We’ve all had difficult friendships in our lives we’ve had to break off. I’ve had a few friendships in my life where the relationship became so toxic that I had no choice but to terminate the relationship. As kids, we’re so eager to make friends. When we get to be adults, it becomes even more difficult because sometimes people do and say things that cause us to distrust them. When we don’t trust people, it’s difficult to build a friendship.
I have been in a situation where friends from church lied and betrayed us. We wanted to continue being friends with them, but the lies and the betrayal just hurt too much, and the wounds were way too deep to continue the friendship. Given the mistrust that formed in the relationship, we severed the friendship.
If you find you’re in a toxic friendship with someone and you’re in the process of breaking it off, here are some things I’ve learned about a broken friendship:
Trust Is Lost
First, once trust is lost the relationship is severed–You cannot have a friendship based on mistrust or betrayal. Although God calls us to forgive them, it doesn’t mean we can maintain or restart the friendship. Repentance would have to be at the heart of the friendship being restored. Although it’s true God can do anything in our lives, including reconcile friendships, the reality is both parties must accept responsibility and repent of behavior for a relationship to continue in a healthy way. Jesus calls us to forgive those who have hurt us, but he does not want us to enter into the same friendship again so those people will hurt us once more. We are to be good stewards of everything, including our hearts.
Based on Equal Effort
Second, friendships are based on equal effort–If you find that your friendship is one where you give way more than you receive, it may be time to break off that friendship. While it’s important to sacrificially give to everyone in your life, friendships are the catalyst for deep fellowship, intimacy, and connection. If any of those things are not present, the relationship cannot continue. If after your broken friendship, you feel you can no longer continue the relationship it is okay to grieve and move on. Take some time to heal before pursuing another friendship. A person who only takes and never gives is being reckless with your emotions. God does not want us to become entangled with another person’s sins. Protect yourself when you can and strive to move on so you can receive the benefit of the human connection you need.
However, people don’t always do grief well. When we experience any type of loss, it’s tempting to cover our deep wounds and say, “It’s okay, Jesus is my true Friend,” or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Although the statements may be true, it’s not an excuse for not grieving your loss. Any friendship you lose is subject to sadness and grief. All those emotions are normal, but it’s important not to stuff them away but to express them openly. If necessary, consult the help of a professional to help you process the grief. A counselor may have some practical strategies for you to process and accept the situation before moving into another relationship. Allow him to help you brainstorm strategies so you can grieve your loss. This is not only important for your spiritual health to grieve that relationship but also not take that baggage with you into future friendships.
Ghosting Isn’t Friendship
Third, a friend that ghosts you is not your friend at all–I’ve had friends who, when asked to meet up again, aren’t truthful. Instead of telling me directly that they don’t want to meet anymore, they simply don’t respond at all. Too often in Christian churches, we mistake cowardice for grace. Instead of talking openly about our feelings, we cover them up even though we’ve never fully processed the wound. If someone avoids or ghosts you, they were never really your friend in the first place. You deserve friends who love you and are willing to go through the hard times–both good and bad. People who don’t have the maturity to talk to you directly are not being gracious; they’re being cowardly.
Look at Job
Fourth, look at the example of Job–Job believed he had friends who would love him unconditionally. Instead, they told him all the ways he must have been sinning to receive God’s wrath. This caused Job not only to be in physical pain but also emotional and mental pain. Sometimes breaking up from a friendship, although painful, maybe in your best interest. People who simply cover things over with platitudes are not mature enough for friendship.
It’s important to surround yourself with wise people who understand Scripture and know the grace of Jesus. It’s also important to treat everyone the same way you would want to be treated. Therefore, we should speak openly and directly to everyone and if there’s a conflict, do whatever we can to resolve it. Matthew 18 gives us a good guideline for what we should do in this conflict. If we have an issue with someone, go to them directly and point that out. This is a way not to resolve conflict but rather to point out their sin for the good of the church. If the person doesn’t want to hear it, bring someone along to mediate the issue so that both can speak honestly about their feelings. Sometimes a misunderstanding occurs, and a friendship is lost because of a misunderstanding. Verify the facts and make sure you know the whole story from both perspectives. If the person doesn’t want to continue the friendship, it’s best to simply cut it off.
It’s not easy to break up our friendship but there’s hope in knowing Christ will never leave us alone. In the dark days of feeling alone after a broken friendship, Jesus wants to meet our needs. Jesus knows what it is like to lose friendships, especially after Peter betrayed him by denying his involvement with Jesus. Allow him to heal you spiritually through the gift of the Holy Spirit, allowing him to transform you into a Christ-like character through these friendships. Consider what you’re gaining rather than what you’re losing. A friend who doesn’t treat you as a friend, takes more than they give, and is someone you cannot trust cannot be your friend anymore. In the end, you’ve lost your friendship, but you will gain spiritual renewal, restoration, and the ability to move forward in freedom. Freedom is a great gift from God, and he gives it despite loss and brokenness. Jesus wants us to have friends, but he also wants us to put Jesus first. Jesus would never allow someone to treat him in a poor way or undermine his authority.
Any friend who is selfish or untrustworthy is truly not a friend. It’s not easy to cut off the friendship, but in the end, it will afford you more freedom than you’ve ever felt before. Then you can move on and invest in other friendships that may be rich and rewarding experiences for your life.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Alexey M
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.