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

The Shelf of Possibility

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Journal Entry

September 7, 2006

What if I just quit? Not anything in particular. I’m not saying my job or my family… or anything drastic like that, I just want to get away.  I’m sure I am just tired and wanting a break – so it’s a good thing I’m taking off on Friday to take a trip home. But I’m tired of not hearing a direction.  I’m tired of the guesswork in life.  It would be SO MUCH easier if I could get a map.

I was talking to someone yesterday about how I feel like I’m on the edge of a giant transition. I just don’t know exactly when it starts and when it will settle. I told her that I just wanted the answer now.  She told me about her own transition year and she is convinced that if she had seen the end before the beginning she would have said “NO WAY.” And maybe that’s the case with me. Never-the-less, the pressure is building. I feel like I am a bottle of Sprite and someone has been shaking me up for the past year and now I am about to spray out everywhere. It’s exhausting holding myself in and together.

The ridiculous thing is that my life is pretty genteel and simple for all of these dramatics. I went to a game night last night and I’m going home to see my family and have brunch with my grandparents.  Yes, we are “doing brunch” on Sunday.

But in the midst of all this normalcy I’m trying to figure out what the I’m doing and this song is really getting old. YES. Just pick something and go for it.  BUT I CAN’T.  I’M STUCK on this shelf of possibility and leaving terrifies me. I’m beginning to think that I can talk myself out of anything. Why can’t I be decisive?  Why can’t I be thrilled for all the joyful people around me? 

Every once in a while I need a good word explosion. Today just happens to be the day. I laughed for 3 hours last night and now I could just about throw something.

“Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21

________

Can anyone else identify? My guess: yes. More to come…

Following,
Ginger

Looking Back, Leaning Forward.

So, New Year, we meet again.

I really enjoy this time of year. I anticipate opening the new calendar and filling it up. Having two planners on my kitchen table for the past month has been driving me crazy. But now all the Christmas celebrations have passed, and all that’s left is reflection and goal setting for 2013. So if you haven’t already started resolving, dreaming, cleaning, and declaring… there’s no time like the present.

 

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If the idea of making anything close to a resolution causes you to pull your hair out, this post is for you. I’m not about banishing snacks from my home or even picking a number on the scale. I prefer to speak in terms of goals that help me to live a better story. So today I wanted to share some thoughts, resources, and encouragement for embracing the new year.

1. Write out your story from 2012. I did this last week and spent  45 minutes to an hour tops on the whole project. I wrote out my highs and lows for the year. After doing so I stared at a list of God’s provision and providence. I was overwhelmed to see how many good gifts were poured out in abundance. I’m also humbled to see His hand in the midst of heartache. Writing out my story helps me to remember where I have come from and where He is taking me.

2. Read this post by Kevin East. Every year this list influences how my husband and I create our family goals, but the areas could be applied to ANYONE, even if you call all the shots in your family. If you are looking for a great place to start when it comes to some serious introspection and goal setting, look no further.

3. Watch this video that talks through how I create my personal goals with some important guidelines: the goals should be measurable, attainable, realistic, and time managed. It’s dated from last January, but the main points apply just as easily today.

4. Don’t get discouraged! I didn’t finish everything on my list from last year, but that doesn’t mean I failed. It just means those things need to be reworded, reworked, and refocused. This verse keeps me encouraged:

“So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t.” 2 Cor 8:10-12 Msg

5. Write out your hopes for the year. When I step into 2014 (yikes!) I hope to:

– Have a copy of my book in hand. (Whether e-reader or printed.)
– Know my neighbors – beyond their names and a few surface details. I want to know their stories.
– Have finally read “Mere Christianity.” (How many times can you stop and start one book?)
– Tried out and attended a group activity class at my local rec center. (I’m not meeting people jogging by myself.)
– Have given away multiple copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible in English and Spanish.
– Own and have utilized an Advent wreath during the season.

Those are just a few… there are some more that are going to stay close to heart for safe keeping. But more than any hope I have for the year, I am waiting in expectation for all that the Lord has in store. For “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21) I trade in my lists for whatever He purposes!

My hope is that these words encourage you in your own story!

Following,
Ginger

True Little Bits

I just finished a read through of the book of Proverbs.  Whew.  That’s a lot of good-some (yes, good-some) wisdom to digest.  I started thinking about some of the best one-liners that I’ve treasured in my heart and mind over the past decade.  Moves, college, heartaches, triumphs, first jobs, a trek to the desert, loss, opportunities, disappointment, love, purpose… through it all God has used the voices of family, friends, co-workers, authors, pastors, and even strangers to give me additional wisdom to my arsenal.  His voice has been the clearest, but I wanted to just share a few of my favorite truth bits that I’ve come to claim and believe for my own life.  Be sure to comment with some of the truth bits or verses that help you wade through this life!

In no particular order:

1. Everyone has bad days at work.
2. God says, “Know ME” and not “Know Thyself.”
3. God-esteem over self-esteem every time.
4. It is not good to be controlled by anything.
5. Live above reproach.
6. All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.
7. It is better to be anything deprived rather than God deprived.
8. There’s no benefit to anyone else when I try and appear perfect.
9. Why Abram? Maybe, simply, because he would GO.
10. We are not those who shrink back, but those who believe and are saved.
11. Gather experiences, not things.
12. Fear is not a valid excuse.
13. Singleness is not a condition or something to be endured.
14. GO until you get a no.
15. God is pleased with you BECAUSE he is pleased with His Son.
16. God cannot love you any more or any less than He does right now.
17. When reality and expectations don’t match up… all that’s left is disappointment.
18. God speaks to us in different ways. Listen for your story.
19. Open up your hands.
20. The type of bait you use determines the fish you will catch.
21. Quiet tension is not trust, it is simply compressed anxiety.
22. Comparison is the thief of joy.
23. Enthusiasm covers a multitude of sins.
24. Talk less, listen more, and ask lots of questions.
25. Eating ice cream for dinner is totally fine and completely worth it.
26. God is the only one who can complete you.
27. If you want to win big, you have to risk big.
28. Few great things were ever accomplished by sitting on a couch and watching T.V.
29. Get out of the car and go make new friends.
30. Relationships are seasonal… and that’s ok.
31. Worry accomplishes nothing.
32. Put your grocery cart back where it goes.
33. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray always.
34. Remember you are a work in progress.
35. Be quick to forgive.
36. Read God’s Word every day of the week… not just Sundays.
37. Eat your vegetables. Sometimes eat them with cheese.
38. Waiting for God’s timing is totally worth it.
39. Garbage in, garbage out.
40. Remember WHOSE you are, rather than just who you are.

There certainly are more, but number 46 is to remember that people only spend on average 1 minute and 47 seconds on single blog post. ;)

Jump in and share some more!

Following,
Ginger