Why Are Some Friends So Unfriendly?

Fionnuala has been visited this week by an American friend who she has not seen in over 30 years. They have kept in touch, most recently on Facebook, but this is the first time they have actually physically met since then. And you know what? It was as if it was yesterday. They started chatting right off and there were no awkward silences or stilted conversations whatsoever. This got me thinking about the subject of friendship.

To me, this was a sign of true friendship, a bond that distance nor time can diminish. Fionnuala and Elaine have always been friends and will always be friends. They are there for each other, no matter what. A friend of mine died suddenly last week. I had not seen him in a number of years as he had been working in Canada. I have recently been informed that he stipulated in his will that he did not want flowers at his funeral; instead people have been asked to make donations to SHINE, the charity for spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

Our daughter, Hannah, has both of the above and some years ago my friend, John, took part in a charity cycle round the circumference of Northern Ireland to raise funds for the charity. He still remembered us despite his high powered, globe trotting career. I was truly humbled when I became aware that he had asked for this in his will. Again, it was a true act of friendship despite not having seen him in years.

Elaine and John didn’t forget their friends despite the passage of time. We remained a constant fixture in their hearts and minds even when we were thousands of miles apart. They cared and made that effort to maintain the relationship. And we made the effort as well because friendship is a two way process. There is give and take on either side. Both parties have to work at the relationship in order to make it succeed.

If only all friendships could be like that. I know people who would never stay in touch with me unless I made the effort to do so with them. There are people I talk to every week. I tell them about my life; my family, my running, my writing. They nod and they smile in all the right places but you can tell they have no interest. I know people who only contact me when they want something. People who don’t return calls or reply to messages. If you asked them they would state we were friends. But I know in my heart that they’re not.

Why are people like that? Are they oblivious to the pain they cause with their slights and silences? Are they that emotionally switched off that these not so subtle snubs fail to register with them? Or are their hearts so hard that they simply don’t care? It saddens, frustrates and angers me. I see it happening to my kids as well which is even harder to stomach. I see it in the office, the church, everywhere. People no longer seem to be willing to go that extra mile for others.

What is the answer? Do we persevere with these friendships in the hope that the situation will improve? Do we love them even harder in an effort to thaw them out? To lead by example and show them what true friendship is? Are we willing to endure these false relationships because we are afraid of losing the little connection that we have with these people? Our need for company leads us to sacrifice our integrity and ethics at the altar of ‘popularity’.

Or do we cut the cord and walk away? Accept that they are unwilling or unable to take the friendship beyond it’s current status? Would they even notice if we stopped phoning or messaging them? It’s a tough one and I’m not sure I have the answer. But it worries me. Society is becoming more superficial by the day. People crave friends and likes and followers on social media. Is that what we have become?

Do you have ‘unfriendly’ friends? How do you deal with them?

57 thoughts on “Why Are Some Friends So Unfriendly?

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  1. I would agree with you and challenge whether these really are friends. I would not consider them friends in my life. And then again there are those points in life when I’d be grateful for any superficial friends I had(as opposed to none). Difficult topic. Thanks for sharing. Great post.

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  2. I see this, too. And I have probably been part of the problem. It takes more intentionality to maintain friendships because people are busier, more distracted, and generally more overwhelmed than ever. The number of people I count as acquaintances has grown exponentially over the years, while the number of friends has dwindled. It’s ironic that in this age of connectedness (via technology), we’re more isolated and lonely. Thanks for broaching the subject.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is something i really struggle with. My real friends all live longer distances away whereas others that I thought were friends live close by. It really hurts that they don’t reach out to me and that I have to do that. I’m constantly turning to God asking forgiveness for resentment, bitterness etc.
    Thanks for bringing this up Stephen.
    Tracey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Me too. I have one friend from high school (1965) who stays in touch. I have one friend from early sobriety (1981) who stays in touch. I have my partner since 1992. That’s it. Everybody else in my life is a friendly acquaintance. I feel blessed but also wonder what is wrong with me.

