Recently, my best friend hurt my feelings. We were having our morning phone call — something we do almost every day — and I was sharing with Jen about a tough experience I’d had in a ministry meeting the night before. She went into advice mode, suggesting what my part in the conflict could have been, and how I might avoid it in the future. I did not like it.
“I’m too upset for feedback right now,” I said. “I’m getting off the phone.” And I hung up.
Deep breaths and tears ensued. Calmer, I sent her a text, knowing that by now she was probably at her office.
“I appreciate your wisdom and insight. I’m sure it’s good advice. I’m sorry I’m too emotional to receive it right now.”
She wrote back right away. “And I’m feeling like I should have just listened and not offered advice. I’m sorry.”
I responded: “Thank you. Sorry I hung up. We’re past the point where you have to be super careful. I trust your heart.”
Jen and I have been friends for almost twenty years, and it’s true: we have passed a certain point — the point in a relationship in which you question the person’s love, loyalty, and safety. I now know that Jen is for me, as much as one flawed human being can be for another. She wants good for me, my marriage, my children, my ministry. She knows me at my ugliest, as well as at my best. When she gives me feedback about my issues, I trust her: not only that the advice is sound, but also that it’s coming from a true place of love, not just trying to get me to calm down so I won’t be an inconvenience to her. (In this particular case of my ministry meeting, her advice to me was spot-on, by the way.)
And though we have an agreement to ask if the other is ready for feedback or if they just need a few minutes to vent, if one of us forgets to abide by that guideline now and then, it’s not a huge infraction. Over the years, as we slowly dipped our toes into the pool of authentically sharing our thoughts and emotions, no one’s toe has gotten bitten off by the snapping turtles of judgement, criticism, or controlling advice. And so we are past a point of fear; we can be ourselves fully.
Watch the Video: All My Friends Have Issues
But here’s what point we are not past: we still have to say “sorry” to one another. Contrary to the terrible advice from the 1970s movie Love Story, love does not mean never having to say you’re sorry.
Authentic apologies are essential to healthy relationships.
Jen and I enjoy the safety of this long friendship in part because we have learned to own our issues, regularly.
We are great friends, but we are still flawed people with complicated pasts, deep wounds, and learned unhealthy relationship patterns. Sometimes I hurt Jen’s feelings because I’m being thoughtless, impatient or prideful – those snapping turtles have taken a nibble at her. And I have to say I’m sorry. Sometimes, I hurt Jen’s feelings because she has a trigger left over from past relationships that I pulled by accident. Sometimes, I’m trying my best, but my best is a little bit lame, and she gets caught in the crossfire. In all cases, whether I’m wrong, or she’s just feeling vulnerable, I say, “I’m sorry I hurt you,” because I am, and I value our relationship more than I value being right. No matter how many years we have under our relationship belt, I’ll never get past this point. I’ll never be the perfect friend. I’ll always have occasions to own the fact that I have fallen short.
The same goes for my relationship with God. In his first letter about loving one another, John, who refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved, writes,
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 4:8 NLT
I am past the point – most days – where I doubt that God loves me and has given me His favor. But confession will never stop being a part of my relationship with God, because I will never be able to totally stop sinning. His faithfulness to forgive me doesn’t mean I don’t need to confess; it makes my confession safe because I’m assured of His love and don’t fear condemnation.
This is the model for all my loving relationships. I passionately pursue self-awareness – a knowledge of my issues big and small – and in my friendships, marriage and mothering, I try not to
become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9, NIV
But just as I know that there will never come a day when I don’t need a Savior, as a friend I will always be in need of grace. I thank God, with a full heart, that I’ve found friends who are willing to give it.
Written for Devotionals Daily by Amanda Anderson, author of All My Friends Have Issues.
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