“[H]urting people hurt others,” author and speaker John Maxwell said. It is true. When others lash out at us, it can be excruciatingly painful, and it's often hard to see that the pain being inflicted has a source--and very often it has nothing to do with us.
I've described some pretty painful situations this month in my blog series on friendship, but today I want to write about where to go when you're in pain and the friendship is fractured. Can you heal? Can the relationship heal? Will it ever be the way it was?
I had a situation a few years back with a very good friend with whom I'd been friends for a long time. She was hurting, and she hurt me. I'm sad to say that even though I'd learned a lot from my broken friendship a few years earlier, I did not react as graciously as I probably should have. And even though I knew she was hurting from situations that had nothing to do with me, I didn't know what to do with all the pain and anger. For a time, we each set up boundaries so that we could heal our broken hearts in our own ways. I worked very hard to try and forgive her, and hoped she would forgive me.
Where did I go for help during this time? I first went to the Lord in prayer. Sounds trite, but it's true. I poured out my heart to God and went back to the book of Psalms as the balm to pour on my wounded emotions. I read Jesus's words to Peter in the gospel of Matthew:
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!"
All of this happened in the winter (symbolic, right?). In the spring, after we had made tentative overtures back with one another, my friend and I had a conversation by phone. I remember clearly that I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my chiropractor's office, with my windows rolled down and the spring sunshine warming me through the windshield. She was talking to me like the old days, and I was feeling all sorts of confused. She got upset and asked me point-blank how long I was going to hold her mistakes against her; I replied, "It would be a whole lot easier to forgive you if you'd actually said you were sorry." She adamantly replied, "I did! When I said thus-and-so, that was my apology." It was like the sun shone even brighter at that moment as the truth dawned on me. Not everyone says "I'm sorry" in the same way. While I had grown up in a home that demanded the specific words, "I'm sorry," she had not. It was almost like she was speaking Spanish and I was speaking Portugese: similar, but not the same at all.
She then said to me, "Pattie, I am very sorry for the pain I caused you. Will you forgive me and be my friend?" Of course through my tears I said, "Yes."
That was the beginning of our healing.
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
John 15:12-15 (NLT)
In her book The Wall Around Your Heart, Mary DeMuth writes,
Every single person on this earth is a gift from God. . . . when we have difficult relationships, God often uses them as gifts in our lives–to shape us, conform us to His Son, and make us gutsier and stronger.
This friend of over twenty years is a gift, and I make the conscious choice to be open to what God and our relationship can teach us. We have been through difficult times since this, and I can tell you with absolute certainty without the Lord we wouldn't be where we are today, individually or as friends. Forgiveness toward each other was a key ingredient in that healing.
One of my friends both online (and from college--go Bearcats!) is also writing about forgiveness this week. You can pop on over to Teri Lynne's blog and read her wisdom there.
You can go to the first day's post and find links to the rest of my #write31days #31daysoffriendship series by clicking here.