When I was 13-15, the thing to do for me and my friends was go to the mall. We were the epitomy of "mall rats," walking around aimlessly for hours, with "no shopping agenda."
Most of the time, we bummed rides off our parents, but occasionally, we had to take the bus. Usually, I opted out of these trips because even back then, I was too much of a snob for public transportation (my friends were much better people than I).
One particular Saturday, I cancelled plans with my dad to go shopping for new school clothes (a high holy event for me), so that I could go to the mall with my friends. Then, they cancelled on me. Well - more like they went without me and called me from the mall to say they'd taken the bus.
I remember going to my dad and asking if his offer to shop was still good. He said no - I'd cancelled plans, and that was that. He didn't have anything else going on, and he wasn't upset - he was teaching me a lesson in how to treat people. I'd made him my back-up plan, and this was the consequence.
Ever since, I've conciously tried to avoid treating my friends (and especially my dad) like a back-up plan. I know I have slipped up, but I've never forgotten the lesson.
Kindness is not the same as weakness. My dad wasn't angry, and our relationship didn't change because of my one-time actions. But he kindly let me know that taking people for granted was not acceptable, and that a strong person will only put up with it so much.
We've all done it. Something new and exciting comes into our life, and we give it all of our energy and attention. Something else in our life has to go on the back-burner. Usually, it's a relationship that we feel is strong enough to survive a few tests, or will manage without any attention for a while.
But even the strongest relationship will eventually suffer if it's ignored long enough. It doesn't make anyone a bad friend or person; there's simply a limit to how long anyone can handle being treated like he just doesn't matter.
At some point, you have to say to yourself, I know my friend is kind enough to let this go on for a while. But is he weak enough to let it go on forever?