Dear Ginger: A Challenging Friendship

Dear Ginger,

What do you do about friends that aren’t really good friends to you? I have a friend that is mostly negative and bitter. He gets mad at me often and says some mean things because he’s lonely and hurt. I always forgive him and try to stay his friend and encourage him. Sometimes he stays mad at me for days, weeks, even a month and then says he misses our friendship.

I get so confused as to whether to end this friendship or keep trying to encourage him. I eventually do miss him after a certain time. We have known each other for 10 years. Right now, he is not talking again to me. Eventually he will contact me. If I respond then we seem to fall into the same trap of friends again and into him being mad at me. Should I cut him off completely?

This has been going on for a couple of years. What would Jesus do?

Thank you,

D

D, Thank you so much for your note. This sounds like a very frustrating situation. I’m so sorry that your friendship is in a cycle that seems bent on repeating itself. While I do not know your friend or exactly what he says to hurt you, it doesn’t sound like he is treating you like much of a friend at all.

I know that the Lord is honored by your willingness to forgive this man. It’s clear that you have done everything in your power to provide multiple opportunities for him to change his behavior and responses, all to no avail.

I suppose I want to remind you that the Jesus who said to pray for those who persecute us and to forgive as we have been forgiven is also the very same Jesus who told the disciples to shake the dust off of their sandals if they were not welcome in a city or home.

Good friendships are life-giving and sharpening.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIrV)

Negative friendships and relationships tend to have the opposite effect.

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV)

From what you have described, I don’t believe you’ve found yourself in a sharpening friendship. So how should you respond?

Continue to forgive. 

“Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13b, NIrV)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the other person to die.” -Anne Lamott

From your letter it sounds as if this is something you are attempting to do each time you are wronged. Forgiveness is for our own protection, it releases us from bitterness and the need to hurt back. Dr. Less Parrott III says, “Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. One may forgive the violations of another person yet not continue a relationship with the offender… While forgiveness is an indispensable prelude to reconciliation, it does not require a continuing relationship with the violator.”


Yes, we are called to love everyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to be friends with everyone. That may sound like a harsh reality, but I believe that sometimes it’s simply better to take a step back from a friendship. If a relationship displays repeated patterns of hurt, it may be time to reevaluate the situation. The Bible says that for the sake of the Gospel we should be prepared for hardships and persecution, but I don’t believe that’s something expected of you in close friendships. Here’s what I mean…

Loving our friends means being willing to say the hard truth.

It is “…a mistake to confuse forgiveness with excusing. Excusing is letting a person off the hook. Forgiveness keeps people accountable for their behavior. Nor is forgiveness tolerance. We do not have to tolerate what people do just because we have forgiven them for doing it.” (Smedes, Forgive and Forget.)

As I read your letter I couldn’t help but imagine how I would respond if you told me this was a dating relationship. If you were a teen girl writing in about a boy you had been seeing for a few weeks I would encourage you to let this relationship go. In the book, “The Art of Rejection” by Hayley and Michael DiMarco, they write, “Two people can destroy each other in ways other than abuse. If you find that your spirit is weakening, your heart is breaking and you don’t know why, then maybe you are in a destructive relationship. If you can’t say that this person makes you better emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, you need to think about changing the situation. Relationships should make you both better, not worse.”

I believe that principle can easily apply to friendships with the opposite sex. I’m not here to tell you that those aren’t possible; I just want to check in and make sure that you aren’t taking on a role that one of his male friends should fill. (I do hope this guy has close male friendships.) If this is a pattern of behavior in all of his relationships, this man has a true heart issue going on that will require time, energy, prayer, and even counseling. Long story short: I don’t believe that you are the one to fix him or this friendship.

My advice, and I am not a pastor, counselor, expert or psychologist: Lay out your feelings clearly. Express what behavior you expect from a friend and how he continues to betray the trust worthy of a friend. Explain that you are willing to be friends if he is willing to act as a friend. Anything else and you will have to step away from your friendship.

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May you have the courage and tact to move forward with peace and without animosity.

Please know that this response comes humbly your way.

Following,
Ginger

Smokey the Bear

Dramatic, yes. Drama, no.

Yesterday we discussed the makings of authentic community, so I thought it might be prudent to talk about the ways that we can keep the drama at bay. Say it with me…

Only you can prevent relationship drama. (Did you hear Smokey the Bear saying it? That’s how I hear it in my head.)

Relationships are imperfect because the people involved are imperfect. And while we cannot control the behavior of others,(wouldn’t that be lovely?!) we DO get to choose our responses and reactions. Let’s tackle the drama…

1. Ditch the unrealistic expectations.

-People will disappoint us.
-When someone fails you, don’t be stunned.
-The people closest to us have the greatest ability to hurt us.
-When a person does let us down, it is usually not intentional.
-Two options: Cover an offense with love or Confront in love.

