordial text messages, she asked me whether we were going to be friends. I responded by telling her that friends don’t stand people up and lie. I also stated that she needs counseling and that I was working too hard to keep the relationship going.

She responded by saying I was selfish and that friends should forgive. This behavior has been going on all her life. What should I do?

Signed, Lee

ANSWER

Hi Lee,

Even though your friend has acted this way many times before, each instance of being lied to or stood up has to be additive and very upsetting. Expressing annoyance when a friend behaves this way isn’t selfish; it is appropriate.

Unfortunately, the past is the best predictor of the future. If your friend has been this way for many years, her personality is unlikely to change.

Despite these shortcomings (which sound pretty major), I know it’s never easy to toss away a 50-year friendship. That you have maintained the friendship all these years suggests she also has some qualities you admire and appreciate.

It’s unlikely will you will be able to forget or overlook these disappointments but the question you must ask yourself is whether you are able to forgive, tempering your resentment enough to enjoy the benefits of this friendship.

One strategy may be to see this friend on only an infrequent basis. Would you be able to make a conscious decision to replace your anger with empathy and understanding? Or, has your friend disappointed you far too many times? How much disappointment are you willing to tolerate, how often? No one but you can make this decision.

My best, Irene

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Category: Dealing with difficult friends

Comments (14)

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  1. Kamille says:

    If you were real friends with a deep bond, of course, you should forgive them. Like an old house, the foundation is there, but some things need some renovation. As long as both are on board, why not forgive them and start fresh?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Tracy’s absolutely right. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically allude to the fact that we have to remain friends with a person who has offended us. Walking away also doesn’t require us to completely forget. We can talk about the problems we had in a friendship even after the friendship has ended. It might actually be healthy to get it off of the chest.

    Holding a grudge, is staying angry. An extreme example of this would be taking vengeance. Anger hurts ourselves. It’s perfectly fine to walk away and go on with our lives when a friendship no longer meets our needs.

  3. Tracy says:

    the way I see it is yes, we should always forgive. Because that means not to hold a grudge against the person who has offended you. It sets you free! But forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to keep the relationship going. No sirree! We can walk away, say “I wish you well” and get on with lives with people who do care about us!

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s certainly not selfish of you to feel the way you do about your friend because your friend’s behavior is not a one time occurence. It built up over the years and unfortunately, your friend wasn’t able to see that. With that being said, I agree with everyone here about how your friend will most likely not change. And for that reason, I think you should seriously consider whether or not this friendship is worth keeping. You already addressed the problems of the friendship to your friend but if she’s not willing to change, the friendship is meaningless.

    I can personally relate to this since I had to end a couple of friendships of 10+ years for the same reason. I tolerated their negative behaviors for years and I grew tired of it. I wish I had ended the friendships sooner than later because they weren’t healthy for me in the long run. Start off by limiting the amount of time you spend with her and if things don’t work out, don’t feel guilty about ending the friendship.

    • Kiki says:

      @Anonymous Well said. I too ended a twenty-seven year friendship due to her negative behaviors. And to the OP, don’t feel guilty, you have loved your friend well.

  5. Lauren says:

    I like Amy F’s comments about forgiveness. This is very perceptive and very practical. Excellent advice

  6. Eliza says:

    In my view – in order to “have” a friend, one needs to know how to “BE” a friend…and unfortunately, just like your experience, some of us can give 100% all the time, but if the other party is in capable of reciprocating and/or understanding how to give back with mere respect, the relationship will be doomed and will diminish or you will grow more resentment each time she lies or keeps you hanging. I also had a friend – who did the same thing–and not just with me, but with others…so I didn’t take it personally. The bottom line–is although she did acknowledge it once in an email–and said sorry–she did it again and continued to cancel without a word. And the reason for that was her drinking. Her behavior was a manifestation of a deeper more seriously long-rooted problem, drinking…and which in turn her drinking was associated with other issues–only therapy can help. I wish her well, but we couldn’t continue on that toxic path…and I later discovered that others had the same issues with her…and she ultimately didn’t have many friendships. Friendships, like any other type of relationships DO require some work, effort, nurturing and most important of all: mutual respect. You can forgive her–but she needs to meet you half way, otherwise, you will be limited in terms of how close you can be with her and how often you spend time with her–if she can’t be reliable. Any type of relationship requires 2 people to put in that effort.

  7. Alberta says:

    Your friend calling you ‘selfish’ because you don’t want to put up with this negative behaviour anymore is typical of friends who just want your energy but don’t really ‘care’ about the ‘you’ness of you. So it is you who, after years of tolerating negative behaviour – who gets called selfish and unforgiving – and this person gets off scot free in their mind – and creates a mental burden for you. You are not selfish for not wanting to deal with garbage behavior and forgiving a repeated behaviour is pretty much impossible because a behaviour repeated shows ill intent and/or the person doesn’t care.

  8. GraceW says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Amy F’s comment that it’s hard to forgive a behavior that keeps happening, especially after you’ve asked the person to stop it. Unless you’re willing to accept the behavior and not consider it a problem anymore so that the friend doesn’t require repeated episodes of forgiveness. It’s nice to hear both “I’m sorry” and “It won’t happen again” from a friend when you feel you’ve been wronged, but if I had to choose only one, I prefer the latter.

    Even a friendship of 50 years can end, because even very, very, very patient and forgiving people can run out of patience and forgiveness. It sounds like the poster has decided to maintain the friendship at a less intimate level, and that seems like a reasonable decision to me.

    • Kiki says:

      @ Grace W – Love “Even a friendship of 50 years can end, because even very, very, very patient and forgiving people can run out of patience and forgiveness.”

  9. Corinne Debono says:

    Hi! I am 11 years old, I go to st.Monika school. I had a friend and we were very close but one day she didn’t even talk to me I was really worried I taught that I did something wrong to her.

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Corrine,
      Sorry that this has happened to you with your friend at school. These things happen to us as we are growing up. It’s probably nothing that you did to her. Perhaps she is fickle and has found a new friend, and that’s all there is to it. So try not to feel too bad about it.

      You will find new (and better) friends, who will be more loyal to you. It’s all part of growing up. Life is a learning process in many ways, and this is just one way.

      If you have a trusted teacher who you can talk to about this, it may help, but if not, then be strong and remember these things happen. Time will heal everything.

  10. Amy F says:

    If you friend has been the same way for 50 years, she’s likely not going to change unless SHE sees thst her behavior is problematic.
    You’ve decided that you’re no longer going to keep her in your close circle due to this behavior. That’s perfectly reasonable. I can, however, also understand your friend’s confusion, since you’re the one changing the “rules” of the relationship after half a century. I’m not saying you’re wrong for doing so, just that I can understand her confusion.
    As for forgiveness, that’s an overused concept in my opinion. It’s hard to “forgive” a behavior that keeps happening, when the person is in complete control over that behavior. She probably does need therapy if she wants to change a life long pattern, but she had to want to change. That’s like trying to forgive a bully while he’s still punching you in the stomach.
    I view therapy as a gift you give yourself. I hope she decides to gift herself, but I’m doubtful. in my opinion, friends fint manipulate each other by trying to make them feel guilty. But, she can’t make you feel guilty unless you let her.

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