I have my students share examples from their own experience. Some say they lost a friend because of moving apart. Others say they lost a friend because their lives were headed in different directions. Some has said they lost friends when they got married. The list goes on and on.
The saddest part of the reality of transitional friendships is rather than both parties working to make transitions as realities shift, one or both decide it just isn't worth it.
During my time at John Brown University, I invested my time, energy and a significant part of my life into developing and mentoring students who became my friends.
One I sat with for countless hours at odd times as he bounced his thoughts and ideas about everyday life off of me and I him.
One I spent hours directing and training to help her become the actress she was destined to be.
One I coached rigorously, turning her from a timid spokesperson to a formidable debater.
One I worked side-by-side, the two of us accomplishing together more than we could separately.
One I encouraged to be the opinionated, strong woman she was becoming even though it was not encouraged in the school culture.
One I always defended, even though her many "sins" would make her a pariah if people had known her truth.
While in relationship with each of these men and women, as we developed deeper friendships, I would have never imagined each would become a transitory friendship.
What changed? I admitted I had been living a lie as a closeted gay man, divorced and decided to live a different truth.
As a result, the first barred me from attending his wedding, and cut off ties with me because I divorced my wife.
As a result, the second cut off communication, even as she now has openly gay friends.
As a result, the third refused to even hear my side of the story and ended our friendship.
As a result, the fourth severed ties because I was a much "different" person.
As a result, the fifth opted to not be assertive and simply "unfriended" me on Facebook.
As a result, the sixth, after moving to the same city as I in California and I asking her to get dinner responded, "We were friends then, but this is now. Let's just leave it at that."
These were all loving, intelligent, caring people who were my friends.
These were all loving, intelligent, caring people I still want to be friends.
These are all loving, intelligent, caring people who have used their faith to justify marginalizing me, our friendships and rationalize their own bigotry.
This will ultimately be where evangelicalism in America will have a "black eye" in history. Each of these former friends have used Christianity to defend ending a friendship simply because they disagree with my choices.
The irony is that I loved the first in spite of his nagging porn problem.
The irony is that I loved the second in spite of her not quite being the virginal epitome of womanhood to which she showed her public.
The irony is that I loved the third in spite of her being a flat out bitch to her peers.
The irony is that I loved the fourth in spite of his less than conventional sexual tastes.
The irony is that I loved the fifth in spite of her abusive past.
The irony is that I loved the sixth to the point of shielding her from repercussions she probably well deserved.
I have not been a perfect friend, but those in this post have motivated me to be more loving, flexible, understanding and willing to adapt to changes in friends' lives when they happen.
I miss these friends...I still love these friends...and if they ever seek me out, I will start our friendship anew.
Until then, it stings. Something will happen to remind me of the relationships I had and my heart aches.
I tell my students the reality of transitional friendships makes it difficult to form new friendships the older one gets. To be honest, those mentioned in this post have made me cautious about investing in new friendships.
However, I still make an effort, for I know not when a new friend will become a lifelong pal, or will be important for a time then vanish.
For my lifelong pals out there: thank you for making life's transitions with me. It helps take the sting away from those that cast me aside.
To my readers: your friendship is important to your friends. Love them, grow with them, and adapt with them...even when you disagree.