Most hurts are not a reflection of the person’s dislike for us, but rather a reflection of a hardship in the person’s life or a character flaw. For the forgetful friend I could text “Are we still on for this afternoon?” rather than demanding something she cannot give.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Proverbs 27:5 and “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” (Proverbs 27:6)

2. Run from gossip.

This should go without saying, right? Even if the world says that this is one vice worth indulging in, the Word says otherwise.

“Don’t spread gossip and rumors. “Don’t just stand by when your neighbor’s life is in danger. I am GOD.” (Leviticus 19:16, MSG)

“Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?” (Proverbs 18:8, MSG)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

“When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day. Do not give the devil away to defeat you.” (Ephesians 4:26, NCV)

And while we are at it, how about: But in your anger, do not post on facebook. Let’s avoid airing thinly veiled shock on social media. “Sarah cannot believe how careless some people can be.” Don’t hate. Communicate. WITH that person.

3. Abandon grudges.

“Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13b (NIrV)

“Relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful.” – Max Lucado

Don’t simmer. Be a communication winner. Bitterness destroys people. Give grace. Just because someone doesn’t act or respond in the way I think they should doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about me.

Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12, NLT)

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV)

4. Make peace with rejection.

FRIENDSHIPS are seasonal. People come in and out of our lives for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes you just have to bounce the ball and see if they bounce it back.

If you truly believe this:“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28, NLT) …then you see rejection as the reset button.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3, NIV)

“The dynamics of a relationship can feel like a ‘source of life’ – Then, when that person withdraws slightly, it feels like death. But instead, this is bondage. Only Jesus is our source of life…” The Friendships of Women – by Dee Brestin

5. Add relationships that bring life.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIrV)

Ever tried to cut with a dull knife? Frustrating! Properly sharpened knives take that which was dull & ineffective and makes it highly functioning and highly effective! Tomorrow we will talk at length about cultivating friendships that keep us sharpened!

Until then, say it with me: PROUD TO BE, DRAMA FREE.

Following,
Ginger

Drama Free part 2

We are on a mission to eliminate some relationship drama this week.  C sent in a question asking what to do when it feels like drama keeps taking over.

Dear Ginger,

I feel like drama follows me everywhere I go – like school, friends, home, and even at church.  Why am I attracting all this drama?!  How can I stop it?

-C

It’s always wise to remember that although you might like to control another person’s behavior, you only have control over YOUR response and behavior.  No matter the relational drama you’ve been dealt, you always get to choose your reaction… but sometimes that’s easier said then done.  That’s why it’s so helpful to remember that you aren’t in this battle alone!

Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs writes, “You may be experiencing disappointment, frustration, or anger but you always have a choice.  The only real healing and comfort you’re going to get is by looking to the Lord and trusting Him with your situation, painful as it is.  To do otherwise is to sin.  This is hard to accept because you are the one being sinned against, at least most of the time, in your opinion.  Nonetheless, in order to find freedom, we must all realize that this isn’t about the other person.  This is about me before God.  My response is my responsibility!”

Yes, yes, and yes!  So what’s next?

If we are aware of unrealistic expectations and are truly fleeing from gossip, then it’s time to do some serious heart tending.  We’ve got to learn to abandon grudges.  (Ouch.)

I’ve been there.  I’ve been hurt by another person deeply and have wanted to hold onto that anger and bitterness.  At times I’ve wanted to release it, but always seem to head back into my wounded corner.  We aren’t called to forgive someone because God enjoys seeing us miserable.  On the contrary, He knows that holding that kind of bitterness in our heart will only hurt us and deny HIS power!

The author Anne Lamott puts it this way: “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the other person to die.”

Some of you have endured pain that I can’t even fathom.  I understand that there are certain wounds that require additional counseling and help.  Please don’t think for a minute that I want to downplay your experience or claim that your feelings aren’t warranted.  God sees you right where you are.  He has not looked away from the bullying or wrongs that you’ve experienced.  He longs to see you find healing and comfort through forgiveness.

“Forgive the things you are holding against one another.  Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13b (NIrV)

Some of us are holding onto petty grievances, misunderstandings, and past wrongs.  But if you really want to see drama hit the road, then follow in the footsteps of our Father.

“Relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful.” Max Lucado

Following,
Ginger

 

Proud to be Drama Free

Dear Ginger,

I feel like drama follows me everywhere I go – like school, friends, home, and even at church.  Why am I attracting all this drama?!  How can I stop it?

-C

Dear C, I’m so glad you took the time to write in and ask this question.  I feel like I’ve been asked about this topic countless times by young women over the past decade.  Let’s break it down and start by exploring what the Bible says.

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. Even more than all this, clothe yourself in love. Love is what holds you all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-14 (NCV)

In our battle for more peace in our relationships, it’s going to be so important to remember that keeping drama away takes a heavy dose of humility and love.  In the instances where you might want to lash out, prove a point, or share some gossip the winning course of action will be to forgive and put on love.  Sound like a tall order?  It is, but it’s also what’s required to downplay the drama factor AND live in obedience!  Remember… only YOU can prevent relationship drama.

 

Drama Free from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

Following,
Ginger

p.s. For serious, only you can prevent relationship drama.