Dear Rachel,

I am in my late forties, and over the last few years I have lost a few very close friends who perceived me as impatient and short-tempered. On my part, I was exasperated that they were not listening to me. I’m very hurt by the fact that decades-old friendships can so easily be tossed aside, and I’m not even sure I want to do anything to heal these relationships. This is all very confusing. Have I just become crotchety in my old age?

A Friend in Need

Dear Friend,Have I become crotchety in my old age?

Choni Hame’agel, a Talmudic sage who had been in a deep sleep for 70 years and woke up to find no one recognized him, said, “Give me death.” The sages expanded on his statement: “Either a friend or death.”1

We need friends in life as much we need air to breathe and food to eat. (And I’m not talking about having 452 virtual friends on Facebook.) Everyone needs real, deep friends, as we see in Ethics of the Fathers: “[Yochanan ben Zakkai] said, ‘Go and see what is the right way that a man should seek for himself’ . . . Rabbi Yehoshua said, ‘A good friend.’”2

You obviously recognize the need for good friends in your life, or you would not have invested decades into maintaining these relationships. However, it is possible that you have outgrown these particular friends.

While it’s wonderful to have longstanding friendships with people who have accompanied us on our life’s journey, we change as we age and grow. Some friendships evolve with us and some do not. If you’re a person who values relationships, it might be difficult for you to let go of them easily, even if they no longer serve who you have become—or, for that matter, if the dynamic of the relationship has changed because the other person has changed as well.

I suggest that you re-evaluate your life and your friendships, and Focus on the friends who nurture youdecide which ones you want to continue nurturing and which you feel no longer serve your spiritual and emotional growth. Then you can graciously ease out of certain relationships, without anyone feeling hurt or resentful.

You can choose to focus on the friends who nurture you and support your goals, while making less of an effort to sustain other friendships. For example, certain friendships can transition from meeting to talking on the phone, from talking on the phone to e‑mailing, from e‑mailing to Facebook, etc. Reappraising your relationships will also help you feel grateful for those that are still strong.

While there are few things as valuable as old friends, we should feel that if we were to meet them today, we would still want to become friends with them. Friendship out of habit or obligation isn’t fair to either party.

Yours in friendship,