I’ve written quite a lot about handling hurt in friendship here on the blog for two reasons.
1. It has been a fresh topic in my own life the past few years that I’m working and learning through.
2. I’m convinced that Satan is counting on us not knowing how to handle hurt well in his quest to keep us living lonely.
When I experienced hurt in friendship several years ago now, I quickly realized that I lacked a lot of the tools to deal with and process that situation well. I really did mess it up, almost text-book style…
I ran instead of fighting for restoration.
I assumed the worst instead of asking honest questions.
I avoided instead of confronting the problem.
But I just didn’t have strong convictions and practical steps to count on when my hurt got really loud. I didn’t turn to a wise mentor and ask them what to do from the beginning. I was so blinded by my justification and hurt that I missed the opportunity to try to root out what was really going on beneath the perceived hurts.
And maybe you’ve found yourself in this spot before too: conflict arises and it’s blinding, really. It feels like too much to even handle all the emotions you’re feeling, much less handle the conflict in a way that honors God and your friendship. And if we don’t have a road map through such situations in our minds before we’re in that spot, we definitely won’t be able to find the way through from inside the storm.
The truth is that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to radically love and radically forgive. And that’s a really easy thing to say, but a much harder thing to actually do when you’re seething from what she did. You’re ready to call your mutual friend and rant. Maybe you’ve got the passive aggressive post for social media all typed out and ready to go. Your shower walls have certainly heard you rehearse the telling-off you’d give her if you just had the chance.
But that’s just not the way, friend. It’s not the way to better friendships and it’s not the way toward being more like Jesus. Those things might make us feel better in the moment, but they don’t lead to healing or holiness.
The good news, though, is that we’re not just called to authentic friendships that can work through hurt without any guidance on how to practically navigate those hard moments. Scripture doesn’t just say don’t do that, it teaches us a better way.
Maybe you remember the old television show, What Not to Wear. Two fashion gurus creep on someone with a really bad wardrobe and then offer to give them a fashion make-over. In order to keep the new clothes, though, they have to agree to throw out their whole old closet.
This would’ve always been the deal-breaker for me. Committing to a whole new set of clothes, keeping nothing from that old way of life? That’s commitment.
In Colossians 3, Paul talks about what we should and should not clothe ourselves with in our relationships with others, and, for Paul, keeping some of the old isn’t really an option either.
Here’s what he writes in verses 7-10: “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
In this passage, Paul is giving us a picture of our old wardrobe. Once we’re in Christ, that old look just isn’t us anymore. He says that, instead, we have a new wardrobe, and it is making us more and more like the image of God every day we walk in it.
When it comes to friendship, I think this list can be really informative for how we handle hurt and fights with our friends. Let’s break this down and consider what each of these responses to hurt might look like in our lives today, practically speaking.
Anger – Don’t wallow in the natural emotion of anger and stew over your accusations against her.
Rage – Don’t allow thoughtless emotion to consume you in a spiral of frustration.
Malice – Don’t hope she gets a bad hair cut or falls down a staircase.
Slander – Don’t exaggerate what she did and speak to others untruthfully behind her back.
Filthy language – Don’t let your emotions control your tongue instead of the Spirit.
Lies – Don’t deal dishonestly with the situation and your emotions.
Why not? Because when we’re in Christ, that’s not the kind of thing we wear anymore.
Here’s what your new look is like: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13) Here’s how I think this new look might translate to our friendships today…
Compassion – Look for how she might be hurt here too.
Kindness – Look for opportunities to listen and seek understanding.
Humility – Consider that you might have something to ask forgiveness for, big or small.
Gentleness – Choose gentle words over the ones you know will pay back some of the hurt you feel.
Patience – Give the Lord time to work on each of your hearts, and give her and yourself time to cool down, reflect, and gain perspective.
Forgiveness – Begin the journey of forgiving her as we have been forgiven by Jesus (even if she doesn’t deserve it).
Paul tells us why in verse 15. He says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, because as members of one body you were called to peace.” As Christians, we are called to unity and peace. I know it feels like a tall order, I know. You might be saying, but you don’t know what she did. And you’re right, I don’t. Your journey through hurt might be a long one. It might be painful. And it might not end in restoration.
Paul acknowledges this in a different letter, which we talked about last week, when he says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). There will be times it’s not possible, times when you’re doing what you can, but it’s not working. As the old saying goes, it takes two. We can try to see things from our friend’s side, try to give her time, and try to ask for forgiveness for our part, but she might not respond. We can speak with gentleness and try to listen to her perspective, and she might still walk away. We can’t control that.
But none of that changes our “new look.” We can pursue this ideal for our communication in friendships, and still mess it up along the way. Honestly, we should expect that we will!
We can’t control our friends’ side of things, but we can control how we respond to hurt and how we handle fights. We can make every effort to rid ourselves of our anger, rage, malice, slander, foul language and lies. And when everything in us is wanting to pass some gossip that will hurt her or tell her off to her face, we can choose to handle hurt in a healthy way and stick to our new look.
Love ya, friend.
Your Sister, Kimber
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