I don’t believe in severing ties, as a general rule.
People drift apart. It isn’t possible to maintain daily in-touchness with every person we ever meet and like; we’d all be exhausted. People change over time. We don’t think the same things at age 30 that we did at 16, and therefore our high school relationships might not quite fit anymore.
Sometimes circumstances push us toward people we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for our friends. They’re the parents of our kids’ friends, they’re co-workers, they’re on the same board. We need to get along, but maybe we won’t ever share our deepest confidences with them.
Hurt can take the beauty out of even our closest friendships. Whether deliberate or the result of misunderstandings, it can feel better to just let people go.
I don’t believe in forcing relationships in any case. I’ll freely admit that there are things I haven’t faced — like abuse or neglect or betrayal — that could make a complete withdrawal the only option. When it’s possible, though, I think a door should be left open. Some bonds can be left dormant without being destroyed altogether.
People who’ve drifted apart may drift back together later. We may discover something to love in someone we thought we could only tolerate. We can surprise ourselves by forgiving something that we once thought we’d never get past. Perhaps we’ll even find out, years later, that there was never anything to forgive.
I have another reason, and it’s even more important than the principle of second chances for all. The idea of a “fabric” of society is so overused as to be cliche, but it’s true. Every action we take tugs on the threads connecting us all. We can’t always avoid stretching, but let’s try not to make too many holes. In other words:
No matter how distant we might be right now, I promise I’ll never consider any of our links broken forever. I’ll keep an open mind about new acquaintances. I will try to choose my words carefully in a disagreement, so that a difference of opinion won’t destroy a bond that’s been (or that could be) a blessing. I will not be so rigid in my beliefs about current affairs, politics, or religion that I forget that human events are always about our relationships. I’ll remember that God’s memory is longer than ours, and that He may have some purpose we don’t yet understand; when things don’t go my way I will try to be patient. I’ll continue to tell myself to look for the merit on the other side of a debate; I’ll look at motives and consider whether our goals aren’t the same even when our methods are so completely different. I’ll concentrate on the good in you, and in myself. I’ll try to look objectively at my hurt feelings, and consider whether it might have more to do with my own insecurities than with anything you’ve done.
I’ll screw it up many, many times, but I will try to have the guts to apologize.
I think we all owe that to each other, even to people we’ve never met.