How To End A Friendship

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When I was in first grade, my teacher once called the class together and said, “Glen is feeling bad because no one will play with him. Will anyone here play with Glen?” Glen was new (I think he moved to the area mid-year) and awkward-looking, and I remember how bad I felt for him when she said that. So I raised my hand. “I’ll play with Glen,” I said. To this day, I still remember the abashed smile he gave in response.

So we arranged a play date, and I went over to Glen’s house. And I discovered that Glen was nice—but boring. I don’t remember if he ever asked me to play again, but I do remember how uncomfortable I felt with the idea. And how even more uncomfortable I felt with the idea of telling him how uncomfortable I was with the idea. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Nor did I want to hurt the feelings of the other peers I befriended in the years that followed who were like Glen: at the outer edge of most social groups, hungry for admission to any one of them. I not only felt badly for unpopular kids (not that I was so popular myself) but also outraged that some kids were popular while others were not. So I always lent everyone a sympathetic ear, and many took this as a signal that I was open to a friendship with them.

In some cases, however, I wasn’t. Though my goal as a Buddhist has always been to develop myself into someone who has compassion for everyone—that is, someone who cares about everyone’s happiness—my goal has never been to have a personal relationship with everyone for whom I feel compassion. For one thing, strange as it may sound, you don’t actually need to like someone to feel compassion for them—that is, to recognize their basic humanity or care if they’re suffering or not. What’s more, as hard as having compassion for everyone is, I think it’s actually easier than liking everyone. Compassion can be consciously cultivated. Preferences, in general, cannot. I don’t like every book I read, every song I hear, or every painting I view. So why would I expect myself to like every person I meet?

But flat-out rejecting someone’s friendship feels to most people too difficult despite the resentment we may feel toward others for thrusting themselves upon us as well as toward ourselves for our inability to express to them how we really feel. To reject someone romantically is hard enough. But to reject someone’s friendship seems to carry with it a uniquely harsh judgment, calling into question, as it may seem to, their value as a person.

But we’re no more in control of our attraction to friends than we are our attraction to lovers. And to reject someone as a friend isn’t to declare them unworthy of friendship any more than to reject them as a lover is to declare them unworthy of love. What’s more, some people value friendship more than others do—and further, the degree to which we value friendship changes as we age. (In adolescence, nothing seems more important. Then in middle-age our focus on friendship tends to decline as the importance of work and family increases. In old age, then, the importance of friendship may increase again as both the importance of work and availability of family diminishes.). We are who we are and shouldn’t criticize ourselves if we find we want to end a friendship. We’re not evil because we no longer like someone, or because we never did. Or never liked them as much as they like us.

Whether or not you should end a friendship lies beyond the scope of this post. But if you’ve decided you do want to end one, how should you do it? The way it’s been done to me (and how I’ve done it myself once or twice) is with what I call passive rejection—returning phone calls and emails sluggishly or not at all; claiming to be overwhelmingly busy or finding other excuses not to accept invitations—hoping all the while that in being prevented from engaging with us consistently that our friend will eventually lose interest in doing so. The advantage to passive rejection is that it avoids direct confrontation, thereby minimizing hurt feelings, as rare is the person who upon experiencing such passive rejection recognizes that his friendship is being rejected. (It just seems not to occur to most us.) On the other hand, passive rejection typically takes a while (sometimes a long while) and feels unpleasant. And it requires us to be dishonest.

The alternative, however, seems simply untenable for most of us. “Look, Glen, I just don’t want to be your friend,” I could have said all those years ago. But even then that seemed to me unforgivably cruel. Had Glen been in the habit of torturing small animals in his backyard, it would have been easy. But such obvious moral failings rarely represent the reason we want to end a friendship.