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  5. I have a lot of “old friends,” with whom I’ve sort of kept in touch via occasional Facebook posts. I often wonder if social media has given people an artificial sense of connection, even though it is shallow and unfulfilling (at least to me). I have tried to reach out to some of these old friends, which might result in one good, long phone conversation, or a coffee get-together. But then…nothing. They remain a tiny part of my life, but not IN my life. No one makes an effort to plan future get-togethers. I see Facebook photos of their barbecue parties and outings, but I am not included. Even during times when I have disappeared from Facebook for a period of time, no one made an effort to reach out and see how I was doing. I may be guilty of the same. Facebook is a terrible medium for maintaining real relationships. We are all just tiny parts of everyone else’s large collection, and not well cherished, and too easily replaced.

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  6. Thank you so much for this post! i have been thinking about friendship a lot. I continually think about how to cultivate meaningful friendships because they are so important. So, this has got me thinking a lot. Thanks for your posts, FracturedFaith!

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  7. I believe the issue is that we are too quick to apply the term “friend” towards anyone with whom we feel a connection. Every connection is not a friendship, and by giving it to any and every association, we both demean and dilute the essence of what it is to truly be a “friend.”

    It’s taken me years to realize that most of the people I’d characterized as “my friends” were actually acquaintances – people with whom I’ve had great memories and fun, but people who served a very specific purpose in my life at a very specific time. From a religious perspective, I’ve always considered them to having been sent to me for a reason, and once that was realized, they were off to play a role in someone else’s life. With that in mind, I am thankful for the time we’ve shared and the experiences gained. Yes, there are a few whom I miss terribly, but life goes on. As I’ve said in the past, true friendship is finite – we can only be true to so many friends, and when one leaves us, it is to make room for a new one.

    At least this is my take on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Excellent and thought provoking read. It is exactly what I am troubled with today. Thanks for bringing it up. There are some that actually run through life clueless of their formal and informal behaviors. They don’t respond or don’t close out a text #amirite !drives me nuts! When you talk on the phone you say good bye. That’s just rude, we all have unlimited text and email is free, no excuse for that.

    I think the truth is they really don’t care. Their lives are more important than being kind and considerate to others. We have a generation of people who are so self centered that they don’t see that they are doing anything wrong. I was job searching and submitted hundreds of applications (seriously, crimany) I only heard back from 2 of them and only one actually sounded like they looked at my application. Very sad.

    I think there are people, one being myself, that have a hard time staying connected to friends. That doesn’t mean I don’t care or don’t love and appreciate them. I have always hated talking on the phone. I lost my best friend when she went away to college. We started writing each other letters. I started having trouble in my marriage and stop writing her. Before cell phone and computer, opps aged myself, Lol. To me talking on the phone or being a pen pal is difficult. I don’t know why. My mother was the same way; perhaps subconsciously it’s ingrained in my brain. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t care. My problem is that I care too much. I can be intense and it’s difficult to relay that correctly without offending via a letter or an email. It is difficult to put physical communication into text, as with sarcasm (which I love). I take the effort to try to relay my feelings. Most people don’t.

    I have friends (thanks to social media) that I reach out to and those that do the same to me. I don’t have a problem with them taking days to respond. For me, I want to respond with love and care and sometimes I don’t have the time to make it sincere, so I just don’t. I also don’t expect instant response. There are those that loose patience and end up drifting away. It is misunderstood. We all have busy lives. But, true friends are very rare and earnestly appreciated. Those precious friends as you speak of that after many years can just pickup where we left off are cherished. Then I have friends that I have had for many years and have come to realize that they really are not friends at all. Recently, I started un-friending those very people you speak of. Who cares about the number of friends you have. If I have one true friend I am blessed… and I do, but they are few and thats okay.

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    1. The “Golden Rule”. “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” and “This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NCV, see also Luke 6:31). Too many in this world have no faith in God.

