Friendships are relationships, there’s no doubt about it. Over time we will experience some lasting and many forgotten.  They follow the cycles of life. Looking back, I am still amazed at the ones that remain, and how few survive time’s tests. I have a deep appreciation for friendship, because for me, they represent the family I don’t experience.  So I’ll admit, I take them seriously. As such, I also have high expectations of them.  Do high expectations of friends set them up for failure? Should we expect nothing from them and just allow them to be?

On a cold Christmas night last year, a good friend, whom I had not seen in several weeks, said he wanted to stop by. I sent him a text around 7pm alerting him that I was home and he could stop by anytime. He never answered my texts (I eventually sent two) and never showed up. In the last week of February, I received a text from him as the first correspondence I had since Christmas. The text stated that he wanted to hang out. It made me question, at what point do we turn our backs on friendship and when do we welcome the prodigal friend back with open arms.

If I have no expectations of a friend, it means that I have no concerns about the experience of the investment of time we’ve spent together. In a way that undervalues the time and energy I’ve committed. On the other side of the coin, to have high expectations of them to the point where there is no “wiggle room” means that I may not be able to accept their imperfections, and as we all know ALL of us are imperfect, especially me.  So I’m left with a middle path to trod, where there are indeed shades of grey and a friend “earns” the right to mess up.

History of the friendship and what’s been communicated must be carefully considered.  Does the current behavior reflect a pattern or is it a onetime thing? And if it is a pattern, is there some amazing redeeming quality of the relationship that makes it worthwhile and keeps me in it? Patterns are fairly easy to spot. They don’t return texts, and stop showing up at appointed times. As this continues to happen, a trend can be clearly visible. Then I must consider have I had a conversation to express how I am feeling. If I haven’t stated my position on their actions, isn’t that a sign of approval? And why should I expect them to read my mind? So in a very real way I am ultimately responsible for how a friend treats me. Further, has my friend also exercised “grace” toward me regarding my own transgressions? Lord knows, I am NOT perfect.

With all these thoughts circulating in my mind, I determined to meet with him again (ok I am a softie).  Over three years he had certainly “earned” the right for a mess up. Also, I had never really communicated how I’d felt about his actions, chalking them up to his youth. So this time, I decided I would tell him how I felt and experience his reaction. However, before we got together, he phoned and owned up to his behavior and apologized before I could say a word. Remorse is a good sign to get back on track. Who am I to deny anyone the chance to make amends? So I agreed to meet, and it was like no time had passed, which is often the measure of good friendships.

Like the father in the tale of the Prodigal Son, I welcomed him back with open arms and heart. The conversation was terrific and the lost Christmas night was soon forgotten. Or was it? As the evening wore down, I wondered if this would be our last gathering for many weeks. For the good friends who were once inseparable, our relationship had come to the point of barely seeing one another. There was a bittersweet symphony playing in my head. Was this just a false hope that we’d reconnected and all would be back to status quo?

In friendship, like life, there is a gamble. You don’t always know the outcome but you know the odds. I place the odds of a return to a close friendship at 50/50; mostly because it’s REALLY hard to change ways of being.  I’ve heard time and again that those expecting different results while the same things are happening are insane.  It’s too early to see any different patterns, and I’m not insane, so I am not expecting anything different.

I’m not sure if the father of the Prodigal Son had doubts about his son’s transformation. Once the celebration of his return ended, did he ponder if he’d be taking off with the family loot in the morning? I’ve welcomed back the Prodigal Friend, with a hopeful heart and a watchful eye. I’m pleased we got together and enjoyed a laugh. From here, we can either move forward or move on, with a clear heart and conscience. And time will tell if our reunion was real or just another Tale.