Christian Friendship – How to Keep Guilt and Neglect From Damaging Your Relationships

Cultivating and nurturing good Christian friendship is an important part of Catholic spiritual growth. But there are some influences in our lives that make it difficult for us to keep our friendships healthy. Neglect is one of the deadliest friendship-killing influences – and unfortunately one of the most common.

Hey – it happens, right? We get busy. Months go by and we don’t talk or write. Eventually we even stop emailing. But we comfort ourselves with the thought that when we finally get back together we’ll pick up with our friends right where we left off. And with some friendships, that can be true… for a while.

But the faithfulness at the foundation of a true friendship is built up by a myriad of small occasions for displaying affection and expressing commitment through tiny acts of service. These tiny acts happen through the gift of time.

The problem is that once the guilt hits about the distance that has come between us, we continue to keep our distance, refusing to face the guilt. We wait for the great occasion for making up for lost time. Sometimes that moment comes. Other times we just keep waiting. What a distanced relationship really needs is immediate and frequent doses of little moments. Start with a card or an email. Get together for lunch or a coffee. Don’t wait for an “event.” Just do it.

My wife and I are horrible offenders here. We recently moved, leaving a number of close friends behind. Immediately my wife started telling people, “We’re really bad at distance relationships, but we’ll try to keep in touch.” The debilitating guilt was already present before we were even guilty of neglecting our friends. So when life takes over and we actually do neglect our friends, the guilt is already active. So we start looking for opportunities for the big reunion. But all it would really take is an email.

Look, occasional neglect happens. Get rid of the guilt. Just fix it.

Now, if neglect of friends is a pattern for you, you may need to find the cause and deal with it. For example, people with a sanguine temperament are prone to neglect their friends in favor of being social butterflies. Of course, neglect can also happen due to pain or conflict or a number of other factors. The point is that whatever the cause of neglect of our friends, we need to take care of it.

Fortunately for us, the love of friendship is a skill that we can learn. We can learn relationship skills that help us to complement those who differ from us and to see the gifts in others.

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