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  9. I have three really good friends that I can call at any time of the day or night, no questions asked, and we have been friends since high school. Everyone else seems to come and go in my life, and that’s OK too. Recently, my daughter found out what a friend isn’t, so she’s no longer friends with her– no one needs a friend who spreads rumors. It’s still hard though.

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  10. I can honestly say I have possibly 2 people I can call real friends. Even though we do not talk every day. Friendship is such a fickle word these days. I don’t think many people have true friends these days. Social media and the likes have made real friendships obsolete, mainly due to the fact that if you want to know what your “friend” is up to you mainly just log onto to social media and check their feed out….. Back in the days before this, social interaction was made by making a phone call meeting up for a drink or lunch etc. I see this as genuinely making time for people. Text messages can be ignored by using the excuse “oh I didn’t see it” or “I thought I replied” flimsy at best!!!!

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    1. Very true Matt. I’m learning hard lessons about friendship and the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. People are very good at subtly letting you know (without saying it outright) that you are not that important to them.

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      1. Let them get on with it Stephen. Do not get me wrong i still wish i had a circle of friends i think it would be beneficial to my recovery, but its just the way things are for me. I trust very few but at the same i am scared to open myself up. Catch 22( good old catch 22)

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  11. Social media has created this artificial ideal of friendship. It seems likes, followers, comments are just what they need to maintain life. Genuine, organic friendship is the stuff you can see and touch and talk directly too, you know the body language included. Years prior I would close people off if they never return my calls or messages, now I’m here if you need me (but wise to know if someone is taking advantage of me, I’ll walk away). I’ve learn as God continues to work on me, changing me, means he’s place people to be in my life and removes those who are not helping his purpose for my life. I do believe in two way friendship, but people get too absorbed in their work and relationships, put friendship on the back burner. I don’t get bent out of shape if they never return, it happens. You and I can be friends, lol!

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  12. I’m learning to love from afar. If you have time to make a post on social media you have time to return a text. Or a phone call. We’re all busy. But if I do not hear from you unless you have a want, then you’re not my friend. I will pray for you and keep my distance. I make myself sick over these things. If I can take the time, the moment to reach out why can’t they? Especially when it’s obvious they’re doing it for others with no problem. Something to work on.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Even I have experienced such nice friendships which brings more meaning to the life.
    Some of them are as you said when they want something from us, they will contact us which is weird and communication becomes more formal!

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  14. I think I read that teens are the loneliest generation because all their interactions are online and it’s all a facade. I feel pretty lonely too. If it wasn’t for my husband and kids, I’d probably be a hermit. I have 2 friends but distance makes it hard. My one friend is 40 and is having a baby. Seems like our lives are so different. I’m raising teens. She’s dealing with babies. Life just seems so busy. And distance causes problems. I don’t know the answers either but I mostly hate social media. I like blogging as it’s more real but can’t stand the fakeness of most platforms.

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  15. Have you ever seen or read A River Runs Through It? The book was written by Norman Maclean and it remains one of my favorites to this day. The movie’s pretty good too because it has a lot of Montana in it and it’s a wonderful growing up story. This is my favorite quote, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.” The story pulls at all of my heartstrings because it echoes some of my family’s struggles with alcoholism and hard raising and for that reason, that quote brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. In the case of friendships, the quote still holds true – we can love them without completely understanding them. Sometimes love looks like setting boundaries, sometimes love looks like continuing to make that phone call, sometimes love looks like giving more than receiving, sometimes love looks like hot tea and cookies and movie nights in…friendship is such a dynamic thing and I often forget that. I think social media does us a disservice in that aspect – but I also think that we as a society are becoming more and more surface level in our conversations and relationships. We are forgetting what it is to be vulnerable. Those of us who recognize that we are forgetting are the ones who can remember and hopefully set the example for others to remain vulnerable, remain loving, and remain open. Anyway…that’s my 2 cents 🙂

