Selfish Loyalty

by Dan Walsh

The personal value of retaining friends we’ve outgrown.

People outgrow each other. It is the natural flow of life. We disappear into a relationship or they move to another state. Maybe they still want to party but you just want to relax at home. Some find religion and others find hedonism. Time marches on. None of us are fixed. Nor would we want to be.

Everybody changes. Often times those changes pull people apart. This divide creates frustration and resentment. I have seen it in others. I have felt it in myself. Does “I try so hard and they don’t care anymore!” sound familiar? What about “you never hang out with us anymore”?  The easiest way to remove this frustration is to remove the source: cut off the former-friend. But this is a mistake.

Removing old friends is misguided because they are the ties connecting us to our past. Old friends, by definition, are a product of our prior decisions. We are who we are today because of the choices made by our younger selves – choices which include the friendships we’ve forged along the way. These friends have born witness or directly been involved in the escapades of our past. Cutting off these friends to relieve tension robs us of our ability to relive our former selves. We sacrifice the hard fought years spent getting to this present moment, and as a result we become barred from vast swaths of our life.

In sacrificing friends we lose part of ourselves. Telling tales of former exploits to newcomers is a hollow affair. They can’t share in the memory. They can’t relive it with you as an old friend can. They can’t help us reclaim – if only for a moment – the glories of our youth. Much better to relive past antics with those who were there.

Some friends are toxic, but these are not usually those we have simply outgrown. Toxic friends are damaging and should be expelled, but old friends – outgrown friends – at worst are frustrating. I see far too much whittling down of old friends as the eagerness to grow and “move on” takes hold. It is folly to let go of ones past in this way. With age, this behaviour will lead to sorrow and loneliness. Even among the best of new friends. I am guilty of this. I know how it stings.

Don’t eagerly give up old friends because you’ve outgrown them. They are the connections to our past. In them, our former selves are allowed to live. No number of new friends can ever reclaim this. When it is gone, it is gone forever.