When Christian Friendships End

Sharon Forgiveness, Friendships 16 Comments

As someone who feels particularly called to women’s ministry, I am a little ashamed to admit that during my years as an adult I have had a number of catastrophic fallings out with friends. Despite my belief that this behavior was supposed to have ended in high school, some of my biggest blow-ups have occurred since graduating college.

After every one of those fights I was sure we would never be friends again! Forgiveness was one thing, but friendship? Never! That is why I was surprised when I recently realized that every single one of these friendships has been reconciled. That is not to say that we’re now BFF’s, and none of these reconciliations happened in a dramatic or super-intentional way. Yet over time, slowly and gently, God worked behind the scenes to heal my heart and heal the relationship.

A few of these friends never even knew that there was ever brokenness between us. At least not to the extent I felt it. I had nursed a secret bitterness toward them because of actions that I thought were aimed at hurting me, even though I can never really be sure that they were. Amazingly, God changed my heart and I consider some of them to be among my closest friends today!

These series of events therefore raise an important question for us as Christians: How are we to respond when a friendship ends? Do we simply go our separate ways, avoid them at church or school, and move on with our lives? There used to be a part of me that was ok with this response. As long as you had forgiven the person, everything else seemed extra and unnecessary.

However I have since reconsidered this position, and my primary reason is this: Our witness as the church is at stake. In John 13:34-35 Jesus exhorts the disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Put another way, our identity as the people of God is to be marked by a radical love that is unlike anything the world has seen. It is to be different. It is to be illogical. It is to be shocking.

That said, when a friend hurts or betrays us, we are to respond in a way that is definitively different from the world’s response. We do more than forgive. We embrace. And in so doing, we testify to the redeeming power of our God. We show the world that our talk of God as a healer is not just lip-service but a reality. Our love for one another makes the unconditional love of God more believable to the world. Through us, they get a taste of a love they never thought possible.

What does this mean practically speaking? Well it doesn’t mean you cover over the offense, and I don’t even think it means that reconciliation must occur immediately. The last thing God wants is a superficial obedience without a heart change. Nor does it mean we must return to being as close to the person as we used to be. What Jesus’ words do require is an openness toward reconciliation, whenever that time comes. It could take years, but it won’t happen at all if you’re not open to it.

One of the ways that God helped me to forgive and reconcile with friends was to realize their own brokenness. Whenever someone hurts me, I feel like I am the victim and they are the one in power, using their power to injure me. However God softened my heart and turned this perspective on its head by helping me to see the ways in which these former friends suffer and struggle in life. In fact, it was those very insecurities or wounds that often caused them to treat me the way that they did. By leveling the playing field and remembering that we’re all broken humans clumsily trying to follow Christ, God helped me to see these ex-friends the way He does: Sinners desperately in need of grace. It didn’t happen over night, but it happened.

That is why I encourage you to open your heart to the friends you want to forget. No matter how great the sin against you, consider how you can exemplify Jesus’ words in John 13. I’m not going to prescribe what steps you should take or what that reconciliation looks like–every situation is different. Simply let Jesus’ words be true of your life. Do you love in a way that is shocking, radical, and irrational to the world around you? How might God be softening your heart to love that person again? How might He be changing the way you see them, or giving you an opportunity to reach out and change the ending?

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Comments 16

  1. Emily

    I go through this very same thing with some of my friends! It is so great when I can finally get over the secret bitterness that the other person probably knows nothing about. And yes, slowly the friendships have come back in my life, even if we weren’t as close as before. But it is okay, I never had to face how a friendship must drastically change sometimes until recently. Just because you aren’t the same type of friends as before, doesn’t mean you aren’t friends. It was a hard adjustment for me.

  2. Casey

    I think the points you make here are absolutely valid and I don’t disagree with them. But I do wonder in what way (or at all) these could apply to previous romantic relationships. I’ve struggled with the best way for life to “go on” when a guy I have dated who is a Christian has really wronged me. What degrees of reconciliation are appropriate then?

