“I have to be honest with you. I just don’t trust you. I don’t trust that you will come through when you say you will,” I said with a wavering voice.
“Fair enough. I understand,” she replied. I shivered from my own honesty. I thought she was going to be defensive and reactionary, but she understood where I was coming from.
A journal entry relating to this situation:
It wasn’t drama or explosive. It was just a falling out. I felt like I was putting more energy into the friendship than she was. So, I’m putting boundaries in place for the sake of my heart…
There are more problems than these three in our friendships, but I noticed a common thread of these answers on my Instagram poll. And of course, these problems can apply to all relationships, but I will be specifically relating them to friendships.
The first one I noticed is communication or rather, miscommunication, is a reason relationships are hard. It’s often said, “communication is key.” This is in response to the miscommunication we struggle with in relationships.
What does the Bible have to say about communication?
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
The KJV says “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth…” The Greek word for corrupt here is sapros meaning rotten or worthless. It may be obvious not to say rotten things to our friends. But what about when we speak about our friends? What we communicate about our friends is also “communication proceeding out of your mouth.”
Maybe you’ve heard, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”
We always take tone into consideration when someone is communicating with us. I would argue that Paul would agree that communication is an all-encompassing word. Tone and context are included.
With social media being the initial form of communication for many of us, we see more confusion, because context and tone are often assumed. We might see a friend’s post of her hanging out with another friend, and to us that says, “she doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore.”
Let me encourage us to remove ourselves from the equation. Her post may not have anything to do with us. There may be more beneath the surface.
I recommend reaching out and asking. Not confronting. Firing back a “thanks for the invite + *insert eye roll emoji” isn’t going to have the desired effect, even if it feels good in the moment. Your hurt will compound on her defensiveness which means you both have built walls up and communication can become really hard.
Reaching out and asking, preferably in person or at least over the phone, when you have made things right in your heart before God is going to be more effective in communicating your disappointment.
Communicating my hurt to my friend in the situation I described at the beginning was a launch point for us to move forward in our friendship. I did have boundaries in place. Not walls. I strove for honesty and humility, and we were able to reconnect. It wasn’t fixed overnight. We continue to communicate in a way that builds up.
- Time + Effort
Time and effort go hand in hand, because effort takes time.
My love language is quality time. This goes for my marriage and friendships. My situation with my friend felt like a problem because we weren’t spending time together. She considered us close, while I felt like we were drifting apart. After I communicated this with her, she was able to see my desire to hang out.
Setting aside time to build up friendships is important, because building relationships is part of the gospel mission. It is a part of our great commission or calling.
Taking time for our calling takes intentionality. For some, it’s easy to make plans for a weekend filled with friends (cough, cough my husband). For others, it takes more for us to get there. Stewarding our gift of time well is part of what we will have to account for on Judgment Day. This stuff is for real, so what should our efforts be focused on with this time we are given?
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” -1 Peter 4:8-10
The words time and effort are not used in this verse, but their principles are there.
- Loving one another takes time and effort.
- Showing hospitality to one another takes time and effort.
- Using our gifts to serve one another takes time and effort.
Time and effort also refer to working with others’ schedules. If we only hit our friends up when it works best for us or is most convenient to us, our friends can tell we aren’t putting forth much effort.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13
This is a radical call to value our friends’ lives more than ourselves. An ultimate act of selflessness.
In our daily lives, laying down our life looks like laying down our pride, schedules, or personal priorities to help a friend in need.
We know that friendships birthed for one’s own benefit will not last. People can sniff out wrong motives like a blood hound. Entering into new friendships and approaching old friends with an air of importance isn’t sustainable.
It’s been said “to make a friend you have to first be a friend.” I would add “to keep a friend you have to cast off selfishness.”
We have to set aside our pride (This includes shyness) and invite someone over. Or to go out for coffee. We may face rejection. We may face complications. In order to grow within our friendships, it is up to us to make that first step towards vulnerability and honesty. And when we get our fill from Jesus, we won’t be selfishly looking for excuses.
My friend continued reaching out to me selflessly. I was able to reciprocate, and our friendship deepened because of it.
Indeed, friendships can be hard, but the work is worth it.
The work to communicate is worth it.
The work to make time and effort is worth it.
The work of surrendering our selfishness is worth it.
Jesus demonstrated this with his life here on earth. Friendships are worth it, because people are worth it.
(Part 1 of my Relationships Series: Why Are Relationships Hard? Stay tuned, because next month I’ll be sharing about marriage + family.)