I wanted to write about friendship for one simple reason…I think we actually need to be taught about friendship! I have had so many conversations with people over the years that demonstrate friendships can be a challenge, friendships can have heartaches, friendships can be confusing, friendships need work. But of course, good friendships can be one of the greatest joys in life! Good friendships can stand the test of time and distance! We all need friends, but what makes a good friend? In this series, I’ll be exploring friendship killers and friendship builders.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary a friend is a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.
Friendship is the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.
It is friendship that I want to focus on here. HINT: if a person you call a friend is not demonstrating ‘mutual affection’ then maybe they aren’t your friend after all and you need to let go!? In this blog, we’ll look at seven things that can kill a friendship before moving on to the more positive aspect of what can build and strengthen a friendship. You need to know, I’m not a psychologist, or counsellor or even a theologian! I’m just a disciple of Jesus who tries to live by the Word and one who’s learnt a thing or two about friendship over the years from being blessed with so many friends from all over the world! So you can take or leave the advice. Here goes!
An assumption is ‘a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof’. Wow, making an assumption about what a person is thinking or feeling, or about a certain situation is a total friendship killer! How do assumptions develop? Maybe you’ve known a person for a long time, so from past experience, you’ve developed a knowledge bank of how that person may or may not react in certain situations. Or you may have heard something second hand from another friend, which you assume is correct information, so you make your assumption based on that. Making an assumption is dangerous because you actually may not know all the information about why a person is behaving in a certain way, or about a situation or circumstance. So if in doubt, ask your friend directly about a situation or circumstance. Ask for clarity so that you can have proof about what you are thinking. This can avoid a lot of negative emotions as your assumptions may just be totally off track.
2. Saying ‘I love you’ but not doing anything to demonstrate this
Words are cheap! And the word ‘love’ has been watered down so much in our society that it’s hard to even know what love really means! Is it just a term of affection, indicating your deep feelings for a person? Is it something you say to someone when your heart races a little faster when you’re around them? For me, love is a verb. That means it’s a ‘doing’ word (for all of you who failed 3rd grade grammar). Bob Goff wrote a book all about that called ‘Love Does’ (which I highly recommend). Saying ‘I love you’ to a friend but not doing anything to show that love can be extremely detrimental to friendship. You may have heard of ‘the five love languages’ which lays out how people feel or receive love. Not everyone is the same, and some people receive love by different means. According to the five love languages authors, these are:
1. Quality time
3. Acts of service
4. Physical touch
5. Words of affirmation
If you are a genuine friend to someone, you probably know exactly what their love language is because you’ve gotten to know them so well over time. But if not, find out how your friends know that you do love them and start putting some action behind your words. Building and maintaining good friendships requires you to take time to consider how you can bless someone. If you throw out the ‘I love you’ phrase without any action behind it, people will soon get sus about how you really feel and will withdraw…thus killing the friendship. Oh and if you want to know what real love is and what it looks like, read 1 Corinthians 13 again. As one of my friends says, 'I just want to be loved like Jesus loves'.
3. Not forgiving
For me, forgiveness is the 101 of the Christian life. Jesus is pretty explicit when he talks about forgiveness and even taught his disciples to pray, ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. In friendship, people will say and do things that hurt at times, but we must be quick to forgive if we want to maintain a strong friendship and not kill it! If it’s a hurt that you can’t overlook, then you need to be bold and speak to your friend about what they did to hurt you and how you can work through things with them. Forgiveness is not a feeling…it’s a choice! Even when you don’t ‘feel’ like forgiving because of the hurt caused, say out loud, ‘God, I choose to forgive (insert name) for (insert action or words against you). I bless them in the name of Jesus and ask you to heal any pain in my heart’. Sometimes you might need to do this over and over again until your feelings catch up to your will. God is faithful and blesses your obedience in forgiving, even when it’s hard.
4. Gossip/breaking trust
Trust is such an important thing in friendship and once broken, it’s hard to get that friendship back on track! A good friend is a confidant and you should be able to share your heart openly with a friend knowing that anything you share in confidence will stay in confidence. If you are tempted to gossip and share things that are not yours to share, then get an accountability partner and tell them ‘I don’t want to do this. Can you please help me by asking how I’m doing in this area?’ We are social creatures and sometimes it is a real challenge to keep our mouths shut, but if you want to protect your friendships, you need to be discerning in this area. If you slip up, be quick to admit your mistake and put things right. The more trustworthy you are, the more people will want to be your friend!
I don’t know about you, but I can really struggle with disappointment at times. Disappointment is directly linked to expectation. An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. A simple example could be that you have arranged to meet up for a coffee at a certain cafe at a certain time. You would expect your friend to be there at the said time. But when they pull out last minute, or run 20 minutes late, then your expectation has been dashed and disappointment sets in. I read in a book once that ‘zero expectations = zero disappointment’ so try to have loose expectations on your friends, then you won’t be disappointed when expectations aren’t met. If you feel like your friend continually lets you down, and you see a pattern in their behaviour that causes this, then have the boldness to talk to your friend about it and ask if there is something that you can do to help them follow through with what they say. If a person doesn’t consider change, then you don’t need to remain friends with them!
Are you a person of your word? Being reliable in a friendship is important as it builds trust. If you’ve said you’d do something but keep changing your mind or you take forever to come through with what you’ve said, your friend is going to start doubting if you are reliable. Sure, things come up in life and we can’t always do what we said we’d do in the timeframe that we said we’d do it in. True friends will be understanding and won’t put the ‘guilts’ on you. BUT if it becomes a pattern in your life, then you need to take a good hard look at yourself. I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 5 where He’s telling people not to make vows but instead just let your ‘yes be yes’ and your ‘no, no’ (Matt 5:37,NKJV). This also means weighing the cost of your words before you say anything. If you make a commitment to your friend, are you able to follow through with it? Do you have the time, energy and motivation to do what you said you’d do or are you just trying to please them with what you say then realise you actually don’t have the capacity for it? It’s better to be honest with them than making unfulfilled promises.
That ‘green-eyed monster’ is one that can creep up on us unawares! Especially if we have been spending a lot of time or communication with one particular friend and then they seem to start engaging more with someone else over you. AHHH! Emotions are real and it’s ok to ‘feel’ certain things at certain times, but it’s not ok to give into these emotions which can lead to sin. And jealousy is something that can lead to sin (Gal 5:19-21). When that little monster wants to start whispering in your ear, you need to take that thought captive straight away (2 Cor 10:5) and put it in it’s place. Counteract it with dwelling on ‘what is good, pure and lovely’ (Phil 4:8). Remember, assumptions can play into this, assumptions like ‘oh, they must not like me anymore,’ or ‘I must have done something to upset them’ or…’they love that person more than they love me’. Lies of the enemy! Sometimes friendships can just be seasonal and that’s ok too. Maybe if you’re starting to feel jealous in a certain situation, you need to ask yourself some hard questions about why that is. Maybe there are some deep seated insecurities that are coming to the surface that God wants to work through with you. Take it as an opportunity to go deeper into Him!
Well I hope that hasn’t been too depressing a read for you! If you’ve felt challenged by any of this, take it as a good challenge that may require some work for you to think/pray through how you’ve been viewing friendship. And make sure you read my next blog to find out about how you can build amazing friendships!
May God bless you as you bless others!