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.

open

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

Flying

I chose this image to fill my kitchen chalkboard for the next few weeks after a little Pinterest inspiration. At first glance it’s not terribly seasonal. I wondered after hanging the board back up if I should have chosen a Psalm of thankfulness and a giant pumpkin instead. But I know that this is my lesson in gratitude.

I want the reminder each and every day to see forgiveness as freedom: forgiving others, forgiving myself, and living in the grace of God’s forgiveness. For far too long I’ve let the fear of failure keep me from embracing the life I was created to live.

“This fear of rejection drives me hard, eating away at my courage. And so I am cautious in my love. I am timid in my faith. My life tells a small story. I long to be seen, but I feel safe when I’m invisible. So I stay a good girl. And I hide…

I hide behind my mask of performance so people will think I am smart, capable, and put together. I hide behind the reputation I have established rather than trusting an unpredictable Jesus. I hide behind my positive emotions rather than let you see my reality. I hide behind my list of rules so I can check off each one, as if I’m another step closer to God because I’ve followed them. I hide behind my mask of strength because I’m ashamed of my weakness.” – Emily P. Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl

Slowly and surely those thoughts are transforming. I’m claiming truth even when it doesn’t feel true. His grace is enough. I am enough because of Him.

I am so thankful for the freedom that is beginning to seep into my heart and mind each day. It is freedom that keeps my eyes off of maintaining a perfect image and instead fixed on the One saying, “Follow and be free.”

Which side of the cage are you on?

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Forgiveness

Yesterday we addressed S’s question regarding forgiveness.  Take a moment and read it so you have a reference point.  I was moved and challenged by a comment written by a reader.  Here was Cathy’s response:

My “best friend” (the only friend I’ve ever had like this in my life) hurt me deeply at the beginning of this year and it was ugly. I was utterly blind-sided and she basically took years of very close friendship and tossed it away.  My first reaction was anger and bewilderment, but that turned to bitterness. I quickly realized that God had something in this for me. Something I didn’t think I needed to work on, but I was so wrong. I needed to learn how to forgive. Truly forgive. Not just say the words and pretend while secretly harboring bitterness and dislike in my heart.

I struggled with the “fairness” of forgiving her.

I struggled with the deep hurt she caused, the horrible words she said and the broken trust.

But more than anything I struggled with the fact that by NOT forgiving her I was being disobedient to my God.

And that broke me.

 I finally (months later, over the summer) came to a place of forgiveness I didn’t think possible. There is still hurt and a deeply broken trust that will take time to heal, but I forgive her. There isn’t bitterness or anger. We don’t talk much anymore, other than passing by at church. But I am at peace knowing that God isn’t necessarily asking me to  be her best friend again, He is just asking me to show her the grace He has shown me.

So thankful for the pain and tears and hurt and loneliness and loss He allowed. Joyful that He loves me enough to teach me these difficult things.

I think Cathy shows us a beautiful picture of what it looks like to follow after Jesus in obedience.  Forgiveness isn’t a feeling or forcing yourself to pretend you weren’t hurt.  Forgiveness is a decision you make to obey God.  When we refuse to forgive it can leave us unsettled, just like Cathy mentioned.  It can often keep us from being able to pray or grow in our relationship with the Lord or with others.  When we don’t forgive we make bitterness and hurt an idol.

Today I wanted to share just a few “tips” that can help us on our journey to forgiveness and release.  I’m not a professional counselor, nor am I suggesting that tips have the ability to fix things, but I am hoping that these steps will remind us to spend more time on our knees.

-Remember that the call to forgive includes everyone: parents, siblings, family, neighbors, friends, classmates, clerks, employees, teachers, bosses, leaders, pastors, politicians, sports heroes, and presidents.  Anyone who brings up negative feelings in your mind is someone you are called to forgive.  Gulp.  Forgiveness is an entire lifestyle change, not just a diet you engage in after a particularly bad season.  We are to forgive those who hurt us (intentionally or unintentionally) EVERY time we pray.

