Inside: Have you ever been in a close friendship that has experienced some real friction? It is really possible to fix a friendship in a way that it becomes even stronger than it was before it was broken? YES! Here’s how…
It had been a tough couple of weeks. Our church was going through a really difficult time and there was turmoil and division among the members. My husband and I had done our best to stay out of the fray as we listened to the pastors and members share their perspectives on the situation. We spent most nights after the kids were in bed reading our Bibles and talking about what it said regarding the sensitive situation. We were praying and seeking His wisdom individually and together. Ironically, this division in our church had been bringing us closer than we had ever been in our marriage before.
Then, one night during dinner, I received a long text message from a very close friend. She began to express her strong feelings about what was going on at church and pleaded with me to not be persuaded by the comments being made by others. She was emotional about the situation and her message was emotional – and it made me emotional, in a very negative way.
In my guest post How to Be a Christian Friend, on Graceful Abandon, I share the importance of having genuine Christian friendships and how to cultivate them through your words and actions.
But what do you do when those good friendships go bad?
The fact is that the closer you are to someone, the higher the risk of experiencing conflict because you know each other so intimately. Have you ever been in a close friendship that has experienced some real friction? I am not talking about the irritation that comes from spending too much time together. No, what I am talking about is the strife that cuts you deep because you think the other person would never consider hurting you in that way.
Perhaps you feel judged you for a sin that you are fighting. When you turn to this person, she condemns you rather than providing encouragement and accountability. Maybe a close friend gossips and tells a personal detail about your life that you had confided in her alone. In the post Comparision – The Root of So Much Evil, my mentor speaks about how comparison can cause huge conflict in a friendship!
But the most likely cause of anger and hurt occurs when one person presumes the thoughts and/or motives of another in a situation.
And from where I was sitting,
that was exactly what had happened to me.
How could she think that I would be so easily convinced to turn away from my pastors? I had formulated my own opinion based on biblical knowledge, and discussions with my husband.
I wasn’t just insulted, I felt wounded by her. Her message seemed to imply I had no spiritual maturity at all.
And I was M-A-D about it!
How do you navigate a friendship through a big storm?
Let’s just start with the most obvious, but also the hardest thing to do. In the heat of the moment, you should not respond. Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” When we are emotional and defensive, we assume the thoughts and motives of others.
Let’s just be honest, anything we say at this point won’t be said in love.
Since our attitudes will not be bent towards forgiveness and reconciliation, here is how to fix a friendship in a biblical way:
1 – Pray
Ask God for direction on how to handle the situation. He will open your eyes to what was really going on in your heart. James 4:1 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
Often, when we are deeply offended, it is not because of a single incident. It may not even just because of one person. There is likely a “perfect storm” that has been brewing due to various circumstances.
It is imperative that we sort through the true causes of our emotions to prevent unleashing fiery and unfair retaliation on someone. The absolute best way to begin to repair a friendship is by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the source(s) of your hurt and anger to you.
2 – Seek godly counsel
Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” It is always good to get someone else’s insights into the situation to make sure that you are not seeing things from a skewed perspective.
Choose this person wisely!! Running to someone who is sure to commiserate with you is not a good choice!! Trust me, you don’t need to add fuel to the fire. You need someone who will help you put it out!
While it is helpful to choose someone that knows you and your friend, what is most important is that this person knows the Bible. Can they provide you with wisdom that will seek to bring glory to God in the situation? If not, choose someone else.
3 – Be prepared to wait
It is common when we feel we have been wronged to want vindication as soon as possible. But that is not always the path that leads to reconciliation.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I believe the saying “time heals all wounds” is absolute nonsense. Sitting around waiting for your feelings to not be hurt anymore, your temper to subside, or the offending party to come around and apologize is a waste of time because it might never happen.
Lamentations 3:25 tells us that, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.” Did you see who that verse tells you to wait for and who to seek while you wait? The Lord! Time allows the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of all those involved. It also allows for continued prayer and Godly counsel. Yes, you may need to wait, but it is an active waiting where you should be continually seeking God’s directions.
4 – Go to your friend when you have a heart seeking reconciliation
Eventually, it will be time to physically do the work it takes to fix your friendship. How do you know when that time has come? When you are truly looking for reconciliation, not vindication.
Colossians 3:13-14 says, “bearing with one another, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” When the time and opportunity present itself to address the issue with your friend, going into the conversation with a mindset of love and forgiveness allows you to express your feelings without you offending and hurting your friend.
While you shouldn’t avoid saying hard things, it is also wise to consider what doesn’t need to be said at all. An onslaught of accusations is a lot to handle and will likely do more damage to the friendship than good. To restore a friendship, address the big offenses and ask God to help you forgive the smaller ones without seeking apologies for them at all.
How this looked in reality for me and my friend
As I stood there in my kitchen, shaking, my husband assessed the situation and quickly took the phone out of my hand before I could respond. He knew this friendship was extremely important to me and he wanted to protect it. The truth is, my anger was not just because of that text. I was struggling with the possibility of our family leaving the church that had been a huge part of my family’s life for the past 6 years. The stress of experiencing loss and broken relationships were certainly not solely this friend’s fault.
With prayer and the help of my husband’s counsel, I was able to let go of the initial anger but I wasn’t wholly ready to address my feelings with her. It took several months and way more than just one conversation but eventually, we got there.
We talked in my kitchen. We talked on the phone. You’d be amazed how deep a conversation can get during a joint yard sale while waiting for customers that never seemed to come! And when we talked, we were honest about our feelings but were also considerate of each other’s feelings. We gave genuine rebuke but were also open to receiving rebuke. And where there had been hurt and anger, there was now forgiveness and love.
Conflict and strife in our friendships, as well as our other relationships, are used by God to sanctify us. When we respond in the wrong way, seeking vindication and apologies, we risk damaging or even losing precious ties to those close to us. It is only through the humility of Christ that we are able to restore relationships.
Now that my friend and I have weathered that storm, I know that we can be totally honest with each other about ANYthing because this relationship is rooted in the love of Christ. We didn’t fix the friendship – HE did. And now it is stronger than ever before.