Are you experiencing pain in a friendship?
I would love to have this be a place where we can gently help each other. Recently Remi wrote with a friendship problem I think we have all experienced. Remi has a humble and teachable heart, so when I asked her if I could post her letter, she vulnerably agreed. When we try to help each other, let’s be as gentle as if we were removing a sliver!
Here’s Remi’s letter:
I have a friend who I have been friends with for over 25 years. It’s something when you meet someone, and the Lord “knits your hearts together.” This was the way with my friend. Within my heart, God has placed a love for this friend, which in hard times, and bad times, hasn’t diminished. I know it’s a “gift” from God because it doesn’t go away. The last 5 years or so with my friend has been difficult, and because of circumstances in her life she has withdrawn, which has been painful to me as a friend. I want to withdrawn myself at times, because of my own hurt. But God, has put a love in my heart for this woman, that doesn’t change or diminish. It’s painful, to be sure, because I feel rejected, but then I thought, ya know, I need to get myself out of the way. God, I believe places people in our lives for a reason, and the opposite is true also, we have been placed in others hearts for a reason, who knows but we may be the instruments that God uses to show that other person, unconditional love. (I am not perfect, by any means, and some of the letter you may not understand because of the relationship, but I would like your feedback!) (I also know I am opening myself up for criticism, but your honesty is appreciated.) On that note, I’d like to offer the letter I wrote to my friend:
I don’t understand what is going on with you, how come you never write? And please don’t insult me by saying your “too busy” or “you hate to write.”
It’s funny but I don’t know how to treat you actually.
If you were my sister, I would say – “What’s wrong with you?” “How come you don’t write – what’s going on?”
If you were my mother, I would be deeply wounded, knowing you don’t care enough to write – that I’ve meant so little to you.
As a friend, I’m not sure what type of friend I am. I’m hurt because I thought we were better friends than not. But apparently that is not the case either. That’s hurtful, but I’ll get over it.
But one thing I think I am to you is a sister in Christ. I don’t think things can change that, because it was born of God.
There are many good reasons why I think that God brought you into my life – but the opposite is true also – God knew also that I could be used to bring something into your life. God doesn’t make mistakes, we do.
I want to be found faithful , to carry out the things that God has given me to do, and certainly, God hasn’t made my way hard , painful sometimes, but not hard. It’s getting myself out of the way, that sometimes is difficult.
God has put a love in my heart for you. It doesn’t change or diminish. Alot of time, I wish it would go away because it is painful.
I’m not a stalker, or a stupid person, but I am a gift of God’s love toward you. You can accept it or reject it .
God had a purpose , I am sure of it. He doesn’t make mistakes .
A Sister in Christ Responds:
This is from FTL, who also gave me permission to post her reply. This originally was on the MId-day Forum from Moody Radio.
08-12-2009 06:56 AM ET (US)
May I speak to you from the other side? I am one who has withdrawn after nearly 30 years of friendship. Because of where I am, I am guessing there is a cause why your friend has withdrawn–a cause that she hasn’t felt free to tell you for some reason.
Parts of the letter you posted are good. But other parts made me cringe. I would not feel invited to relationship if I received it. I would feel controlled, and ready to run even farther.
I think Dee’s suggestion of reading the Boundaries book is great. As you do so, lay out your heart before God on what He wants to show you about you. If you pursue relationship later, it would be well to ask questions that would draw out your friend. I think what you really want is to hear her heart. Ask questions that will invite her to share it, but not compel her. If she speaks, then listen. It may be hard to hear. It may be distorted, which can wound deeply. But there may also be hard truths you need to hear.
Hugs and prayers!
I love this quote from Lillian Rubin: “The pain of a demise of a soulmate friendship is akin to the pain of a divorce.” I’m so sorry for your pain. Women tend to have more pain in their friendships because they are closer, and the tearing apart rips your very soul.