The truth is, though I’ve offered it here, and though it works, I’m not comfortable with passive rejection either. I hate lying in any form, including lying by omission. Further, because everyone knows this is how most of us do end friendships, when we turn down plans because we really are too busy our actions may easily be misinterpreted as attempts to end the friendship when they’re really not. This entire topic is uncomfortable, in fact, but I’ve observed enough people struggling with this issue to think it warranted discussion. When I began this post, I thought I’d come up with a satisfying answer. But having reached the end of it, I find I haven’t. So what do you think? What’s the best way to distance yourself from someone who wants to be closer to you than you want to be to them?

Next Week: In Search Of The Mythical Best, Redux

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  • Most people in my experience do not really want to be told directly that you do not want to continue a friendship. Speaking for myself, I don’t think that I would appreciate hearing that directly, nor would I need that kind of “direct honesty.” I can see when another person is just “not available” or is just not invested in my friendship. It all hurts, but I believe most folks do not need to be hit over the head with a brick. Just give me the good old “passive rejection.” I can take a hint, thank you! 🙂

  • First—let me say how much I enjoy your posts. They always, without fail, make me think a little harder. I love it when that happens.

    Second—I’m not certain there is a satisfying answer. Ending a friendship, in my experience, is harder than ending a romantic relationship. I’m glad I haven’t had to do it more than a handful of times, because it’s tough going.

    I’ve generally found that passive rejection works better with my male friends. They’re usually busy, and often dating, and so it becomes a “we just drifted apart—it happens” scenario.

    With my female friends, I’ve generally taken a more direct approach, aiming to be as kind as possible, but noting that we’re moving in very different directions with very different ways of interacting, and that I do not want to hold them back from finding friends who are truly a good fit for them. I almost never cut the cord entirely—I like to hope that people change and grow over the years, and if our paths were to cross again later in life, perhaps we’d be better prepared for a friendship at that point.

  • I’ve had a couple of successful disentanglements from unfruitful relationships by just telling the friend that I’m busy with projects, or family obligations, and that I’m not really much of socializer. Most of these acquaintances I see at parties (which I don’t attend very often) and we chat, but I don’t make attempts anymore to try to see them later. I think a few of them don’t really like me anymore, but that’s okay. On the other hand, I have health problems, so often it gives an acquaintance a chance to be compassionate to me to let me off the relationship hook. I had to tell one potential friend who called me a lot that I don’t like talking on the phone that much and that soured things for her. I just try to be honest. I’ve had to end a few friendships because of their addictions and that was hard but it felt better to just say it was the drinking that bothered me. That put a chill on their affections for me almost immediately 🙂 Passive rejection often happens just because of busy schedules and because we all have lots of relationships to attend to, as well as ourselves. This was a very thoughtful post and I don’t think anyone has a correct answer. That’s the way of relationships.

  • Jen, THANK YOU!!!

  • I have a lot to say on this matter because I have recently experienced the end of two friendships.

    To begin with, my father passed away suddenly and with all deaths one comes to reevaluate one’s life. Two close friends left my life shortly after my father did.

    The male friend chose passive rejection. He wanted the friendship to be over and I did not. I do not subscribe to passive rejection because I think we all deserve an answer/closure no matter how painful it might be. I would have preferred the person had the courage to tell me our friendship just was not working anymore. He took the easy way and actually left another loss in my life because it was unexpected.

    On the other hand, I ended a friendship with someone I have known for 25 years. It was not my intention and I had hoped to resolve the problems I had with her. She chose to ignore my concerns and instead I was met with silence. I was clear about what was not working for me hoping we could both grow.

    These are sad times in my life, but it has also buoyed me to be more assertive about my feelings and not accept less than.

  • Just a quick correction: one only feels badly if one’s fingers are damaged. Otherwise one feels bad just as one feels good (not goodly).

    C.Iwasaki: Ouch, thanks for the catch. Corrected.


  • There is nothing wrong with passive rejection. The article made me think of all the acquaintances I’ve made in my life and especially the potential friendships that didn’t “click.” I’ve never worried about it; friendships that come and go are a part of life.

