One-sided friendships. Shallow friendships. “Friend” zones. These are all “friendships”most of us have experience with.

Many of us don’t realize how much we allow our friendships to impact our moods. It is normal to go through ups and downs, but what are we supposed to do when those trials in friendships come and somebody gets hurt? How do we know if we should continue to invest our time and energy into a “friendship” that doesn’t feel very much like a friendship? And what if we are the ones not being a very good friend? When is it time to put some distance in friendships for “your own good”? These are all questions that I’ve tried to answer in my own life.

I have experienced a variety of different friendships from deep to shallow, healthy to harmful, loyal to one-sided, honest to back-stabbing and some in between all of these extremes. But the one thing all of these relationships have in common is that in some way they helped me grow and they all taught me valuable lessons to help me be a better friend to others.

One very important thing to remember is that the hard times that you have gone through taught you a lesson one way or another. Those times shape our perspective in some way, it’s up to us to choose to learn something from it. Every relationship experience we have has something to offer us going forward. Even if we poured into it and didn’t get what we expected in return, we can use that as a learning experience of how to stick with people even when things aren’t great and work things out or when it’s just so bad, you have to lay it down, whether temporarily or permanently. I think the end goal no matter what should be healthy, honest, flourishing relationships that challenge the people in them in a positive way.

So what do we do if someone close to us has hurt us or caused us pain? Well this is something that can vary upon the situation but something I have learned repeatedly at OneLife (the gap year program I am attending) is to do onto others as you would want done unto you. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask if you would like to be treated like that? Our words and actions affect other people one way or another. Talk about a perspective shift!

So here’s the thing, God the most gracious, merciful God, Creator of the entire universe has forgiven us for every sin we have done when we come to Him and ask Him because of Jesus. So why do we hold grudges and can we not forgive those who have hurt us? I know, I know y’all this is SO HARD! I get it, I really do, but in order to expect forgiveness (and we all need it) we have to be able to give it sincerely.

These are the four promises you can make that can help with the process of forgiveness:

I will not dwell on the incident.

I will not bring up the incident again or use it against you once it’s been resolved.

I will not gossip or complain to others about the incident.

I will not let this incident stand between or hinder our relationship. 

These are not easy things to follow, but they are needed when someone we care about hurts us. We have to have the ability to forgive them and move on.

So when asked in class “what defines a toxic relationship?” my teacher responded with there is no such thing as that. We all have “toxic” traits (we are human), so in that case every relationship could be defined as toxic. While some part of me was in disagreement with that at first, I pondered this statement and realized he was right.  We all have our own struggles and issues from our past, and indeed bring “toxic” things into relationships/friendships without even realizing it. He has also made a bold statement of it does not matter if you played 2% of the “bad” part of the relationship and the other person played 98%, the Bible talks about you still have equal responsibility to try to fix it.

I do believe we have to have the ability to give genuine forgiveness before we can expect it and we need to be able to do that for relationships to grow. God loves that we fellowship we each other, look at Adam and Eve, He created Eve so Adam would not be alone, just as He did with the people in our lives right now and the fellowship we participate in.

God hates when people are divided, He loves reconciliation, in fact that is always His goal. That is why it hurts so bad when we feel rejection, or being pushed away and shut out because God literally did not create us to receive rejection. We were not created to experience heartbreak so that’s why it can feel physically painful.

Another weird crazy thing I learned and have tried to work on is that the more open we are about conflict and how we feel, the more that relationship will most likely be flourishing. Being vulnerable and honest is a risk but how can relationships grow without being that way? So that left me questioning should we even call each other out on stuff if it’s just going to make things awkward and cause conflict? But then I remembered that the Bible says “iron sharpens iron” and we are called to love one another and part of that love is working through conflict in a respectful way. No victim mentality or shaming, the motive should always be reconciliation or to at least to try to end up on the same page.

So with this I challenge you to really dig deep into two or three friendships with people, have the right motives, don’t just do it for what you can get out of it. Take time to get to know them for who they are. And do yourself a favor, don’t expect things from people, because I promise you’ll always get let down if you are trying to get things from people only The Lord can fulfill.

I ‘ll also challenge you to pray about it and reach out to someone who has hurt you to let them know how you feel instead of just doing nothing. Or if it’s vice versa and if it hasn’t already happened and you know it’s the right thing to do, ask for forgiveness. It’s kinda sad that we can build so many walls up over time instead of handing the situation over to God and doing things His way, not ours. Pretty soon we don’t even know why the walls are even there but it’s too much effort to do anything about it so we just move on to the next person. I’m so glad God doesn’t give up on us!

God loves all of us so much!  He gives us so much grace when we mess up and He also gives us so many examples of how to love others and have friendships that last through the hard times. It’s not always easy, but those genuine relationships that lead you closer to God are so worth it!  Xoxo