Breaking Up with a Friend?

We live in an age when we can “friend” anyone in a nano-second.

Facebook, Linked-in, and a worldwide web of networks have accelerated our ability to make and break up with a “friend.” What has empowered us to connect with others may simultaneously tempt us to do less thinking about what really matters.

Who is a real friend? Is a real friend always good for you?


I’ve been mulling over this after I recently read “The Difficult Art of Friend Breakup”

“A friend awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.”

In the ancient Celtic notion of Anam Cara,  the late legendary Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue painted a perfect picture of the essence of a real friend as a soul friend.

“In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an Anam Cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the Anam Cara, you could share your inner-most self, your mind, and your heart.”

I was lucky to have a handful of these soul friends during my 20s and 30s at the start of my life and career in New York. But I also had deliberately broken up with two of them. One is a childhood friend from Hong Kong, “Amy” whom I still haven’t responded to her Facebook “Friend” invitation. Another is “Alex”, a colleague friend who’s watched me grow up since my first TV internship in Syracuse to the present. We have reconnected. We have grown up apart and together in our separate lives, and outgrown each other’s idiosyncrasies, mood swings and picked each other up when we felt down and out.

What prompted my initial break-up, you ask?

I couldn’t forgive and forget specific instances where I felt emotionally crippled and crushed by their words, acts and attitudes – no matter how innocent or unintentional, the blow was piercing. Some wounds just take a long time to heal.

Poet and philosopher David Whyte illuminates the true meaning of friendship when he wrote,
“All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy, all friendships die.”

How do you discern where to draw the line about your friendships?

I’ve been following my gut instincts and emotional needs about what served me best under the circumstances.

In my younger self when I was struggling with a deadline-driven job in an over-scheduled life, I was less forgiving and more demanding of my real friends for immediate support and counsel. I let go and cleared out friends, like old clothes in my closet that no longer fit. And I also let time and distance test the nature and character of my real friends, as well as my true self. How have I grown and what have I become? I realize that as I have grown older and become exposed to more stabs in my life from strangers and enemies, I have cherished my real friends who knew my history, upbringing and core values. Break-ups might have been a decision I made hastily at the time, but they are not irredeemable. Real friends will find a way to reconnect. Or life will somehow bring us back together again in our times of need.

Mable, New York

Mable Chan

Mable Chan is the founder of China Personified. Her contact is