-If you need to, make a list of everyone who has hurt you in your entire life.  Yep.  That’s what I said.  Now begin to write a prayer forgiving each name individually.  Forgive them by name.  If you need to take a break, read Ephesians 4:29-5:2 and then start praying again.

“Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you. Don’t give God’s Holy Spirit any reason to be upset with you. He has put his seal on you for the day you will be set free from the world of sin.

Get rid of your bitterness, hot tempers, anger, loud quarreling, cursing, and hatred. Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ.  Imitate God, since you are the children he loves. Live in love as Christ also loved us. He gave his life for us as an offering and sacrifice, a soothing aroma to God.”  Ephesians 4:29-5:2, GWT

-Memorize Ephesians 4:29-5:2

-As you pray, use your imagination and picture Jesus standing before you.  Feel the weight of your sin, and the depth of His forgiveness.

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12, NLT

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  Romans 3:23, NLT

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23, NLT

Now picture each of the people you struggle to forgive also standing before your Savior.  Tell Jesus of the wrong done to you by each individual.  Describe your hurt and pain… and then watch how He responds.

“If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your psyche, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Have mercy on us, Oh Lord.

Following,
Ginger

Forgiveness = Release

Hey Ginger! Lately I’ve been struggling a lot with the thought of forgiveness. Is it possible to truly forgive someone but keep them at a distance in your life? And where do you draw the line between forgiving someone and becoming a pushover? – S

Dear S,
I was going to sit down and respond to your question yesterday, but guilt got the best of me.  I struggle with releasing hurt and even some anger toward an individual or two who have hurt me.  So in answering this question, I have to work through (yet again) all of the ideas that you present.  It’s been sobering and growing.

You mention that you struggle with forgiveness.  I think all of us do at some level.  Most of the things Jesus asks of us in the Bible aren’t things that come naturally to ourselves.  Who willingly wants to turn the other cheek after someone has slapped us?

If you’re like me, facing forgiveness can be pushed off as I pile up the excuses.  It’s uncomfortable.  It feels like the opposite of justice.  And sometimes the pain is so strong that it can feel weak to forgive rather than seek revenge.

I believe that the things Jesus asks of us in the Bible are there for our best and for His glory.  Forgiveness in the face of hurt doesn’t make sense to the world… but that’s exactly what Jesus asks of us- over and over.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. – Matthew 18: 21-22, MSG

Either we believe that our God is just and full of love (even when we’ve been hurt and betrayed) and that we should forgive because He knows it’s best for us, or we don’t.

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” –Ann Lamott

Holding onto bitterness and anger won’t hurt the other person, nor will it heal us.  It will only hold us captive.

Now, does that mean that I ask someone who has abused me and hurt me to be a part of my life on a regular basis?  That answer is going to vary in every situation.  I would suggest gleaning some advice from someone older who knows you and the situation and can help you see what the full picture of forgiveness needs to look like.

What do I mean?  What if a close friend of yours makes out with a guy you like at a party?  The rest of the school might tell you your duty is to cut off all contact with this girl forever.  I think Jesus would look you in the eye and tell you to forgive and move past any drama.  Of course you shouldn’t have to be a door mat for anyone, but I do think that we can deal with hurt and forgiveness without getting caddy on facebook or getting your girlfriends to gang up on her.  What a challenge your life could be to the world if you were the one who met her gaze and said, “I forgive you.”

Are you familiar with the story of Corrie Ten Boom who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp? She saw her father and her sister killed in that camp. She later wrote and spoke about her experiences and the way that God carried her through even the most difficult of experiences.  At one point in her ministry she was preaching in Germany about the forgiveness and love of Jesus.  After the meeting a man approached her, a man she recognized as one of the jailers who had humiliated and tortured her father and sister. The man said to her: “Ja, Sister Ten Boom, isn’t it wonderful how Jesus forgives all of our sins?”