I think FTL will share more, but I think she does have wise points. There are wonderful things where you affirm your friend and tell her your desires, but I too see some things that may cause her to shy away such as “God doesn’t make mistakes” implying this friendship must last forever or God wouldn’t have begun it. Most friendships aren’t forever, but a gift for a season. I agree with FTL that you need to ask questions and hear her heart.
Since the advent of e-mail (and I don’t know if you sent this letter by e-mail or snail mail) many confrontations are done by e-mail, and I think that is not wise. It is easier for the one confronting, but not effective, for the confronted doesn’t have a chance to be heard. You can’t speak and watch her face — you can’t hear her. You see, our hearts are so deceitful, we have a tendency to be manipulative — and face to face helps disarm that. She can also see, as I sense in your heart, that you really care about her and not just about sounding off and telling her how much she’s hurt you. Face to face also disarms her defensiveness, for she realizes it took love and honesty for you to come humbly. When you do, use “I” messages — for you don’t really know her heart yet.
There are times when I’ve had to give someone I love space and I have missed them, but in doing so, each time, they have come back. However you can’t do it manipulatively, to make them miss you — you have to really let go and leave it with the Lord.
In my own life, Remi, after my husband died, I held on to my daughters too tightly, and God had to pry my fingers away from each one, saying, “Trust in me, Dee — and give them freedom.” Again and again and again I have realized the only One who will never die, never move away, and never betray me is Jesus — and that is the One I must cling to — and then my other relationships become healthier.
I love your heart, your humility — that’s why I asked to put this on my blog — for I sense a real desire to hear the truth to be set free.
You are so kind to respond to my letter, and I appreciate it, more than you know! I realize Dee, that I am not the best friend anyone could have, and I also realize what a gift God had given me in this friendship.
I also realize how imperfect I really am, (and I’m sure I don’t even the half of it! =) ). But not to beat myself up, because I don’t think that does any good, what I really want is to learn, so I may do it better.
I do love my friend, and I miss her. And I would go see her “face to face”, because I too believe that it’s the best way, but it’s just not possible, she lives very far away. And even to get on the phone, without an “invitation”, I feel would be an intrusion.
Getting back to “my letter”, I do see, how I have been manipulative, and fear “letting go”. Thank you for your wise counsel.
The reason, I “offered” my letter, is because I realize within myself, how much I need help to learn to be a friend. And how much my heart is hurt within me, that I have failed in that regard.
Remi — I hope all our readers can learn from you. All of us have “stuff” and need teachable hearts — but teachable hearts are fairly rare.
You are a great model.
Remi,in all of life we deal with an assortment of relationships, whether in friendships, marriages, children, coworkers etc. When we focus on the relationship and what it could be like, I think we remove our focus from the creator of the relationship, God.
I have experienced pain in friendships, I have also experienced pain in marriage, but through it all God has led me to this one great discovery…Him. He is the great I Am. He is our great warrior prince. Only, by focusing on that relationship with Him, can we become the women we are meant to be in our relationships with others.
Only God can fill our deepest desires for intimacy and friendship. When other relationships disappoint or fall flat, I turn to Him and remember how much He cares for me, even though I often disappoint or fall flat. Knowing that, isn’t that what we are meant to be to others? One who can be trusted and looked to, or just sat with with no words expressed?
I have some friendships right now that I have had to let go of and at first it was hard, but as I’ve grown in my relationship with God, I find I can still love them without expecting anything in return. When some time has passed and we haven’t spoken, I send an email or leave a message on their phone saying, “Hey just wanted you to know I am thinking about you and hope you are okay.” Sometimes I get a response and others times I don’t. The reality of life is some friendships last and others don’t. And that is okay. God never changes and He will always be your friend and hers.
Do what you can to maintain the relationship, but if she is unresponsive then let her go. Pray for her as God brings her to your mind. Send her a note once in a while, but let her have space. There are times we need it.
It is obvious God is working in your life. Go to Him. Dwell with Him.
Your relationship with Him is worth keeping and nurturing.
