No matter how solid your friendships are, they can dwindle over time if they are not attended to.
It’s not easy to keep up friendships when it’s difficult enough just making time for the family. However, friendships can grow stronger from a distance—in thought, in word, in actions, and even … by default.
We can find a moment for friends just by thinking about them because friends are always present in our life, even when we don’t see them in person. At certain crucial moments, when her friend Daphne had to go through chemotherapy, Marie showed her affection by making her intentions coincide with the situation of her friend: “I would think about her as I drank something when she was getting fed intravenously, I would dance for her when she wasn’t able to get out of bed …”
But, aren’t these moments lost if they remain just in our head? Marie didn’t just think about Daphne, she also let her know through messages, emails, Facetime, etc.
Alexis, as well, expresses her friendship with these convenient forms of communication as soon as she thinks about her friend Jenny. “When I walk by Jenny’s old house, I send her a photo with a comment. Sometimes it’s just ‘I was thinking about you today!’ Jenny, for her part, sends a message on the anniversary when Alexis’ baby died. “A show of friendship can make me feel better, even when I am full of sadness,” says the young woman.
Nevertheless, “warmth, devotion of the heart and piety are not enough,” according to philosopher Simone Weil. Friendship cannot do without listening and showing interest—if not on a regular basis, at least occasionally.
Zachary, sales director of a large company, moves to a different part of the world every three years. Like any person, it was very difficult for him to keep up his friendships from such great distances. He thought about them but never made contact. Then, he decided to nourish his friendships with a phone call at least once every three months. He made a list of his closest friends, those he knew he could count on. Then, he marked off a time in his date book to call them, for example, on his twice-weekly walk to the gym. To make it even more efficient, he identifies each of his friend’s special “language of love” — one female friend is more sensitive to gifts, another friend feels appreciated when he is praised, another values personal favors. “Since we see each other so little, it’s best to get straight to the point!” says Zachary.
How to overcome the loss of friendship
Roselyn, who doesn’t like communicating through the telephone or social media, has chosen other ways to show her affection. She “shows her availability” when a friend comes to her city. Willing to cancel other meetings, she makes a real effort to make her friend feel welcome: she picks her up at the station, prepares her favorite dish, or asks her husband to put the children to bed so they can spend time together. Also, once a year she reserves a “girls’ weekend” where the four ex-girl scout leaders can get together.
“In friendship, you show your commitment through actions,” explains André Guigot. To transmit their affection to others, Christians possess additional resources. Every summer Amanda invites two friends to a retreat. As for Anna, she always calls her friends to participate when one of her children receives a sacrament. Marie says that “she never plans anything”, but takes advantage of every opportunity to get together. She will go a thousand miles for the birthday party of an old friend she hasn’t seen for a long time, and regularly organizes outings with friends to keep the group united. She tries to be present for both the happy times and hard times: “If I can cross France to go to a wedding, why can’t I do the same for a funeral?” she reasons.
From far away we can, above all, pray for our friends: say a Rosary for something they especially need; send a message for a wedding anniversary; for their patron saint, and even ask for a Mass to be said. And let’s not forget our friends in Heaven, they never abandon us and we can always keep that connection. Every Thursday Daphne and her friends pray for the sick in their parish to get well, maintaining their friendship in this way through a virtual connection “as real as if they were actually there together.” John, for his part, has experienced the fruit of friendly prayer: he miraculously awoke from a coma the day after his most loved ones had organized a nightly vigil.
Friendships evolve over the years, surviving moves to other places, getting older, and troubles along the way. Sometimes, our paths diverge and you have to accept the pain of separation or, at least, accept that it isn’t perfect and it isn’t lineal. And forgive the silences. Who knows, it might actually help consolidate a friendship. Marie had never been as close to her friend Beth until after they had spent time apart: “I hadn’t seen her for ten years, and we just started up the conversation where we left off: we went straight to the most important things.” Sometimes, friendship doesn’t need to be kept up to date to stay strong.
Olivia de Fournas