Courageous Communication in Friendship
“My heart hurts knowing I hurt your heart,” I said, trying miserably to articulate how I was feeling after a friend shared that she was upset with me. Words didn’t do justice to the remorse and regret I felt at that moment.
My friend and I used to speak frequently, so when she fell silent for nearly three months, I knew in my gut something was wrong. I should have reached out, but I didn’t, likely because I was afraid of what I’d find out if I did. I didn’t want the confrontation or the conflict, so I pulled away instead. And so did she.
Until one day, she had the courage to call and confess that she was disappointed in the way I had treated her. I hadn’t intentionally been mean to her, but I hadn’t intentionally pursued her as my friend either. Through our conversation, she shared that it wasn’t my action that caused the rift; rather, it was my inaction that had made her feel so unloved.
It was an uncomfortable conversation to say the least—for both of us.
I longed for a rewind button and a do-over. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. So, I humbled myself, apologized, and asked for her forgiveness.
“Now, let’s move on and put this behind us,” she said, extending undeserved grace to me. As we awkwardly hung up the phone, I wondered if we could in fact “move on” and return to our friendship as it was before.
Honestly, since then, our relationship hasn’t been the same. Surprisingly, it’s been even better. Oddly enough, it was through the breaking and reconciling that we became closer. Our relationship was tested. Either one of us could have walked away, but because we chose to stay, our bond grew even stronger.
My friend’s courageous communication helped us realize one another’s needs and expectations for the friendship.
After talking, we no longer had unmet or unrealistic expectations of one another. Instead, though it was uncomfortable, iron sharpened iron (Proverbs 27:17) as we allowed the conflict to sanctify us and smooth the rough edges of our sinful natures.
Whether in a relationship with a friend, co-worker, fellow church member, or family member, I’m sure you’ve experienced heartbreak as well. I think we’d all agree that relationships are hard. Conflict is inevitable, and we will have disagreements. Relationships take work, and if we want to remain close, we must put in some effort.
As my friend modeled, it is so important that we don’t just sweep our feelings under the rug and hope that they will go away. Because they won’t. They just continue to build and grow. We can’t just pull away and hide as I did. The distance will only increase between us.
Instead, we need to come together, be vulnerable, and have a heart-to-heart.
Jesus spoke specifically to the issue of relational conflict and gave us a guide for reconciliation. He instructed, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). However, when someone wrongs us, we typically do the opposite of what Jesus recommends. We engage in gossip, seek revenge, or turn away in hatred or resentment. Instead, just as my friend had the courage to do, we should go to the person first, as difficult as that may be.
Directly after His instructions on approaching a person who has hurt you, Jesus speaks of forgiveness. In response to the question, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times” (Matthew 18:21)? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (v. 22), meaning that we shouldn’t keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask. Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others. When we offer forgiveness, we have a much better chance of restoring our relationships.
The reality is, we cannot be right with God if we are not right with mankind. Jesus taught earlier in the book of Matthew that “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (5:23-24). Broken relationships hinder our relationship with God. Therefore, if we have a problem or a grievance with a friend, we should resolve the problem as soon as possible.
I now know this is what I should have done when I realized things were not right with my friend, but I let the guilt of my sin cause me to hide.
This is what Adam and Eve did from the very beginning. Even so, God pursued them, just as my friend pursued me. Sometimes, we confess our wrongdoing and regret to God and ask for His forgiveness but then wonder why we still feel the shame of sin inside. When this happens, it’s often because Christ has forgiven us, but we haven’t taken the steps to make things right with our fellow man. We will carry the weight of our sin until we confess to one another, ask for forgiveness, and change our ways. Only when we do these things can the open wound of our heartbreak be fully healed.
Even though we are healed, often the scar of our actions will remain. When we look at this scar, may it serve as a reminder of what we’ve done and allow it to help us learn from our mistakes. Our scars can strengthen us if we allow them to.
Jesus’ scars make us stronger too. “By His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). He was sent to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1). It is He who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
Friend, life was designed for companionship. Let us make amends through confession, repentance, forgiveness, and grace.
As we do, may our relationships reflect the strength depicted by Solomon when he said, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Author of A Little Goes a Long Way and host of The Love Offering podcast Rachael Adams hopes to help women realize their God-given purpose and significance. She and her husband, Bryan, run a family business and farm in Kentucky with their two children, Will and Kate, and two doodle dogs. Her work has been featured on Crosswalk, iBelieve, Today Parenting, and YouVersion. Connect with her by visiting rachaelkadams.com, by searching @rachaeladamsauthor on social media, and by tuning in to The Love Offering podcast every Tuesday on your favorite listening platform.
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