The knife went in, only a bit deeper this time. A friend had spread gossip about me, ruining my reputation and, ultimately, our friendship. The person who was my friend became my enemy.
Insults were hurled; accusations were made; feelings were hurt. A myriad of emotions stung my psyche. Hurt. Betrayal. Anger. I had invested my time, money, and extensive resources in this person. Now it was all I could muster not to wish for a refund on this raw deal.
They were supposed to be our friends. How could they do this to us?
As time went on, a new set of emotions emerged. Bitterness. Resentment. Rage. I was hesitant to forgive and reluctant to trust anyone again. As I reflected on my feelings, God reminded me of this verse in Luke 6:27-28: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
After reading that verse, I knew I had the best weapon of all—the gift of blessing. Satan was trying to steal our joy, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with it. As God always does, He allows us to take part in the redemptive work He is doing in the lives of His children, thwarting Satan’s plans to seek vengeance. That meant instead of seeking retaliation, I could seek to bless those who curse me.
Bless rather than sling mud?
Speak blessings rather than speak curses?
Did I even have it in me?
Even though that friend betrayed me, I could, through the truth of Scripture, end the relationship by speaking blessings over her life. It wouldn’t be easy, but I could find redemption in a toxic relationship.
What Makes a Relationship Toxic?
Here are the ingredients of a toxic friendship:
First, trust has been broken. The most important part of any relationship is that both people can trust each other. When trust is broken, it is difficult to continue in the relationship. Both parties must feel safe in a friendship. When one person feels they can’t trust the other, it is time to move on. A friend is someone with whom one can share their innermost thoughts and feelings and know those thoughts will be held with the highest confidentiality. When that person confides in someone else what was said, the relationship is over.
Second, certain expectations must be met. Both parties should accept each other for who they are, not try to spend their time changing the other person. Each party must feel it is a safe space for them to share and be honest with each other. When one party creates an unsafe space for the other, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship. A friend is someone who loves us regardless of the circumstances. When one party starts to put conditions or limits on that love, it’s a toxic situation that needs to be resolved immediately.
Third, if the relationship drains me physically, emotionally, and mentally, it’s time to end the friendship. Both parties must be getting something out of the relationship. It can’t be one-sided. When one person acts more like a therapist than a friend, it’s time to end the friendship. This is especially true if someone tends to take more than they give in their friendship. Distance is best in a relationship where one takes more than they give. However, I wouldn’t recommend simply ghosting someone but rather having a heart-to-heart conversation with them. Sometimes having a hard conversation with them is all it takes for the relationship to continue. If, after having a conversation with them, they’re hesitant to change, it’s time to end the relationship.
Fourth, if they disrespect boundaries, it’s time to end the friendship. Every relationship should have specific boundaries regarding emotional and mental space. This way, there are no ambiguities as to where the relationship begins and where it ends. If a friend disrespects your boundaries, whether it means breaking confidentiality, betraying your trust, or asserting themselves in situations where they don’t belong, it’s time to create some distance.
Fifth, if passive-aggressive or dismissive behavior emerges in your friendship, it’s time to call it quits. Friendship does not require that both parties agree on every issue, but a friend should value the other person’s perspective enough to hear her out and consider it. A person who merely dismisses a concern or becomes self-centered in their behavior is not a friend worth keeping.
Blessing Enemies—a Tall Order
Friendships can be enriching and rewarding experiences for both parties. But if toxic behavior results in any of the situations above or in any other situation not mentioned here, it is time you take a timeout on your friendship. It will be hard to grieve the loss of a friend. But in the end, you’ll benefit emotionally, mentally, and physically because of it.
After allowing Luke 6:27-28 to work in my heart, I presented myself with a challenge. For one week, I would pray a prayer of blessing over my enemies in the hopes that it would not only change my perspective of the situation but also my heart. Only God could want me to offer this to Him because I resisted it with every fiber of my being.
Reluctantly, I sat in my chair and spoke this prayer aloud:
“Lord, please bless ________. I know he/she is my enemy right now, but please bring your healing to the situation. Turn our turmoil into peace, our sorrow into joy, and our despair into hope.”
On Monday, the words were like eating sour lemons—downright unpleasant. By Wednesday, they came a bit more naturally. By Friday, they tasted sweet like honey, rewarding them and me.
Praying a prayer of blessing over my enemies is a tall order. When I think about the situation, it still brings up feelings of anger and betrayal. Yet, Jesus afforded me the gift of forgiveness with His death on the cross. If He can bless His enemies then so can I. It’s far from easy, but worth it because blessing someone who hates me makes me love them even more. Every time I do it, something within me changes. My character becomes more like Jesus. The words become less bitter and a little sweeter. My thoughts are a little less angry and a little more peaceful.
I hope one morning when I utter those words, I won’t have to think twice about them. I hope they will roll off my tongue with ease. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there. Like Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/MangoStar_Studio
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.