Friendly Reminder: Stop Firing Your Friends

Stop Firing Your Friends

By Andy Stanton-Henry

I recently read an article in The Atlantic about a trend that has taken hold within interpersonal relationships. When a friend lets us down, displays a disappointing character trait, or holds an opinion that is opposed to ours, we “fire” them. Maybe we simply ghost them or maybe we send them a series of long texts about their friendship fails. In either case, we tell them in one way or another that their services as friends will no longer be needed. They’re fired.

Of course, there are times when we do need to “fire our friends” just like there are times for leaving a job, ending a romantic relationship, or disconnecting from a family member. Long-suffering loyalty can drain our energy and can even become dangerous. There is no virtue in letting a toxic person or organization destroy us. Parting ways can turn out to be healthy and life-giving for both parties. And sometimes a friendship simply runs its course.

But there seems to be more going on than simply ending toxic relationships or letting go of childhood friends.

Some of the sharp folks in the article note that firing our friends may not be the best course of action for most of us. “You might feel relieved, in the moment, to cut out a person who’s upset you, in the same way that any final decision provides a sweet release from dissonance,” Olga Khazan writes. “But people are messier than that, and relationships blurrier.” ⁠

Some psychologist suggest that “there is a kinder, more realistic way to maneuver through a friendship that’s lacking in some area.” How?

Make more friends.

Don’t end all the old friendships. Add some new ones.

Not exactly novel advice. But perhaps timely advice.

No single friend can be everything you need. Friends are, well, human beings, with strengths and weaknesses, gifts and needs, and they go through highs and lows. While it’s fine to have hopes and expectations for a friendship, it’s important to be careful of making unrealistic demands of people in our lives.

What struck me most about the article is that we could capitalize the “f” in friends and the advice would be startlingly prophetic.

We have been doing a lot of “firing” of Friends over the last decade. Indeed, over our whole history. We become disappointed with the failure of Friends to live up to our heritage or hopes. A theological disagreement surfaces. And a predictable process ensues. We speak in terms of polity and theology but it often has just as much to do with grief and fear.

So we break up. We fire our Friends. And we make new ones (or just get increasingly isolated).

There is such a thing as a “necessary ending” and they aren’t always bad. But when I look at the fruit of these breakups, I’m not seeing any great harvest of the fruit of the Spirit.

Maybe we should try something different.

Maybe we should stop firing our Friends.

Maybe we should make more Friends, not fewer.

One principle of healthy spirituality is the capacity to “include and transcend.” We may move past a theological belief or mode of religion, but mature faith means we can appreciate good things from our past while embracing the new. We can leave things behind without nurturing an everlasting identity of ex-this and post-that.

Even if certain friendships/Friendships don’t fit us now, can we still remain connected?Can we still live at peace with them? Can we still appreciate parts of them? Can we “include and transcend” a wider breath of Friendships?

It’s worth pondering. Because those old friends may actually be preserving an old truth that we have forgotten; we may need them more than we realize. Or maybe we have something they need. There may be divine wisdom in our friendship.

In an age of profound division and endless distraction, nurturing a friendship is a revolutionary and redemptive commitment. And in a time of great decline, renewing those Friendships may be essential to building a future for Friends.