Friendships: Keep the Hard - Leave the Toxic
Building a friendship is difficult for most adults. Married men often have it the hardest. If he attempts to reach out to another man in meaningful friendship, he may be greeted by awkward looks. The other man may think that only women engage in intimate conversation or that affection between men is ‘gay’. Likewise, if he tries to reach out in friendship to a woman he faces questioning looks and people – the potential female friend included – may think his motives are immoral.
In this climate, married men often fall into one of two traps. The first is that they shut down emotionally and try their best to enjoy a lonely life. Most married men do this. But other men become desperate. They refuse to live life with only superficial friendships or no friendships at all. But in their desperation they allow anyone who wants to be their friend. Disaster is usually hiding not far around the corner.
As Christians – whether we are men or women, married or single - we are to love everyone. But we are not to give away the real-estate of our hearts to just anyone. Many of you know what it is like to hand over part of your heart to someone – either in friendship or in romance – only to find out later that the person you entrusted it to has buttery fingers – and therefore drops it frequently. It is saintly to love your reckless neighbours. It is foolish to trust them.
But once you’ve agreed to embark on the journey of friendship, what are you to do when these character faults appear?
We do not leave them. Proverbs says, ‘Do not abandon your friend’. At times, we give our friend space from our company as they work out personal issues. But Jesus never abandoned his friends even though they were overflowing with faults. To have a life long journey of friendship with someone is to be disappointed at times. They will speak harsh words, withhold their love for a season, prefer their advice to yours, neglect you and fail you. We indulge our friend’s failures in word and in deed for the sake of the relationship. If you should choose to admonish them for their fault, do so in a cheerful way so that you don’t cause grief.
Most people in today’s culture are far too quick to abandon a friendship when it gets hard. Like marriage, a lifelong friendship takes perseverance and at times feels like a march through a swamp. But these are necessary if they are to bear long-term fruit.
If we are committed to our friendships, then we must acknowledge there are occasional times when a friendship gets toxic and you need let it go.
When someone constantly uses abusive language to tear you down – without apology or repentance – it may be time to let it go.
When someone reveals your secrets to hurt you – without apology or repentance – it may be time to let it go.
When someone consciously betrays you – knowing that their actions will destroy you – all without apology or repentance – it may be time to let it go.
When someone forgets your birthday …. No… that’s not one of them!
Pride is the common thread. If you cannot express your pain to the other person – if you can never tell them that they’ve hurt you without being met by proud excuses - then it will always be difficult to be reconciled to the person and it will soon become toxic. In a way, it is they that have left the friendship already. You may still love them and pray for them. But you no longer trust them - they are not allowed in your bubble.
Jesus restored Peter to friendship after denying him three times. Judas was damned by his complete betrayal from friendship.
Be careful who you let be your friends. But once they’re your friends, don’t abandon them because you’re tired, hurt or irritated. Forgive their many faults. But if your friendship ever does fall into gross and unrepentant betrayal, it is best to let it go.
For Christian teaching on healthy friendships between Men and Women check out Forbidden Friendships available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle in the USA and the UK