Gilland: Learning when to let go of friends

The role that this thing called “community” plays in all of our lives is hard to overstate. I’m not speaking of the geographical neighborhood or city in which we live, but the relationships that make up our daily lives.

Everyone needs to have such friendships, and those who lack them find themselves more often depressed and even dysfunctional in their employment.

I am convinced that while some of us overplay the role that some friendships have and the resulting drama that creates, many of us either undervalue or misunderstand the place that relationships with others should hold.

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I was privileged to attend the Elevate “Live2Lead and Change Your World” event in Gainesville this past Friday. Attendees heard both video messages and in-person teaching from great speakers like John Maxwell and Jason Stoughton, all aimed at helping us understand just how important the sense of community is for each of us

One of the takeaway phrases that I will carry with me beyond this weekend came from Gainesville’s own Jill Nash, who has been the organizer for these leadership events (like the Chick-Fil-A “Leadercast” conferences) for many years.

In addressing the expectations that we all bring to the table regarding our friendships and cordial working relationships, Jill cautioned us to realize that God brings people into our lives “for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime.” That simple phrase not only stood out, but it really does bring clarity to the many issues involving friendships.

The truth is, not all friendships are intended to be “lifetime,” in the sense of everyday, close working relationships. The rub happens when we try to make them to be just that, instead of enjoying them, valuing them, and entrusting these friendships to the Lord’s will for our daily lives.

Our relationships represent the community in which we live, and they include our family, our friends at church or at work, and those people we meet in random experiences. When a friendship is discovered, one that we immediately treasure, it is easy to have expectations that this particular friendship will endure.

This phrase helps me sort out and process friends that I had before I moved to Gainesville in 2002. I couldn’t take them with me when we moved, and the lack of daily interaction just naturally brought an end to our communication with each other.

Now, the same thing is happening after our return to Orlando two years ago. The breadth of my community widened due to our years in Gainesville. But not all relationships will have the same depth. And you know what? That’s OK. They were not ever intended to be that close in this next season.

The key is to avoid the inevitable stress that will occur if we try to make all friendships to be in the lifetime category. It is alright to enjoy them fully, for that season, and then leave them in a good way.

The apostle Paul had such relationships in his life. Some were passing, for a reason. Some were there for a season, maybe even for years. Some, like Timothy, were enduring, and the depths of those relationships will grow even deeper.

But even with those in the first two categories, Paul would always say things like “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…” (Philippians 1:3).

For a reason, for a season, or for lifetime. All three of these groups are important, and we can find a great deal of treasure in each one.

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