How to Heal a Friendship
Last Friday, April 20th, I had the privilege of speaking in our Upper School Chapel about God’s call on His children to “Love Your Neighbor” from Galatians 5:14. For those who were not able to attend, we did stream this talk on Facebook Live, and it is currently posted on our Facebook page – click HERE to view.
The goal of that chapel message was that we would all acknowledge our own sin, seek forgiveness that comes from Christ alone, and then ask that God would grant us the gift of repentance so that we could love God and others well. As is often the case when I speak in chapel, I was personally convicted of my need to heed my own challenge to love MY neighbor. That got me thinking of relationships that I have that are not what they should be. It also got me thinking that I needed to be the one to work toward healing a few friendships. But HOW? Well, I am glad you asked…
Step 1 – Acknowledge the speck in my own eye before pointing out the plank in my neighbor’s (Luke 6:41-42)
When I think about relationships that are not healthy, my mind goes first to what the other person did wrong. If I am honest, it was this thinking that probably got me where I am today. So, I need to ask God to show me where my behavior has caused the strain and own it.
Step 2 – Confess to God (I John 1:9)
Once I see my own sin, I must confess it to God, asking Him to grant forgiveness and the gift of repentance. I must love God (by honoring, obeying, confessing) before we can appropriately love our neighbors.
Step 3 – Confess to Neighbor (James 5:16)
Given that God is holy, and I am not, the hardest part of healing a relationship ought to be my confession before God. But, my pride usually makes my confession to a friend very difficult. But, it is just as necessary. I must initiate contact. I start by acknowledging that the relationship isn’t right. I confess my part in the damage, as specifically as possible. And, then I ask them to forgive me.
Step 4 – Plan for Repentance (II Corinthians 7:10)
I follow up on my confession by immediately jumping into sharing my “plan for repentance.” Basically, I tell him what I hope my actions will look like to him to show that I desire a healthy relationship - and that I am going to work toward that end. If my confession and pursuit of repentance are sincere, then they are unconditional. I will confess my part whether my friend own’s his part or not. I said that I “immediately” jump to my plan for repentance SO THAT I don’t leave time for the other party to confess at that time. IF I hesitate, I am saying, “I am sorry, and it is now your turn.” That is not owning your part. That is presuming a shared role and implies that I am sorry if and only if you are as well. The same is true with my plan of repentance. I will pursue my plan even if my friend chooses a sick relationship over a healthy one.
Step 5 – Stop Talking and Accept the Response (Proverbs 10:19)
Once I have confessed and shared a plan for repentance, I then need to be quiet. My tendency is to fill the silence with more words, which usually turns into excuses as to why I did what I did. This negates the confession. I can only control my actions, not the reactions of my friend. Therefore, I must simply stop talking and allow for any response that I may receive.
Step 6 – Seek God’s Grace (Titus 2:11-1)
I said above that the confession to the friend is difficult, and it is. BUT, so is keeping the promises you have made – especially if they were one-sided. So, the last step in healing the friendship is to ask God to grant me His grace to honor my plan for repentance, and if God wills, to restore a friendship to a health greater than it has ever seen!
Is this easy? NO! Does it always work to heal any and every relationship? No. Will relationships heal on their own if we just ignore the problems? Again, no.
I have done this in the past, and God has blessed with restored relationships in some situations. And, it is time for me to do it again, seeking to heal relationships that are not honoring to God. I commit to doing so. Who’s with me???