Friendship is a delicate art. Of give and take. Of understanding and occasional misunderstanding.
It is loyalty at its best and long-suffering too.
In all of this, there must, however be, forgiveness and letting go. Words are essential. “I love you, please forgive me, let’s try again, I am so sorry, can we sort through this, and how can I help?”
Still, I don’t think there is much wiggle room for spitefulness, sniping, unkind teasing that tears down, and cruel comments. Bossiness and controlling behavior are unwelcome, although we may for a time tolerate them. Bullying, too, is not what we want.
To be cold and distant one moment, and then with the flip of the switch, seem to be warm and welcoming. Who desires to be on the end of such a pendulum swing?
Spoken and unspoken
We need kindness, compassion and understanding. Respect for others differing thoughts and opinions is crucial. Words are powerful tools, for either healing or destruction.
But unspoken words are just as potent. Smiling and receiving a look but no return smile. Avoiding eye contact at all costs. Ignoring someone. Receiving the cold shoulder. The derisive look, the avoidance. A door swing shut in your face.
Sometimes, the hurts endured cut deeply to our very core, so much so that we cannot be sure if we can really go forward. It winds us, strikes us dumb. We forgive, bit by bit. But can we entrust the deep tender parts of ourselves to someone who does not consider our feelings important at all?
This is what we wrestle with… What friendships can be resurrected? What friendships do we bury and seal in a tomb? Oh, the poignant grief of this… Where to go from here? What to do?
To have once been a part of the whole and now on the outside. How to reconcile that fact?
What happens when the seeds of love once thrown onto soft ground, meet now only hardened hearts or distant spaces, withdrawal, and coldness?
Wheel of fortune
I once read a series of books by Phillipa Gregory, in which one of the main characters talks about the “wheel of fortune.” Picture a circle, when you are in a good place you are at the top of that circle, when there is a reversal of fortune, you fall to the bottom of the circle. And the fall is painful, as if from a window from great heights to the solid cement below. It is in fact, a death.
To experience this in friendship is devastating, shattering.
I have watched this happen; and experiencing it, well, knowing something might happen and having it happen is something else.
Friendships that fade through normal life circumstances, natural and in time more distant. These we seem to be able to manage. The harsh breaking, these are the ones that make us reel, lose our footing. Alas, even the more subtle kind can be a kick to the gut; leave us breathless. Having once shared in the trials and everyday difficulties, in knowing important dates or appointments, and then nothing. Finding out after the fact and now you realize they have lowered your status. You no longer matter enough to tell. How to sort through this morass?
We so desire connection, deep and meaningful relationships. We yearn to know and to be known. Friendships are not static, never changing… But a friendship broken is the cruelest whip striking the most tender flesh. Rejection, a lashing we shrink from in horror. Bleeding, we never imagine healing. Wholeness, and re-connection seem a distant dream, a fantasy.
Do we ever get a free pass for poor behaviour towards those we call a friend? We give grace, and try to understand as best we can what was behind the hurtful behaviour. Yet, I think without sincere apologies given, without forgiveness, without heartfelt dialogue and admission of wrong, those friendships will wither and die.
Ebb and flow
We can lower our expectations, release others, but without the natural flow of give and take our friendship becomes an acquaintance. Friendships do have an ebb and a flow, there are times I may need your love and support more, and times you will need mine more. Yet, there still must be a willingness to be present for one another, to if nothing else, offer a gentle, brief word of encouragement. But we cannot expect to withdraw from those who love us in a manner that shuts them out and suffer no kind of consequence. A friendship like a garden needs watering, and sunshine to grow and bloom. No water, no sunshine, no growth.
Can friendships heal? I believe it is possible, though not easy. Here are some questions to work through:
- Ask yourself: What do I really want? Can we sort through this misunderstanding? Am I willing to risk? What will it take to do the mending?
- What is my part in this? As I look in the mirror, what have I done or not done that has contributed to this? What adjustments am I willing to make? Can I reach out with humility, admit my part in a breakdown, work towards resolution?
- Is this friendship detrimental or toxic? How do I figure that out? If it is not and we cherish the bonds of friendship that we have, can we reach out and do the work?
- Can I apologize and forgive? Will I forgive the way I would like to be forgiven?
- Am I prepared to enter into a discussion within the framework of open, frank discussion, with truthfulness and a nonjudgmental attitude?
A time for?
There is no trite or easy answer for working through difficulties in friendships. Yet, friendship is precious; friends are the glue that hold us together, body and soul. They are the buffer to the evils of this world. The key question is this: is this a time for letting go, or, is it a time for healing?
Your friend Jesus
As you wrestle with this question, hold your friendships up to our unchanging, immutable friend, Jesus. Listen to His still small voice. Hold your heart up to Him, the Great Physician and allow Him to heal your wounds. Release your pain, hurt and bitterness to the One who offers you freedom and grace. Let Him settle it in the depths of your heart – you are loved and lovable. Let Him clothe you with strength and dignity. Hold your head up high. Know who you are and Whose you are.
Rest knowing that He will never leave or forsake you; you are forever His. Listen to Him as He offers you guidance through His Word, for His Words are spirit and life. Hold fast to His eternal, everlasting love; wrap yourself in it, revel in it.
You are His beloved, and nothing and no one can ever take that away.
Let these words echo – reverberate in your heart: you are loved, you are loved.
You. Are. Loved.