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      1. It’s a very well-done movie, and I’m not just saying that because it has Brad Pitt in it. No, the family dynamics and the coping mechanisms and the relationships and the hard love – that’s what makes it one of my top 10 favorite movies.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Friendships ebb and flow and I believe that some people are meant to be in your life only temporarily. I understand what you are saying about people who don’t reach out. And I understand the pain of this when you have few others to fill the void of loneliness. But as far as I am concerned, it takes two people to make a friendship work over time. And if someone comes into my life only for a brief time I bless them and move on. I try to reflect upon what lesson they brought to me, what piece of knowledge I needed that they shared.
    Hold out and give your time and energy to those true friends, even if it is only one or two, who will always give you the time and the love that true friendship brings. Life is hard and it is so much easier to have someone to share it with, the ups and the downs.
    You have a wonderful blog here and I thank you for bringing up these issues that weigh on many. Having a platform to voice them, to respond and reflect upon them makes all the difference. No matter how we feel, we are never alone, as there are many others out there feeling the same. Namaste.

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  17. Between family and friends, I’m worn out. And I isolate myself because of anxiety. Family and friends know this but they will call, text, knock when theres issues to be solved. I jump right on it. Still, it always seems just a wee bit one sided except for those rare relationships. The usual excuse, “I know you don’t feel “well” sometimes, so i don’t want to bother you.” But that “curtesy” goes out the window when there is a need for something. So, I guess what I’m saying is I kind of know what you mean but it doesn’t bother me any more. :):):)

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  18. I am right in the middle of trying to figure this out myself too. Ultimately, the answer lies in how much longer you want to put up with their unfriendliness before they become friendly…if they ever get there, that is. Or, you can both use sometime apart and let things flow and see where it ends up. Yeah, not so clear cut, indeed. Makes the easy friendship that much more precious, doesn’t it? All the best to you. Would love to hear what you decide to do.

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  19. I just recently ended a friendship with someone who was very dear to my heart, who I’ve been friends with since middle school. She simply wasn’t reciprocating my efforts to keep the friendship going. I’d propose a day for us to hang out, and she would say she was busy, without counter-offering another day. This went on for months. I was tired of being rejected over and over again. Finally I asked if we could talk on the phone. She called me and I expressed to her my sadness that she didn’t seem to care about the friendship. All she could do is yell at me, call me selfish and say how dare I demand that she call me instead of texting. Red flags all around. So I finally gave it up. I wished she cared more, but at the end of the day, you can’t change people.

    There’s a quote I love- “I’m not keen on people who aren’t keen on me.” Nowadays I am only willing to put my efforts into people who will reciprocate that effort. I’m in a big process of overhauling my friend circle, but I believe this will make me happier in the long run.

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  20. At least for me, I feel we always want someone else to make a connection or to step up in planning details. I’ve learned, and I do still work on this, not to take things as personally as I do. I have friends who would love to get together, but it rarely happens, even if I try to come up with the plans. I have few friends who randomly reach out unless I do, but at the same point, I feel like our world kinda hinders us to pursue deep friendships. So many people are “friends” on a surface level. It’s ridiculous.

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  21. I have had a few friendships where I got the feeling I was the one doing most of the reaching out or that the person no longer seemed as interested in talking to me. I had one friend who I texted on three different occasions and everytime she told me she was too busy to respond. It could have been she really was that busy but she also seemingly no longer made the time or effort to talk to me. I haven’t texted her in months and frankly I’m considering deleting her from my FB friends list. Social media, too, deceives people into thinking they’re keeping up with other people’s lives when it’s all irrelevant with the virtual likes and reaction emojis.

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    1. Yes. I have had ‘friends’ like that as well and their lack of interest is very hurtful. Many people are too wrapped up in their own lives to see the damage their selfishness causes. WordPress is different. People care and will engage with you. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. I would rather break from them cleanly than awkwardly ask them why they no longer talk to me anymore. Whatever the reason, I’m not going to dwell on it anymore.

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