Friendship is one of the most important investments you will make. Your friends are with you through your biggest mistakes and your greatest successes. They help you dream and help bring you back down to reality when you need it. Your friends will shape your life decisions and the person you become.
Yet sometimes, friendships fail. Whether through a mistake made, distance moved or just time away, friendships you thought would last a lifetime can fall apart.
I watched one of my best friends in college make the decision to start dating a guy I was head over heels about. Classic girl problem, I know. But this friendship wasn’t over. Even though I was badly hurt and I didn’t know if I could forgive her, my friend continued to pursue me throughout the whole ordeal. I learned so much from her about how a friend can stick closer than a brother or sister, even through rough times.
If you have a friendship that’s in need of repair, here are some tips to start the healing process.
- Address the issue. You can’t even begin to mend a friendship if you don’t talk about what went wrong. I once had a co-worker tell me that he avoided conflict so much that it created conflict. Don’t avoid what’s really going on, especially if this friendship is something you value. If you’ve hurt your friend, take responsibility and apologize. If you’ve been hurt, let your friend know how you are feeling and offer forgiveness where it’s needed. Be careful to stick to the facts of what happened and how you feel about it. Doing this will keep you from assigning blame or judgment, and keep the conversation open.
- Take it slowly. Some hurts take a long time to heal. I know it seems silly, but if it involves a guy, it will probably be a while. Whenever feelings are entangled this way, slights can seem much worse. Give your friend room to heal if she’s hurt. Take the time for yourself if you’re the one who needs it. This will give you both time to process and to remember why your friendship is worth the work to fix it.
- Stay in the room. Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard, whether for friendship or marriage, is this: When you’re arguing, stay in the room. This may mean sticking it out in the actual room—talking, crying and shouting if you need to, but together. It may also mean staying consistent in working on your friendship. I remember one night when I thought I couldn’t forgive my friend. I was crying in my dorm room, and she came and sat outside and just talked to me for hours into the night. She said, “I’m here. I love you and I care about our friendship. I’m not leaving unless you really want me to go.” While I had no clue how to face her, knowing she was there and that she wasn’t walking away was what saved our friendship.
- Make it right…one step at a time. Every situation and every friendship is different. Know that even if you’ve done everything “right,” restoring your friendship may be slow or difficult. If you believe in your friendship, you should always try to repair it. Dealing with the real and challenging times in our friendships in a way that reflects Jesus makes us more mature in Christ and in community.
What tips do you have for restoring a friendship?