Amy — such good wisdom. It takes real maturity not to expect something back — I think that can only come when the Lord is the One you are clinging to, having meet your needs. So good.
I am learning that there are some “stubborn” weeds in my own heart, where I thought they were flowers.
Thank you Amy.
This from FTL — from the Moody Forum —
Sorry to make you wait so long. FULL days, and I will confess, I forgot about it when I would have had the opportunity.
What I say next is said out my own struggles with a friendship.
I’ve felt quite manipulated by the other person. She says she wants to hear my heart, but when I tell her things that have factored into the way I’m relating, she passes it off, and doesn’t appear to see how it has hurt me. Her way of relating has killed a lot of my desire for friendship. I want to just run away. But I don’t feel freedom from God to do that at this point. I will confess, I am not sure what is the right way to pursue relationship. For right now, I am going to God and seeking HIM.
I appreciated Dee’s last response. She already echoed one of the things that made me cringe–that of implying your friendship must go on. In connection with that is this quote from your
letter: “I’m not a stalker, or a stupid person, but I am a gift of God’s love toward you. You can accept it or reject it.” If there is deep pain in her heart because of something you have done or said, that will feel like a twisting barb in her heart.
If there’s pain, she’s supposed to consider it God’s gift and something she needs to just accept?
“If you were my sister, I would say – ‘What’s wrong with you?
How come you don’t write – what’s going on?'” This part of the letter points toward her. The problem is with her, or she would be communicating. This makes me want to turn away.
There is also the feeling that pressure is being put on for your friend to get her act together and mend this friendship so you can quit hurting.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dee. Make your statements be “I”
statements. Ask questions to invite her to share her heart. But don’t compel her to tell anything she doesn’t feel safe telling.
These parts draw me: “As a friend, I’m not sure what type of friend I am. I’m hurt because I thought we were better friends.”
“I want to be found faithful.” You are baring your own heart. I hear a lot of pain too. Don’t make your friend responsible to meet you in your pain. Find someone else to help you sort through things. Find comfort for your pain in Jesus.
There’s a lot of push/pull in your letter. I don’t know if you’ve given the letter. If you haven’t, I think it would be wise to work through some of your pain, and then write another letter.
Hugs and prayers,
Remi is so dear. Very few have her heart.
On a more general note, pertaining to all of us and the pain we will inevitably experience in close friendships, I’d like us to meditate on a few friendship proverbs. Here is one of my favorites — and I’d love your thoughts on it:
THE PURPOSES OF A PERSON’S HEART ARE LIKE DEEP WATERS, BUT A FRIEND OF
UNDERSTANDING DRAWS THEM OUT (PROVERBS 20:5)
What reflections do you have on what this means? What does the word picture mean?
What does this mean about the importance of community, counseling, “a friend of understanding?” Have you experienced someone else helping you see your own heart?
Doesn’t it seem to say that we have a responsibility to study each other? If the purposes of our hearts are like deep waters, they are buried deep to only be discovered by those who diligently seek to know us.
What an honor to be cared for so deeply by another person. Someone who has chosen to invest the gift of time to get to know us, to dig deeper especially when we hide out of fear and mistrust.
In turn, it is such a privilege to be that ‘treasure hunter’ in someone else’s life to find out we have found precious gems.
I agree with Mary — beautiful description. We can’t really know our hearts outside of caring community. Even when I look in the mirror, I don’t really look — I move so I see my best side — and keep my hips below the mirror. Same way with my inner self — I’m afraid to see — and yet need to see. But not just anyone can help me. Makes me think about the proverb: An enemy multiplies kisses but wounds from a friend can be trusted.
Beautiful way of describing a friendship Barb!
uww…it’s not pretty to look into the mirror and see what others see, especially when that image is a more true image of myself. Thank you for helping me see clearer, though it’s not a “prettier” picture of me but a more accurate one. What you have helped me to see is my own “idolotrous” heart. I put my friend in the place of God in my life, and when she failed me,(as anyone in that place would do), I was hurt and wounded. And by putting her in that place and because of that, I hurt and wounded her also. I failed to be a friend. Thank you for the “wounds” that help to heal me.