    Longstanding friendships are a bit more difficult, I agree. But passive rejection works well enough if you give it enough time. I agree with Leslie—most people can take a hint!

  • I have a strong belief that people come into our lives for a reason…reasons we may not immediately recognize. Friends are a gift to our lives and have many purposes. Their is no one definition of a friend and as such they have many forms. Some are people we share our lives with on a daily basis, others we may have dinner or lunch with once in a while, while others that I used to share everyday stuff with I now talk with infrequently, and yet if I were to pick up the phone tomorrow they would be there for me and vice versa. Others, based on life circumstance come and stay only for awhile and then move on. No need to lie to anyone or reject them verbally.

  • Sadly, I found myself in the position of having to end a friendship. Because my friend was not listening to what I said to her—my words about her behaviour upsetting me, my directness in saying, “When you do …. it makes me feel….” did not work, she just laughed and said that was how she was. Okay… eventually I talked to others in our group, and they understood very well. Then I simply closed myself off from her, could not meet, was too busy to go, and so forth. After a year, she sent me a text, saying that our friendship had been vital to her, and that she was devastated by my estrangement. After a year of not having to cope with her attitudes and behaviour, I found that it was quite easy to ignore that outburst, because life without her influence was so much easier and calmer. The others in our group were very supportive of me; it was a surprise to discover that she was only part of that group because of me. I don’t know the right way to do this, but do know that severing the tie was very beneficial to me. Is that selfish? Or am I allowed to use self-preservation? I don’t like hurting folk, I really don’t, but I think that if the pain of continuing is hurting us too much, that we need to do something, to retain equilibrium.

  • Alex—I think the key to avoiding this discomfort is exercising sufficient due diligence before classifying someone as a “friend.” Once we learn that knack then situations are far and few. If and when they do occur, I think in my case ending a friendship would not be a matter of my personal choice if I am the one ending it; it would be about choosing a path that is least painful to the other party. So my choice of “being direct” or “being passive” would solely be based on what would go easy on the other person. Most people take passive rejection much better as it settles in over time and there is little to no surprise factor involved. However, even if direct method were employed, in my case it would be like what you said in one of your previous posts a few weeks ago, I would communicate the following:

    “I don’t like who I become when with the other party; neither am I am able to make any valuable contribution in bringing the best out of the other person; neither of us are at fault. It just is a matter of fact and therefore it is best to move on along our destined paths.” I think this provides closure of sort and also stays away from blame game or guilt trips…I think..:-)

  • I may have a different take on the friendship situation, based upon my experiences. I’ve never been one to be overly social (though certainly friendly), and would be characterized better by having a few close friends, rather than scores of social friends.

    My parents, however, were quite the opposite. And having held memorials when each one died, I was able to reminisce with many of their friends. What I concluded the real difference was between my parents approach to friendship and mine was that they were generally not judgmental. They were friendly to nearly everyone and willing to accept their faults and limitations.

    Oh my, what a refreshing approach to life. Why must we accept our prejudicial or judgmental ways? That said, it is not easy to break old habits and our instinctual wiring to prefer “our tribe.” And we all appreciate, I suspect, how radical “love thy enemy” was at the time, and continues to be now.

    So while this does not answer your charge to your readers, Alex, I’m going to offer that perhaps such energy is not well spent. Rather than finding the best way to end a friendship, perhaps one’s energies would be better spent on figuring out how to be more accepting of another’s friendship (with all of its faults).

    Look, everyone changes. A good friend of mine and I have over the past 5 years or so shifted in radically different political directions. It became so extreme that there were many occasions my first thought was to end the relationship. But instead, I opted to cool things down a bit, and only share on areas of mutual agreement. Other friends of his have explicitly ended the relationship, often with dramatic flair. And now I see some continued change (don’t we all?), and a rekindling of our friendship appears likely. I’m happy about that.

