I'm a big proponent of friendship. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a lot of friends. I try to be as friendly as possible because I believe in the power of friendship. Friendship has brought me through tough times, but not just that, it has made even the good times better. Every so often I think about when (or if) I get married, who I will choose to be my best man. That, to me, is a great problem to have. I think I think about that way more often than I think about getting married. I'm not sure if that is a good problem to have.
I preach to people pretty often that friendships have to be cultivated and also nurtured. I don't mean nurturing by being someone's "yes man." To know true friendship is to hear the harsh truth about yourself - not in a vindictive, cruel way, but in a constructive way.
There are plenty of people who prefer not to have those types of relationships. Trust me, I know a lot of those people. And trust me on this too - they aren't growing as a person. They will be the same person 25 years from now.
Back to cultivating. Friends think of each other. Call or text each other. Invite each other to things. Buy them lunch, or gifts during Christmas. Friends put up with each other's spouses. Friends resign themselves to the fact that they aren't always going to see eye-to-eye on things. Friends are friends for the long haul. Friends are honest to each other. I've had more than my fair share of friends call me an "ass" or an "asshole" whenever I was being one. I'm better off for it because I accept the truth in the matter. I also accept the truth when they compliment me or tell me they love me.
I have cultivated and nurtured friendships that are going on 5, 10, 15, 20 plus years. But before I became friends with these people, I picked them to be my friends. I didn't pick them because they were available. I picked them because they had good qualities. I got along with them. They made me laugh, but more importantly, they made me a better person. Some of those friendships, due to time, distance or the realization that they weren't good for me, fell to the wayside. Just about every single friendship that has fallen to the wayside, I have been fine with because the picking is often more important than the treating.
You pick them according to character. You pick them according to how they are around everyone and not just around you. You pick them over time because through that, and only through that, can you gauge someone's intentions and character.
I know a number of people who pick their friends according to their needs. I won't waste time mentioning people who are likeminded, as if that is really the point. No, I'm talking about people who want to be miserable. There is a phrase that has stood the test of time: "Misery loves company." I learned that when I was a kid and God is it true.
The gossips in your life spend their time around other gossips. The bigots in your life spend their time around other bigots. Those who only spread strife among family and friends...you get the point. We are products of our environments because we buy and sell the same products.
The fact is that it is OK to end friendships. We change over time. We become so lethargic in our daily routines that we forget about caring for each other. We forget that our friends need us. We forget about being nice. People aren't always nice. You aren't always nice. I sure as hell am not always nice. There is a line (and it's pretty sightly) between forgiveness and cessation and you need to know when to choose which.
Friends are going to hurt your feelings - intentionally and unintentionally. It is simply part of the human condition, so get over it. It's hard to say that there are positives that come from hurting your friend's feelings, but it is also a good way to know if that person is actually your friend. I'm not suggesting you go over to your friend's house to insult them. What I am saying is that if you hurt your friend's feelings (don't go over board by suggesting, "Well, what if they murder my family?" - if you suggest that or anything like that, then maybe you should be murdered) and they decide not to talk to you or demand that you beg their forgiveness - like really grovel - then that might just be a sign. If they spend the next week or two bashing you and telling everyone else you know, or don't know, how much you hurt them, then, well, you, my fine friend, have a child on your hands.
Don't misread this. We will always have people in our lives like this, whether by our own choice or by the choice of others (association). What comes down to us, at this point, is to choose how close these people become. Friends or acquaintances? There will always be wolves at your door, just make sure you keep them at the door and not in your living room.
Be wise when picking your friends. There are plenty of people in this world and not all of them need to be your friends. But those you choose to be your friend (and I will go on the assumption that you will choose wisely), cherish those friendships for you will always want them and will quite often need them.