Are you struggling with a friendship? It’s tempting to evaluate the trouble and identify the source of trouble as outside of your control.
You wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Your friends are inherently weak and sinful; you can’t change them. Their words and actions will affect you in hurtful and harmful ways; you can’t control them.
Unfortunately, so are we. And so do ours.
When sin in a friendship splashes up in your face, how will you respond? Will you compound the trouble by responding sinfully, or will you take advantage of the grace of Christ offered to you and choose a better way?
Here are six things to avoid and six things to choose instead in your friendships:
Self-Centeredness or Other-Centered
Friendships get tough because the people involved ask, “What is best for me?” Instead, when difficulty arises, ask “What is God doing in and through us?” Fight against the self-centeredness of sin that will inevitably subvert God’s design for friends.
Self-Rule or God’s Rule
If we reject God’s wise authority and replace it with self-rule, our friends become our subjects, expected to do our bidding and bow to our control. Are you trying to dominate your friends and have them submit to your law, or are you submitting to the authority of Christ?
Self-Sufficiency or Dependence
Friendships cannot be independent. God not only gives us himself but each other. When things get tough, our natural response is to move away from our friend. In so doing, we walk away from one of God’s principal means of provision.
Self-Righteousness or Humble Confession
If the holiness of God is not your standard, you will always set yourself up as that standard in a friendship. Nothing exposes this more than difficulty. Each friend will think they are more righteous than the other, acutely aware of the other’s sin and working hard to get them to see it too. Meanwhile, neither is looking at their heart, owning personal weakness and seeking the help that only Jesus can provide.
Self-Satisfaction or Satisfied In Christ
When you believe you can find true fulfillment outside of God, you might move in one of two different directions. Either you will be disinterested in your friends because you are chasing material things and believe that others interfere with your happiness, or you will try to use other people to provide you with joy. Neither ever results in a healthy friendship!
Self-Taught or Listening and Learning
If you are your source of truth and wisdom, you’ll forsake the humble, teachable spirit that is vital to a good friendship. You will always assume the role of mentor and give the impression that you have little, if anything, to learn from your friend.
What about you? Are you struggling in a friendship? Is it possible that you may have fallen into one of these six traps? Ask the Lord to show you where you have turned a friendship upside down.
This diagnosis, though hard to swallow, can lead to real change. It will be hard at first, maybe even devastating as you listen to your friend talk about the hurt you have caused.
But if you face these harsh realities, you’ll see something else. You’ll begin to see God—not off in the distance somewhere, but right there with you in the difficulty.
If you trust Christ, you’ll find the courage to trust each other again.
Pick one friendship and honestly and humbly examine it with these six questions. As you do, remember that Jesus has taken care of all your sin in this relationship and invites you to experience a better friendship as you trust him!
1. How can you better serve your friend this week? What are their specific needs that you can meet?
2. Are you trying to control your friend in any way? Why is this unhealthy for both of you?
3. How can you humbly depend on your friend more? What areas of weakness do you need to ask for help with?
4. What happens when you friend points out a flaw? Do you respond self-righteously or with humble confession?
5. In what ways might you be asking this friend to provide for you what only Jesus can provide?
6. How can you listen and learn from your friend more? If you think that you have all the wisdom to offer in the relationship, how will this negatively impact the relationship for both of you?