  • Two of my friends with whom I’ve been friends since childhood recently asked me to take out a loan from the bank for them. They wanted to start a small business and came to me for money. I told them I wanted to take my part in it too, which they rejected. Of course this disappointed and upset me, even though I lent them money because I didn’t want to lose them. What I got in return made me reflect on the value and sense of our friendship. After I gave them money they just disappeared, no calls, no visits almost a month yet. So I think I should end our friendship anyway.

  • What a very interesting post; thanks for this and others. I’ve been on both sides of this issue. Some years ago now I decided to detach from a friend who seemed to have become increasingly jealous of me and who, as a result I thought, made increasing numbers of passive aggressive statements being rude about my husband and my life. It eventually dawned on her that I had withdrawn and she kept pushing; finally she got very angry when I withdrew from a group walk we had both been going on and a brief two-sentence exchange finished the relationship. Not long after, I discovered that she immediately ran around to mutual friends, some of whom I had introduced her to, telling them I had ditched her and vilifying me behind my back. It was horrible and at least one other friendship was destroyed as a result. It has made me very suspicious now of people who want to be friends.

    The other situation was a friendship with a woman who was 20 years older than me—we were friends for 15 years or so. I put myself out very often to see her when actually I didn’t really have time but it seemed a good friendship. Mutual irritation seemed to grow between us. I think our lives were growing apart; she was struggling with the beginnings of the concerns of old age while I was struggling with teenage twins and a shaky marriage. I think we misunderstood and ran out of compassion for each other but didn’t know how to separate. We went on a day-long outing together that should have been a pleasure but just highlighted the differences between us and after that day we just stopped contacting each other. That was two years ago; just recently, through a mutual acquaintance, I met her again briefly. We were able to say to each other that the friendship had slowly come to an end and that we had mutually withdrawn and that seemed calm and accepting on both sides.

    It’s not easy to let friends go, or to feel yourself rejected. I think some people manage to remain friends with many people for most of their lives while others make friends slowly and find friendship hard to maintain. Whereas once, in settled communities, we had to learn to live alongside other people, some of whom we would become better friends with than others, nowadays friendships seem so much more artificial (I live in a city in the UK so this may be UK specific). Now we often make friends on the basis of shared interests, be those having young children or being keen on golf or playing chess and so on. There is less opportunity or willingness to just live beside other people and to share our lives with them. I think we pay the price for this in terms of increased loneliness, and if we are to survive, we need to develop self reliance and interests of our own. It’s not easy to end a friendship, but ultimately I think it’s important to decide how much the relationship is worth to both of you and then to end it, if that’s what you want, with compassion and gentleness.

  • I’ve experienced all sorts of relationship endings, but have to say because of my personality, the best to receive and give, is direct honesty. Others may require a softer approach, but as Alex said, lies don’t feel good, and the old cliche about “the truth will set you free” is best. What I have offered in the past is something like “…this isn’t working for me, and I think you feel it too. I care about you, and wish you well, and find true happiness…” Or in another case I offer an invitation for this thought “…nothing is broken, and there’s nothing to be fixed. ‘IT’ is just what it is, and it isn’t right for you and me. Be well…” I believe that the greatest expression of love is to demonstrate selflessness and simply let the other person go on to find some who will be a better match. Good luck !!

  • Alex, thank you for this post, and thank everyone who has weighed in on it as well. My perspective is one of someone who finds that close friendships are difficult to maintain, but I have many people with whom I am friendly. My closest friends are my husband and my sister, and I am not lonely. I work in a large company and occasionally socialize with the people I am closest to there, and have made some more lasting friendships through work that are closer than others, but were our working relationships or locations to change, it is doubtful that most of us would continue with any more closeness than an occasional holiday greeting.

