The power of discernment in friendship

April 5, 2023


The subject of discernment AND friendship keeps coming up for me and today, I realized that the two words are related.

I’ve always prided myself on having a wide variety of friends and a tolerance for “different.” I’ve always enjoyed “not normal” and have been quick to forgive what others might consider minor slights, but I see as personality quirks.

You might say that I have a “family meal” orientation to my friendships: one from Column A and one from Column B, etc. Not very homogenous.  And I like that, because I’m never bored.

As they say, variety is the spice of life.

It’s a bit ironic that in talking with someone close to me, they said (apropos of something else), “Well, I’ve seen you normal it up when…” Which is to say I’m not exactly normal, myself. So no wonder I like different.

And yet, when I look at friendships that have gone by the wayside  in very strange ways, I see that maybe I failed to exercise my powers of discernment. I am tolerant, but some friendships exceed even my level of acceptance. And once in a while, the friendship crashes and burns.

Then, I see that maybe I ignored little signals (and not so little ones) that might have predicted the friendship would not go the distance. And that it would end in a bizarre fashion.

Much the way romantic relationships work, situations along the way provide clues as to whether a friendship will work or not. But we have to be awake to them.

Have you been in a friendship in which you disregarded certain signs? What did you do and what did you wish you’d done?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


8 comments on “The power of discernment in friendship
  1. Friendships are challenging from a young age. As a preschool teacher, I helped my littles with big feelings from friendships on the rocks. As an elementary school teacher, I helped my mediums with big feelings from friendship issues. As a middle school teacher, I helped those tween/teens deal with equally big feelings about issues -mostly to do with so much friendship things. As a mom, I’ve guided my own children through great friends, frenemies, and “discerning” both short and long term friendships. As a woman, I have cried, prayed, longed for, and benefitted from the good and bad that encompasses friendships. There is no easy answer. I think what I have found is that we need to guard our hearts, but keep the same heart open to friendship opportunities. We need to learn how to cut our losses when things go south, and know that through life, new friends will crop up when we least expect them -thank goodness! I always told all my students and kids that the most important thing was to keep their friendship radar up and active. Wow, that was a long response, but this has been such a thing on my heart for some reason today!

    • Melanie, your students & children are so lucky to have your wisdom. Yes, I’ve ruminated about this, myself, as you can tell and you’re right, there is no easy answer. I think it’s fine to let people go with a blessing if they are not a fit for what’s going on in your life at any point, but for me it’s hard to loosen those threads. I’m learning, though. I’m learning.

    • Diane says:

      I’ve always been a ‘heart open’ sort of person. Friends have slipped in and out as life happened. When we moved to the ‘big city’ for the first time, I discovered that my uncomplicated ‘ranch life’ relationships were a thing of the past. One woman in particular befriended me firmly. Then, as time went on, got more and more cutting in her comments. I remember crying and asking Husby if friendship was supposed to hurt. I had seen the signs. But it wasn’t until they became billboards that I realized what was happening.
      A painful lesson.

      • Knowing your heart as I do, it’s astonishing for me to hear that any friend would hurt you like that. I am sorry, Diane. I get the billboard analogy. for sure.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    I believe that we outgrow friendships, in much the way of romances. We’re not the same person we are in our teens, young adults, older, etc. Maybe the test of a good friendship is that you both stay alike in the big ways. Otherwise, I’ve sadly let friendships go. Like Diane T, I’ve learned to take in the hurtful remarks (many times said in jest) and finally back away.

    • Yes, I agree … that can happen. Isn’t it strange how I never imagined that people would make hurtful remarks to the kind souls I know you both to be? Obviously that says more about their own situations than you. Since I don’t know you to be anything but kind hearted.

  3. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but I’ve been burned in a few friendships.

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