In the 5 Ps to navigate season change, your person is probably the most important! Friendships are so comfortable and fun when they work! But sometimes they don’t – and then what do we do?
Transitions and Tangles
- When a friend is always late.
- When a friend’s needs surpass what you can give them; or when your needs eclipse what a friend can offer you.
- Increased time commitments on a project or new relationship which requires some of the time that you used to spend together.
- When you or your friend has moved on to a different stage in life–marriage, pregnancy, aging parents, or divorce and/or single parenting–and spending time together has become secondary.
- Your friend participates in activities (indulgences in eating, drinking, sports, spending) that are not healthy or possible for you.
you and your friend have differing values that are at odds.
- When your friend gossips about mutual friends.
When you experience these dynamics in friendship, will you tolerate it? Talk about it? Stay and struggle until it implodes? Will you both fight to stay connected? Or does it just end?
How do we transition in friendships?
Friendship transition starts with forgiveness. The Bible says in Mark 11:25
When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.”
Check your heart for your own role in an offense between you and your friend. Sometimes, when a friend says or does something offensive, if I go back events before the offense, I may have said or done something that started a chain reaction. If I apologize: “Hey, I’m really sorry, I ate your last do-nut and you got mad at me. Will you forgive me?” I don’t have to mention that they went off on me inappropriately. Generally, once you apologize, a healthy friend will also apologize for the sake of restoring the friendship. Forgiveness frees you both from the being locked into holding a grudge or being bitter.
If your friend does not apologize for her own role in the disagreement, or the offense is far more serious, forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgive for your own sake, then take steps to insulate yourself from a friend who hurts you. Stay busy with other friends or activities. You both may need a cooling off period. Guard your heart till you feel comfortable with reconciliation. If you never feel comfortable with reconciliation, see the section below: When Friendship Turns Toxic.
Repair – Five Principles to Consider
In Shasta Nelson’s Friendships Don’t Just Happen, she suggests the following five principles:
- Choose the awkwardness of a conversation over the risk of losing each other.
- Never wait till the “last straw.” Few annoyances get better over time.
- Pray for clarity before you approach your friend.
- Ask yourself questions to brainstorm the best approach: know what you want, the how and why BEFORE you approach.
- Come from a place of gentle strength. Communicate how valuable your friendship is and always keep in mind the goal is more consistency and intimacy, not being right, perfect or judgmental.
When Friendships Turn Toxic
What happens when a friendship becomes toxic?
A friend shows up at your door, unannounced and you welcome them in. They begin a gossip session about a mutual friend. When you ask to change the subject, your uninvited friend is offended. There are cross words. This isn’t the first time, or the only problem you have had with this friend. And Now What?
- Do you kick her out and tell her to never darken your doorstep again?
- Do you stop, drop and pray together?
- Do you make an excuse, mention you have to run errands and end the visit?
- Never answer the door again when the doorbell rings?
In a thoughtful and thought-provoking article in Psychology Today, Peg O’Connor, Ph.D., offers the advice of Greek philosopher Cicero:
- Allow a friendship to die out gradually through reducing social interaction. Like unstitching versus ripping.
- Avoid antagonism. Protect your own character from acting out in ways that are harmful, immoral or vicious.
- Do not enlist other friends. Friends may support you in this undertaking, but they cannot do it for you.
Have you restored or ended a friendship before? Tell us how you did it in the comment section below. Or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to know if we can learn from your experience!