    I have no sorrow about that. I don’t keep up with emails regularly at home…I don’t get emails on my phone although I could…and I am around many people so much during the day and have so little true alone time to create my art or write that at this point in my life I don’t have much energy left for friendships. They tend to end more by attrition than conscious or passive rejection. And actually, the notion of conscious rejection or severance of a friendship has only very rarely been an issue in my life. That was in my more active social years, in my 30s and 40s. I am 59 now and have seen in me a mellowing and a development of a more compassionate and empathetic view of people as a whole. And that has me realizing that while I don’t actively pursue fellowships or attend gatherings seeking to make friends, I am friendly and always leave the door open to friendship when it is in season on my path.

    Again you have made me think more deeply, which is the joy of reading your entries, Alex. Thank you again for your voice. I have recently received your book and look forward to reading more.

    Andrea: I think your experience echoes that of many people your age. I hope you enjoy the book and find it useful.


  • There obviously is no correct answer for every situation. How well or how long have you known the person? Was there a causative factor, whether over a single egregious incident or a series of slights?

    People drift apart due to the multiplicity of factors we know. I think that’s typical and it’s not necessarily “dropping” a friend as just moving on in life in one way or another.

    Still, if there’s a friendship that’s having problems and you value it (or once did), the other should be spoken to directly about what is causing friction (or worse) in the friendship. I have had one long-term friendship (20 plus years) which I ended decisively, though not without stating my concerns about his behavior more than once before over a period of time. If it ain’t workin’, and the benefits of the friendship are outweighed by other factors, be straightforward (and kind) as possible, but don’t hold on to what once was but is no more.

  • I have had several friendships end, some by me and some by the other person. When they stop calling, you know it’s over and they’re not interested, so I just let it go and move on. I hope they are doing the same when I stop calling. I don’t feel like it is productive to confront someone unless you are trying to extricate yourself and they are not getting the message and pressing you constantly for contact.

  • I moved to Costa Rica! 🙂 (Then, however, people wanted to be my friend so they would have a place to stay.)

    Seriously, there’s probably no perfect way to end a friendship. Some just fizzle out and some end badly. I had a biased, bigoted friend who I finally told, “Please never speak to me ever again! You are the most damned judgmental person I’ve ever known!” We did’t speak for years, but finally made amends a couple of years ago. I still keep her at arms length, however. All relationships end at some point when someone dies.

  • Almost all your posts cause me to take a look at myself and circumstance and often bring answers and changes going forward. If I haven’t said so before, I want to thank you for the invaluable contributions you have made to my life.

    Several years back I came to understand there are two types of friends—those who will be forever and those that come into your life for a while (for some reason(s) known or knowable) and then they are gone. My forever friends really have nothing to do with your current post. The newest of those friendships is 14 years old and the others have lasted 24, 34, 49 and 52 years (so far). Each of those friendships has been tested by disagreements and revolutionary changes in life circumstances. These friendships will end only in death and perhaps not even then because each of us accepts and loves the other for EXACTLY who they are and who they are NOT, presently and with any additional changes that may come in the future.

    But we all know rare is the permanent friend. I now distinguish lifetime friends from those souls who come into my life for a reason or a season and therefore for a defined period of time. They have come to assist me through a difficult period, in answer to my prayers, bringing guidance and support or alternatively they arrive for a brief season, a time given to sharing and growing with this particular person who in turn is getting value out of being with me. By their very definition these friendships will come to an end.

    When I failed to recognize the temporal nature of some friendships, their ending was very difficult for me. Those friends who had arrived as a godsend, to help me cross a bridge to a better place, were almost always the one to end or facilitate the end of the friendship, often expectantly communicated most directly. I was often deeply hurt at the time, but looking back I am amazed to see how quickly I moved on once I pieced together what the friendship had really been about.

    As for those friends who came in for a brief period of time to share and grow with me, make me laugh, bring me greater purpose or show me a greater inner peace, these friendships almost always ended mutually, over a period of time with little need by either of us to directly discuss its ending.