  3. Lisa

    What a great post! I am now starting to heal a broken friendship after about five years of absence, so I am living out this process…key is that it isn’t overnight and may not even be possible right away. You are such an encouragement. Thank you!

  4. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Casey, this is something I have struggled with as well. The romantic aspect of the relationship certainly complicates things. Honestly, I think it is important to seek reconciliation, as much as possible, in a broken dating relationship. But how you go about it requires more careful timing and great wisdom. It is also important that this reconciliation is conducted in a manner that is not a veiled attempt to get back together with them, or have a more intimate friendship than would be healthy.

    I will admit, I have reconciled with virtually all my past relationships, but the ones for which reconciliation never occurred still bother me to this day. Brokenness between the Body of Christ is an unnatural state that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we should seek to mend if possible. But you are only responsible for yourself and there’s only so much you can do. Sometimes it has to be enough that you can stand blameless before God in your treatment of another, regardless of how your ex responds.

  5. Jean

    What if the person believes God told them to end the relationship with you. How can you reconcile with someone who does not even really want to speak to you and you go to the same church with them?

  6. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Jean, that is a really tough situation! Unfortunately there’s only so much you can do before you are really bothering someone and driving the wedge further between you. However, if you’ve exhausted all your options and a lot of time has passed since the falling out, I would consider taking it to the church. Is there a person on staff that you and your friend both trust and would listen to? If so, that person might be a helpful mediator, as well as a source of accountability for both parties involved. I would not, however, talk about this division, or your friends’ unwillingness to reconcile, with anyone besides a mediator–ESPECIALLY not mutual friends. That might further the division between you.

    If you’ve tried everything in your power–asking for forgiveness, seeking help from the church, and covering it in prayer–then the only thing left is patience. It may take this person a LONG time to be friends with you again, but God works in mysterious ways! He is a redeemer and He can heal the friendship. In the meantime, you must honor your friend and honor God to the best of your ability.

  7. Jean

    Thank you for your words of wisdom. I have just come to the conclusion that if it will be, it will be. I will just continue to be kind and pray for them. If they don’t or can’t be friends with me again it is alright. I have to go on with my life.

  8. Deanna

    Thank you for the confirmation posted here on your web-site. Obviously I have been in a broken friendship – thus why I searched upon your site.

    Being a woman of God causes a turmoil within the heart when a friendship ends or is broken for a season. I say for a season because I trust that is all it ought to be. The season may be a day – week or even years, but none the less only a season not permanent. John 13:34-35 is such an appropriate verse for we are to walk in love. When we love we don’t seek our own… we are not easily offended… (1 Corinthians 13)

    I trust one of the biggest hindrances of a mended relationship is overcoming our pride, our place to make our “right” be known. When we step back from ourselves and look at the relationship and the healing that needs to take place – is our “rightness” really important – does that point really need to be made or do we trust that God will reveal it to their hearts in His time if indeed it needs to be exposed at all?

    Is the “friendship” in a position to receive from me? If not, and you thought it was, that will become evident when the friendship is broken. This is when a broken relationship hurts the most. We tend to justify our positions and point at the other for the brokenness – but I too must look upon myself to see where I have sinned, or erred or stepped beyond the boundaries of the relationship. Truly knowing “my friend” I would/should know my boundaries in that relationship and know where not to trek.

    The scripture that I have been meditating upon regarding relationships is: Colossians 3:12-17 my sweet sisters – may we all let the peace of God rule in our hearts and do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

    I pray for healing in God’s way and in God’s time. As was mentioned not all relationship will return in the same manner. Some will be more appropriately distant and some more closer and deeper. Let God turn the ashes of brokenness into a beautiful thing.

    Thank you again for you site – it is a gift and a blessing.

  9. Sheri

    This article was posted two years ago but it still gave me a lot of inspiration and courage through the sharing of personal experience. I am actually having a hard time with this friend. I tried to talk to her but she doesn’t want to reconcile at the moment. But as what you have said, I will just wait patiently for God’s work that might soften her heart. I was too stubborn to an extent that I thought things gonna be same like last time if I make the first move but I Was wrong. Wound needs a lot of time to heal and thanks for reminding me that.

