At a recent church picnic, I was walking back to my seat, from my third helping of barbecued brisket (don’t judge me), when I ran across my Sunday School student Daniel sulking alone at a table. Surprised because he usually has a pretty sunny personality, I pulled up a chair next to him and asked what was going on. Turns out it was a bit of good ‘ol toddler drama. Some little boy had told him they weren’t friends anymore and left to go play with the others, leaving Daniel feeling pretty lonely back at the picnic pavilion. After a visit to the nearest cookie tray and a couple of tickles, Daniel was back to his old self again, and I even saw him happily playing alongside his so-called “ex-best friend” a little bit later on that afternoon. It didn’t take much to mend that friendship.
However, it seems to me that the older we get, the harder it is to cope with friends that do us wrong.
The truth of the matter is, no matter how good of a friend anyone ever hopes to be, we are literally incapable of perfect friendships. This of course, doesn’t mean that we stop making an effort with each other, but it also doesn’t mean we should be so hard on one another when mistakes are made.
The root of the issue? Selfishness. We are so desperately looking for someone or something to fulfill whatever we need, that we forget about the other person’s feelings, needs and desires. We know what we want to see in the people who surround us. In fact, we are SO busy thinking about why we need our friends, we forget to consider how they might need us.
I love this quote by C.S. Lewis. He says:
“There are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us; not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.“
I believe that we have different friends for different seasons of our lives, and there are going to be very few that stick around from the beginning to the end. However, I also believe that sometimes, we are called to be friends to people who are seemingly “unfriendable”. Not because we don’t have other options, but because every day we are experiencing a kind of love that we do not deserve.
“This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10
So what do you do when you’ve got a friend who seems to be pushing all your buttons? Here are a couple of practical steps you could consider:
- Pray for them. Let’s be real, you should be doing this anyway. But pray specifically about the fact that they’re being unlovable. Take into consideration reasons that could contribute to their behavior. Ask God to help you show them love that you may not feel like sharing.
- Keep your communication real. If there seems to be a problem that persists, you shouldn’t be afraid to bring it up with your friend. Be honest, but not harsh. This could be your opportunity to display the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control)
- Forgive and forget…for real. Once you’ve (hopefully) settled the matter, don’t bring it up again, whether it’s with that friend or anyone else. What’s the point in trying to fix problems if they’re just going to be brought back up again? Keep in mind that Christ doesn’t keep a record of the ways you’ve let Him down, so you shouldn’t do so with your friends either! (Psalm 103:12)
God blessed us with the company of others, not because our friendships will last forever, but because He wanted us to enjoy life with people who make us happy. Let’s try not to forget that, no matter how crazy we might drive each other sometimes.