    Having now made the distinction, ending seems often just to be a matter of letting go, passively letting it drift apart without regret. However, if circumstances and perceptions dictate otherwise, then I would do my best to communicate honestly that it made perfect sense to let go and move on as the purpose of the friendship had been fulfilled, thanks in large part to who they are and what they contributed. I am not saying that this is doable without some pain, but I know from experience that the pain also will be short in duration.

  • I like what Shivani said about due diligence in choosing friends as I watch my teenage daughter move in and out of relationships with boys. She meets, “falls in love,” and quickly then discovers they are not as compatible as she “knew.” And then she agonizes over the breakup that she knows is coming at her initiative. She’s learned she loses potentially good friends because of this pattern. Hopefully she will successfully break the pattern.

    Past friends and I have usually just drifted apart because shared interests changed. There was one friendship, however, that was significant to me but that was ended abruptly by the other party with no explanation. That one has haunted me, and I feel a word of explanation, no matter how unsatisfactory, would allow me to release the feelings of betrayal. Obviously, I control my attachment to these negative feelings, however, and not the other party.

    Great post and comments!

  • This is one of the better posts and good letters with lots of thoughts. I find the subject sad though and difficult to deal with.

  • I think the biggest struggle is when we are the ones being left, we beat ourselves up wondering what we did wrong, etc, why the friendship is ending instead of accepting it gracefully and letting the next door open. I think its like a door slamming in our face; we don’t like it, and if there was an issue—so much better for the other person to address it first, than just walk away, so at least you’d know. Its a good lesson for us when we do the walking to tell the other person, and not just start passive rejection. Verbalizing is quite often difficult, but writing a note is often much easier. Do unto others. 😉

  • What exactly are we hoping to achieve by actively ending a relationship, rather than allowing it to fade passively? I think it is to have the person stop calling, emailing, expecting to get together, etc. If so, I think the best way is to begin by assuming that the person only wants to be friends with a person who will be in the relationship genuinely. If the person bores me, offends me, or whatever, makes me wish we weren’t friends, then obviously it is impossible for me to be genuine in the relationship. I will be routinely hiding my boredom, dislike, etc. That person deserves better, even though I don’t want to be the one to give her more.

    So I would explain it this way to that person: “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my life lately and have decided I need to focus my time and energy differently. I’m afraid that’s going to make it impossible for me to be a good friend to you. I just felt that I needed to tell you, so that you won’t be left wondering why I don’t return your calls or want to get together anymore. I really wish you well. I hope you have a great [summer, fall, vacation—whatever is coming up].”

    None of this is a lie. What is also true, but would be hurtful to say, is that I have decided I need to focus my time and energy differently in the sense of “not on YOU.” So that part can be left unsaid.

    Hopefully, the person will accept this, will hear and understand the announcement that I will not be initiating contact or responding to overtures, and will move on to other relationships. For the truly persistent, who insist on knowing the specifics, you have to hang tough and refuse to explain further. “I’m just not comfortable sharing that” may have to be repeated many times.

  • I find this topic interesting, because I have always been the Glenn. Always on the fringes, always seeking approval and acceptance and never getting it. In fact, I recall the one and only friend I had in school dumped me because I was boring, just like Glenn. She went on to hang out with the interesting cheerleaders. I have the same problem with dating, so gender doesn’t seem to maater.

    From the perspective of the dumpee, I do appreciate honesty, but a lot of times, people will be brutally honest and pushy as well, expecting me to accept without question that their opinion of my general worthlessness as to their needs is general Truth.

    The only thing that keeps me from completely hating humanity is helping others out and seeing that there are a few people out there like me who apparently got the short end of the personality stick. My volunteer work has honestly kept me alive.

    Also, in Nichiren Buddhism, I see the potential in creating value in me, which I thought was impossible after being scorned and devalued all these years.