“I looked him in the eye and I said, ‘Lord, forgive me, I cannot forgive this man.’ “I heard Jesus say, ‘Corrie, I forgive you for not forgiving that man,’ and when I heard that word in my heart, forgiveness came and I hugged this man and I said, ‘Yes, brother, I forgive you and I love you.'”

What an example.

If you aren’t able to verbally or in person forgive someone, might I suggest that you speak to a counselor about it?  I know my own limits and I will probably be doing the same for myself in the near future.  In the meantime I’m continuing to commit it to prayer.  Try writing the person a letter even if you never send it.  Sometimes releasing their “power” over the situation is a good way to start.  Pray, pray, pray.  I’d challenge you to pick up the book, “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore.  It has some great Scripture references on this topic.  Remember, perfection won’t be reached this week… but transformation can happen on a daily basis when we give ourselves over to the changing work of the Holy Spirit!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2, NLT

“God is always calling on us to do the impossible.  It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do too.” -Madeleine L’Engle

I’m going to talk about this a little bit more tomorrow, if that’s ok.

Praying for your heart and hurt, S.

Following,
Ginger

Dear Shannon.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 30-year-old Shannon,

I know that you have a hard time letting things go.  You always remember the offenses against you.  You justify it saying you have a great memory, where in reality you are harboring bitterness and pent up anger.  I know that many have wronged you, and you believe that they deserve to pay for the injustice heaped upon your life.  How dare they do these things to you?

You know that the Bible says we must forgive others as we have been forgiven.  Yet you can’t seem to live out that principle.  You can sit still as your mind starts racing about this friend, that family member, and the laundry list that goes with each one.  You have a critical, fault finding spirit and are quick to blame others.  You are PROUD.  You have a hard time fighting the spiritual battle in your head as the enemy seeps discontent into your thoughts.

You don’t know how to truly forgive.

Forgiveness means that you fully release the offender from his debt.  It means fully cleaning his record.  You need to quit being everyone’s jailor!  You have kept your loved ones in bondage for too long.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as god in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

As Christ forgave you. You were once dead in your transgressions and now, through His grace, you have been extended life in Him.  Because of God’s mercy, God has forgiven everything in me so that I can look more like Christ.  And I deserve nothing, yet I have been promised paradise.  So who am I to not extend that same grace to others around me, much less believers in Christ?

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’  We are offered forgiveness on no other terms.  To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.” – C.S. Lewis

Let go of the laundry list.  You want God’s mercy, so in turn you need to extend it to others.  Be freed from bondage of holding others captive in your thoughts.  Show a lost world how to truly love one another in Christ.  You are sending the wrong message to people who are watching you.

“Right relationships – especially within the family of God – are one of the most powerful means of communicating the gospel to a lost world.  Our God is a reconciling God, and when believers cannot get along with each other or fail to resolve conflicts biblically, we actually discredit the gospel.  When God’s people are reconciled to each other, we demonstrate the power of the gospel and make it believable.”  From Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh Demoss.

I know you didn’t realize you were discrediting the gospel by your actions, but now that you are extending grace to others as you have been given, you can now exhibit the gospel more accurately.  Jesus came to save out of love, not because he wanted to keep a checklist of everyone’s right and wrongs.

“If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130:3-4

The Lord doesn’t keep a record of my wrongs, so I shouldn’t keep a list of others.  So relax, let go, and take a deep breath.  Remember the grace that you have received daily, and you just might surprise someone, even yourself, at how easy it is to get over things.

Grace and peace,
Shannon

Some call me ‘Shannon’, others ‘Shani’, and sometimes the occasional ‘babe’.  But the word I hear the most everyday is ‘Mommy’.  I have been married to one of the tallest men I know for 11 years and have been dappling in motherhood for the last 5 years.  We are currently chartering into the world of adoption and praying for God’s Will in expanding our family.  I am one of 12 Americans that have never been on Facebook, though I do update my blog on a random whim.  I love yoga, greek yogurt, 6:30am hugs from my son, date night with the hubby, and asking complete strangers how I can pray for them.  In the meantime, I am just trying to live life to the fullest for His Glory.