In talking about pain and distance in a relationship, I think of the verse in Amos 3:3, which says, (NLT), “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” I had a friend who I had been friends with for many years, and a few years ago, she told me she had seperated from her husband. Now, my friend, as long as I had known her, she had been a godly woman, trying to serve the Lord, with a gentle and humble heart. We don’t live close, so she would e-mail me and I would just listen, for I thought, surely, there must some reason I don’t know about. My heart was open toward my friend, for I loved her very much. We had been there for each other for many years in different ways. And in many ways, she was like a mentor to me, in my early Christian walk. My heart was open, waiting and longing to hear – something – to help me to “be on her side” help me to understand her decision. But nothing ever came, she would say things like, “I just never really loved him.” “I married him because he was a Christian, and my friends said he would change.” She had moved in with a friend of hers, and a little while after that, she had told me – she had met someone and had “fallen” in love. Now, before this, my friend and I had a great relationship, a long distance one, but a good one! We had always been honest with each other, and she had even helped me a few times when “I” had been going in the wrong direction – this was the type of relationship we had. So, as gently as I knew how, I told her, I didn’t really agree and since that time, she has pulled further and further from me. I wanted to “support” her but I couldn’t. So, don’t you think sometimes it is “sin” that seperates us? Don’t you think that sometimes, people don’t want to be around those who remind them, that what they are doing is wrong, when they don’t want to do what is right?
Friendships are painful, but the trials help make them stronger. At this moment I am going through some pain in one of my friendships. My friendship is not the female-female, my friend is a guy. We have spent time with each other, shared personal things with one another, and encouraged each other. The hard part is that over time I have started to like him more than a friend, but he only needs a friend. He has moved away from his family and friends due to his job, so he has no one here. I am the only one from our church group that he has seen/found that connection with. I want to be that friend he needs but my feelings for him are getting in the way. How can I get passed my feelings for him and be the friend he needs and the friend I am called to be?
My initial reaction Erica is that you can’t be that friend to him. I know if I were in your shoes I would always be hoping that by being with him he’d realize that he wants me as more than a friend — but that is probably not going to happen. I think the wisest course would be to cool it and encourage him to pray for some strong Christian guys. You don’t need to explain — he will no doubt understand why.
But it will be hard to do.
I’ll pray for you. I’m sorry for the pain. I love your honesty, however.
What if a painful situation involves a family member for ex. a sister?
Where a sister thinks you have not been a good friend because you have hurt them? And, after asking for forgiveness for these things I have done or said (some intentional, most unintentional)does not receive full forgiveness because she brings them up again and again each time she is offended. And so, I have chosen to draw boundaries to protect myself from her because she can say hurtful things disquised as “just joking” and other reasons. And, now acts hurt and is upset wondering why I don’t spend any time with her and why do I spend more time with my friends. She doesn’t have any friends to do things with besides our mom. I have tried to share why I don’t do things with her as much, one, she is always late, she said that is shallow of me, two, she would always want to go to the mall with toddlers, that was not any fun for me, but she could never see from my perspective and get defensive and continue to argue about why? Why don’t I want to go to the mall? How can I be so shallow about not wanting to plan things with her anymore just because she’s late. I could go on and on. THe hard part about all of this is I what to do what God would have me do, but it is hard trying to talk to someone about issues who never try and see things from another’s perspective. So, if this was a friend and not a sister I could let that friendship go. What do you do with a sister you can’t get along with or see eye to eye? ANd, too she has gotten so angry with me that she has torn me down as a person. Attacking my personality with mean words. I have not done that to her in any of our disagreements. She has done it many times and then wants to cont. on with our lives as if she never said anything. SHe excuses it as saying, “I was just angry, I didn’t really mean that.”
What do I do, Dee?