I don’t think I need to ask if you have ever been hurt by a friend. Being hurt is common to the human experience. Each of us, at one time or another, has been wounded by someone that we have allowed to be close to us. Sometimes, the wounding has been necessary to help us become what God intended us to be.
As part of our trusting relationship, a friend may see something in our character that needs to be addressed. These “woundings” fulfill what we see in Proverbs 27:6a; “The wounds of a friend are faithful…” And, the reason for these times of pain is to help refine and purify you and to help remove that which stands in the way of God and your relationship.
In the same way that we are wounded by friends who are trying to help, we have all been wounded by friends who are trying to hurt. For whatever reason, those we have viewed as friends may run roughshod over our emotions and leave us reeling and broken. When the wounds of a friend aren’t faithful, how do we respond out of our own pain and disappointment. When wounded, it might take some time to work through it, but here are a few rules of thumb I have learned over the years:
First, I have found that it helps to clarify the issue or issues. Many times misunderstandings and confusion create conflict and wounding that was never meant to be. In an electronic age, where email has replaced face to face conversations, one can’t hear tone or read the nuances of body language. Being able to resolve a misunderstanding through clarification can lead to healing and restoration before a bigger rift occurs.
Secondly, know and understand that “hurting people hurt people. ” Often, the wounds that you receive actually have nothing to do with you. Perhaps there is pain in the life of the one who is lashing out at you. Maybe there is a break down in some other area of their life and sadly you have caught them at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind, and you take the brunt of their anger. At these times it is easy to lash out and hurt back, but remember again from Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Seek to be understanding and compassionate.
A third thing to consider is that often times people don’t have a clue about the true impact of their words. Their idea of what is acceptable may vary greatly from yours. Letting people know how they have made you feel in a gentle manner can go a long way towards restoring relationship Use expressions that do not fix blame, but help them understand the impact of their words or actions. For example, I have learned to confront others with expressions like, “When I heard ___________, I felt _____________.” Fill in the blanks with the words that were directed at you and the emotions that they brought on. Hopefully, through using careful words and patient understanding, healing can occur.
The goal of each of these last three ideas has been to heal and bring restoration. Indeed, in all our relationships God calls us to love and care for others and to walk at peace with others. (Romans 12:18) This needs to be our end goal that we work towards. That being said, this is an end goal that works better if two people work towards it together. If we are in a relationship where we are constantly being wounded by an angry and spiteful person, we need to understand that by allowing them to continue to wound us and the others around us we are actually empowering them and giving them authority over us and our own well being. Often in times like this, the best way to have any relationship what so ever is to put limits on how often you are in contact with them and to limit what goes on in those times.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list on dealing with toxic relationships, hopefully it gets your thinking about how to have healthy and life bringing friendships.
What about you? How do you deal with a situation where a friend hurts you?