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Should You Take An Ex-Friend Back?

When should you forgive and reconcile vs. forgive and move on?

What About Your Friends?

Several years ago, one of my closest friends violated a boundary.


A very firm boundary that she was very much aware of. When I confronted her about it, rather than taking full ownership for what she did, she deflected—and by that, I mean manipulated—by taking a victim approach. When I called her out on that as well, she claimed that she needed some time apart to figure out where things stood between us. Fast forward to a year later and, out of the blue, I received a (count 'em) whopping 10-page letter about all of the things she thought I did wrong and what I needed to do in order to restore our relationship.

Look, before even getting deep into this topic, be leery about someone who doesn't take personal ownership and responsibility in your relationship with them. It's very difficult to establish or maintain anything healthy or lasting with that type of individual.

Anyway, after giving her oh-so-arrogant "offer" some thought, I wrote her back and told her that I would pass. After all, the main thing that caused our breakdown in the first place was her refusing to address the error of her ways and just how much she disrespected me. Since she came at me with basically the same approach 12 months later, it didn't take a best-selling self-help book to know that it was going to be a matter of time before we hit the same wall…yet again.

I didn't share that lil' tale of mine as a way to say that you should never take a friend you once fell out with back. We all make mistakes and sometimes time really does heal all wounds (more on that in just a bit). What I am saying is, just like with an ex-boyfriend, if someone is an ex-friend of yours, they are that for a reason. So, before you decide to let them back into your head and heart space, do yourself a favor and ask yourself the following five questions. It could spare you more wasted weeks, months or even years with someone you should've left alone…the first time.

Why Did Things Fall Apart in the First Place?

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One of my close friends is a relationships coach (shout out to Jay Hurt). Because we both work in the relationship realm, we're constantly having debates about how to handle different situations. A common discussion is what constitutes a mistake vs. what is an intentional bad choice.

I'll give you an example. One time, we were discussing how often should a spouse take someone back after they've had multiple emotional affairs. Whenever Jay comes at me with "I mean, people make mistakes", I'm usually looking at my phone like, "Are you serious right now?!"

Mistakes are birthed about of a lack of knowledge, carelessness or misunderstanding. If someone is harming another person over and over again, that is NOT a mistake; that is a conscious choice. OK so, when you're trying to decide whether or not to reconcile with an ex-friend, it's important to reflect on why/how the two of you fell out in the first place.

Was it because of a really big mistake? Or was it due to a series of poor choices? If it's Column B, be cautious about getting back involved with individuals who intentionally bring you drama, turmoil and harm. It takes a lot of self-work to break outta that kind of pattern. Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of people who choose to grow in that way.

Have They Owned Up to Their Ish? Have You?

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Recently, I ran into an ex-friend who wanted us to reconnect. As I was listening to them go into their song-and-dance about me knowing how they are, about 15 minutes in, what I realized they weren't doing was apologizing for their actions.

I have learned the oh-so-very hard way that if someone doesn't clearly address what they've done wrong (or how they hurt or offended you because wrongdoing and hurt feelings are not automatically or necessarily one in the same) and then apologize for it, not only does it reveal a lack of humility and personal accountability, it also sets you up for being hurt by them all over again. Same goes for if you're the one who hurt them.

If someone is truly interested in reconciling, one of the first things they are going to do is take responsibility for their actions. So yeah, look for that while contemplating what you should do about restoring things with an ex-friend. If they are too prideful or "worse", too clueless to address core issues, you're setting yourself up for a series of reruns, which includes getting run over…again. And again.

Can You Keep the Past Out of the Present?

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People who claim to be highly-spiritual but don't know how to forgive baffle me. Even Scripture tells us that there is no way we can be forgiven by God if we don't forgive other people (Matthew 6:14-15). A person has to be mighty full of themselves to think that God should overlook their missteps when they aren't willing to do the same for folks who are just as human as they are.

However, forgiving someone (which for me, sometimes comes in the form of releasing them) doesn't always mean that you should go back to the way things were. The former friend that I mentioned that the beginning of this piece? I've seen them since. I hug them whenever I do. But they were so disrespectful, on so many levels, that I already know it would be extremely close to impossible to totally leave the past out of our present.

Forgiving someone doesn't mean that you don't learn from the experience. Sometimes the lesson is to make peace and then…move on.

Were They Ever Really Your Friend to Begin With?

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Something that creeps me out are people who make it their mission to be my friend. Meaning, things don't evolve organically. It's more like a goal of theirs to get my number and be all up in my business. Something is extremely disingenuous about those types of connections.

When I look back on how stable my friendships are now in comparison to how cray-crazy some of mine used to be in the past, I realize that a lot of my past situations weren't very authentic. There was a lot of codependency, opportunism and one-sidedness going on. And really, what kind of solid or lasting friendship can come outta that?

Not too long ago, I penned "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect from Your Friendships". A little while before that, I wrote "Why Friendships Should Come with Deal Breakers, Too". Believe you me when I say that you can spare a lifetime worth of time, effort and energy if, before you take an ex-friend back, you reflect on if the root of the fallout was accepting that neither of you were really friends to begin with. Ouch and amen.

What’s Different About Them—NOW?

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We've all seen someone on Twitter share their perspective on something, only to have someone pull up receipts from five years before that reflect a totally different stance. Sigh. That's one of the most challenging things about social media—it doesn't really leave much room for maturity or evolution.

That's why I'm not comfortable making a blanket statement that anyone who has had a falling out with a friend, they should never consider reconciliation. If the "person in question" is showing signs of growth (especially in the areas where the two of you fell out in the first place), they offer up a heartfelt apology and you can honestly leave the past in the past—oh, and you have some solid reasons why becoming friends with them again would be a beneficial thing at this point in your life—at least be open to considering it.

Sometimes, what time does is not only heal wounds but transition us into better people. The kind of people who could turn out to be better friends than before.

If that is what appears to be happening with your ex-friend, take things slow but don't keep the door totally shut. Being willing to see where they are now could up being a blessing in disguise—for you both.

Featured image by Getty Images

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our weekly newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

The Truth About Maintaining Friendships As An Adult

How To Build A Squad of Empowering Friends

Why Talking About Your Friends Behind Their Back Is Actually Normal

The 5 Must-Have Friends Everyone Needs

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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