  • To Pam…your post really stirred something in me. I believe that friendship is a gift. People are put on our paths to help us resolve our junk. They come and join us in our journey, some for the entirety of our lives, others for a short time. My great uncle, the patriarch of our family clan, just passed at age 93. The continuous story of his life is that he was friends with everyone…he never knew a stranger. The idea of “ending” a friendship says more about the “ender” and that person’s ego than it does about you.

    Just because a person isn’t open to the value others bring, doesn’t mean it isn’t there, as they can only see the world as they are. I love that you are creating value in yourself, those with hearts open will “see” it and be touched by its beauty.

  • I have kept with me a copy of this short poem for the past 40 years. I don’t have an author, but I like the sentiment:

    People come into our lives and walk with us a mile,
    and then because of circumstances they only stay a while.
    They serve a need within the days that move so quickly by, and then are gone beyond our reach, we often wonder why.
    God only knows the reason that we meet and share a smile,
    why people come into our lives and walk with us a mile.

    I had a very close friend turn her back on me in high school and it broke my heart to lose her. I understood why the friendship ended—I had behaved badly, and she was unforgiving. There was no need for direct communication or passive rejection. A door slammed shut, loud and clear, and I heard and felt it. It was devastating.

    Several years later I walked away from a friend who was unable to participate fully or equally in our friendship, and after several years of feeling somewhat abused, I chose to passively reject this friend. She refused to let me go quietly, and confronted me directly: Why can’t we be friends? I had to answer her, and I did so honestly. I know my words and actions were hurtful, and I wouldn’t want to do this to another soul.

    I am now grappling with a friendship that has been a part of my life for over twenty years. It has become clear that the friendship is lopsided, and probably unhealthy for me. I don’t want to slam the door or passively reject this friend. I prefer to allow some grass to grow between our paths and see where we end up. I believe people can change, and perhaps my friend will feel a sense of loss when I fade a bit into the distance, thus allowing for a more balanced and thus more healthy relationship. At the very least, some distance will give me time to reflect, to stretch myself in other directions, and to find a healthier and thus a happier self.

  • I just read the “Good Guy Contract” post and realized that it was related to what I had felt all these years. I’ve allowed people to dump on me because I never thought I was worth anything. Certainly growing up in a crowd that told me that didn’t help. Like a lot of people here, I also had parents who constantly fought and drank and I tried to hold the family together.

    I am happy that I found Nichiren Buddhism. First time that I’ve had anything to look forward to, really.

  • Thanks so much for your thought-provoking post. 🙂 I liked what you said: “Though my goal as a Buddhist has always been to develop myself into someone who has compassion for everyone—that is, someone who cares about everyone’s happiness—my goal has never been to have a personal relationship with everyone for whom I feel compassion.” Well, I also wrote about things like this—what I posted was “I feel compassion for certain people, but I don’t feel comfortable around them and don’t want to have personal relationships with them.” Thank you for letting me know (by the above words) that what I thought is not weird, as you also think the same. 🙂

    Let me share, I ended a friendship once in my life when I was in high school. As a very young age of 14, what I could figure out that time was I told that friend “directly.” However, I told her in a “gentle” and “respectful” manner. And luckily, the friend was open-mined enough to accept my decision. That time after I said that to her, we were still friends, though, just not that close and went out together as we did before ending the (close) relationship.

    If my memory is right, I said to her something like, “You’re a good friend, but I found out that we both have different lifestyles. I don’t want to go out with you like that anymore. (As I was a super shy, conservative person who loved to be at home while she was very outgoing and SUPER sociable that she loved to go out and be surrounded by lots of male friends every time we went out together). It’s better that we end our “close” friendship. But we’re still friends.”

    I remember that everyone in my class was really surprised when they noticed that we didn’t go out together anymore. They thought we had quarrels as they’d never seen that kind of relationship ending among friends before. 🙂 So lucky that we both have been still good friends until now without any bad feeling towards each other.