  10. Misha

    I am so grateful for this article. I just recently deleted several of my friends for different reasons. I just can’t keep relationships so because I can’t keep them, I end them and pray for more friendships to come forth but I know that won’t happen because I am hindering it. I feel good when I end the relationships. But several months later, I want to be their friends again. I have a friend from college. She seldom keeps in touch. I kept her as a connection facebook because she is pretty famous now and have connections but I believe that’s an inappropriate reason to keep someone as friend so I ended it. Then I ended a relationship on fb with a woman who said she believes in Christ. However she’s coarse with her language, she likes women, and she has an unteachable spirit. She always asks for my advice and then I give it and then she speaks to me as if I’m her enemy. I can’t take it. I am not perfect. Far from it however why hold to people who apparently don’t want to grow and build with me as friend.

  11. Lady B

    I can’t help but notice that even though this article was written 2 years ago, there’s been an influx of people commenting on it within the past 24 hours ! Looks like God is dealing with a few of His children in this area & is directing them here for healing. Anyhow, I too am struggling with forgiveness. I have a friend from my church who is a decent person, but gossping & backbiting are her weakness. She recently let it slip out that she has talked about me behind my back, and I am sure she still does. Its kind of her nature. The sad part is that she does this with another close friend of mine at the church. Consequently, I don’t really trust them anymore & have no desire to be friends. What hurt the most is a few months ago, this same friend had a major surgery and told everyone in our circle of friends except me & another young lady. We both were offended & that definitely put some things in perspective for me. Anyhow, I’ve decided to leave her alone and back away from that group of women. I think my course of action is wise, but I still fester resentment and bitterness toward her and the other friend she gossips with. I try to avoid them, but its hard when we work in the same ministries. Although I don’t want to be friends with them, I do need to walk in love because I am a Christian & I attend a close-knit church with these people. I just don’t know how to reconcile these feelings. Any thoughts ?

    1. Post
      Author
      Sharon

      Lady B, thanks for sharing and I’m sorry you have gone through this situation. It can be so hurtful, can’t it?

      You know, sometimes healing and the ability to forgive takes time. There are still some old friends who make me feel tense when I think about them, years and years later. The important thing is that you are open to letting God inhabit your heart and do a work there. Pray for those women. Ask God to weed out any bitterness in your heart. Ask for His help to see them the way He does. I’m not sure it ever stops hurting when people exclude us or talk about us behind our backs, but perhaps God can soften your heart and open your eyes to the woundedness that might be fueling such hurtful behavior. But definitely give yourself time, and He will help you!

  12. Rachel

    How about relationships that are crashing with someone who is not a christian and seems to run from it? I have a close friend who I’ve known most of my life. She is very worldly but respectful of my beliefs (even claims to believe the same things I believe) – but she does not act like a friend or christian. She seems to be jealous and/or uncaring about anything in my life. It’s so painful because I have given to this person when others have told me to stop. Do I just let it go or maintain it and pray she receives the Lord? I will love her and pray for her regardless of what happens. I really want to let it go because it seems like all that it ever does is emotionally drain me – but I feel guilty doing that because of God’s love for me.

  13. Audrey

    This article may have been written two years ago, but good, sound, solid Christian advice is never outdated. I found my way to this site – obviously because I have a “friend problem” too. I told one of my best friends I don’t want to be friends with her because of the way she speaks to me – always nitpicking my every infraction and has been doing it for years. Trouble is – I do want to be friends with her. She is other than that which I spoke about and a few other things – quite a caring and kind person. Sometimes I can’t seem to see the other sides however because of the things she does to me. I miss her terribly because we had some great times as friends. Now, even though I’ve apologized and told her that I would really love to have my friend back she is having none of it. I realize that it will take some time. I trust God and I have been allowing God to work on me so that I can be a better friend – whether it will be to her or to another in good time.

    Thanks for the info shared on this site.

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