    Just would like to share. 🙂

  • Just noticed that your site uses WordPress’s service. 🙂

  • I think honesty is the best way to go. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end. And while neither is pleasant, I could sleep well knowing that I did right by the person I no longer wanted to be friends with. Unfortunately, another friend did not show me that same consideration. And that has been so brutally painful. Never fail to just have that honest conversation; you do the person a legitimate favor by not keeping them in the dark, not making them wonder what is wrong with them, why you don’t love them. I would have preferred honesty from my former friend, rather than the passive rejection, which took me awhile to “get,” and made me feel like a chore, a burden, an obligation. It was disrespectful of the relationship we had previously had.

  • I think being honest and restrained would be most optimal. Passive rejection has a lot of drawbacks—taking time, lying, guilt and deception involved.

    Ill just point out that it is what it is and that I think its inappropriate to continue. If asked how it is inappropriate—I’ll ask if she wants the short or long version.

    It seems to me like a good idea to downplay the whole drama about something ending and me being the one doing the ending of it.

    As I see it I am not banning someone from my life, discarding or denying them company. I am simply informing this person about my views and the intentions going forward. This should make it obvious that her going forward and me going forward won’t be in the same direction in this particular case. I want to leave an opening for her, out of compassion, so I will say that I will be there if she needs me but I don’t want to compromise as much as I have been.

  • My 2 cents on ending a friendship is that there is no such thing as a “right way.”

    No one owes anyone anything.

    When we become friends with someone, our energies and interests mingle together for a time. We may share resources, plans, dreams, experiences, but then one day, one person no longer wants to share.

    Everyone is so concerned with everyone else’s emotional well-being. While it’s good to be sensitive of the needs of others, we also have no moral obligation to be the emotional caretakers of all humanity.

    What is morally questionable is not wanting to end a friendship or how you end it (barring outright cruelty or violence).

    Rather, what is morally questionable and also sneaky, immature, and weak is needing to have the other person still like you or have others approve of your reasons for ending a relationship.

    I agonized over a friend of 20 years who slowly ignored me. I lost a job. He had a family and a well-paying job. He is super-conservative. I, liberal. He saw me as a threat. After all, how can he, the corporate VP, spend time with a lowly English tutor?

    My financial situation is 1000x better now. I got married. Bought a house. Had a kid (my wife actually gave birth… I just yelled and cried a lot). Also started a company that really took off. All this took place over 5 years.

    I saw the guy’s wife about 2 months ago. She hugged me really hard and called me by my childhood nickname. I could sense she felt bad that her husband had ended our friendship.

    She didn’t owe me that. No one owes anyone anything. If your aim is to be the kind of adult who moves through life gracefully, then accept that no one owes you anything: their time, attention, affection, money.

    Sometimes people change and there is no reason why. A wise man once told me “knowing why is the booby prize.” In the realm of friendships, we think that if we truly know why someone backs out of a relationship, we will feel better.

    Not so.

    We’ll feel way worse because the real truth will be so direct and honest that most folks in our soft, hypersensitive, mommy-coddling American society would not be able to handle it.

    We just need to embrace the simple truth that life changes, people change, no one owes us anything, nor do they have to care-take our emotions. Adult emotional caretaking if this nature is not borne from kindness…

    … it’s borne from guilt, from the pressure of looking good on social media in front of others, and from our own fear of being alone.

    It’s better to accept the fact that no one owes anyone anything in an emotional sense than it is to wonder about the right way to end a friendship or how to proceed when you get dumped.

    We are born, we live a little while, and we die.

    In between, as long as we don’t smoke crack while robbing elementary schools of cafeteria food or kidnap nuns or engage in heavy arms trafficking, we are basically morally good people who are all seeking answers to the same questions.

    We let ourselves off the hook and stop obsessing over minor moral issues when we accept that… say it with me now….

    nobody owes anyone anything….