We all have had fractured friendships and experienced the loss of peace that follows after the fracture occurs. I remember, in my early college days, being cut off from a close friendship, and I felt so broken about it. I remember wondering why I felt so much hurt over a loss of the friendship and wondered what was wrong with me. As Christians, we know that people have been created for community. The body of Christ is made up of many parts. So when there is a loss, there is substantial grief. “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:4-5). If you lost a hand, eye, or leg there would be much pain and it would be a difficult adjustment; you would always feel like something was missing. In the same way, we experience loss when a Christian friendship is fractured.
The most important thing we can do after a friendship has been ended is to consider what wrong we did, and own up to it. You might be thinking, “but I didn’t do anything wrong, it was all their fault!” While there are times that may be the case, more often than not you have a part in it, especially if you don’t have peace in the situation. To figure out what wrong you may have done this takes a great deal of humility. Pray that God brings to light any wrong you have done. Ask yourself, was what I said to them true, kind, and necessary? Examine your motive. Examine your heart, was it acting out of judgment or self-righteousness? Was there selfishness on your part or a desire to control? In the case of my ended college friendship it took my years to see that I had been controlling during the time leading up to the fracture. At the time I had confronted them on something they were doing wrong, and acted controlling when they wouldn’t make a change. Instead I should have accepted that they were on their own journey, and I couldn’t force them to change. I should have spoken truth in love, given them space, and prayed for them. Often, even if we don’t realize that there is something that we could have done better, we may have let our emotions dictate our actions in a way that was not godly.
Since this article has the focus of peace but not necessarily reconciliation, I believe it’s best to confess the wrong you did and not be tempted to ruminate on their part in it. If our aim is peace, it’s enough to know that we made every effort to right any wrongs we had done. It isn’t about making sure we also bring their wrong to light. We don't need vindication to find peace. “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
There are many ways you can approach them with your confession of wrong, and it will depend a lot on your specific situation. You will have to ask yourself if it is best to write a card, make a call, or ask them if you can meet with them given the situation you are in. Most often it’s best to write a message or send a card since most fractures mean both parties are no longer in communication. Writing a card or message also doesn’t put them on the spot, and also allows you to be very careful in your wording instead of falling into the temptation of saying something you don’t mean to say.
If you write a card or message, I believe it’s best that you start out by saying that you aren’t expecting them to respond. This approach makes it clear that your intentions are confession, and peace instead of an agenda of forcing the relationship to reconcile. When you write, keep your focus on your apology and be as specific as you can in confessing your part. Pray for God’s wisdom in what to say, and have someone you love and trust read it over to make sure your message is coming out the way you intend. Confess your part of the fracture to God, and pray that his will be done in the situation. They might not respond back, you even told them you didn’t expect them too, but you can now walk away from the situation knowing that you had owned your part in it all and made every effort towards peace. We are all sinners, but when we confess our sins we find healing. Scripture says “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results”(James 5:16. I love that James doesn’t say that confession means reconciliation, but healing. Healing is what we truly need, right? Healing is found in confession.
Just like confession is a part of finding peace, so is forgiveness. How do you forgive a friendship if they don’t know they did wrong, never repented, or never asked for forgiveness? A while back I was wrestling with God about a person I needed to forgive who couldn’t see that they did anything wrong. No matter how I tried to explain what I felt, they couldn’t understand. So as I talked to God about my need to forgive them in any case, the answer hit me out of nowhere like it sometimes does. While Jesus was dying on the cross he said “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In the end, forgiveness is giving up your right to vindication. How often are we blind to our offenses as humans? How often do we have no idea how we are doing wrong until we finally see it for what it is. We are all on our own journey, and the Holy Spirit reveals and convicts us of our sin in his own time. So we need to also give the same grace to those that we need to forgive.
Just because you are seeking peace in a friendship, doesn’t mean you have to remain good friends. Peace means trying to right any wrong on your side, and having a settled spirit knowing that you did everything possible to follow God’s commands while dealing with the fracture in the friendship. Forgiveness and healing in a friendship doesn't require reconciliation and restoration. It doesn't mean there is renewed trust or that you should not have boundaries. I have heard it said before that you don’t have to have a relationship with someone you have forgiven, but you will always have a relationship with them if you don’t forgive them. If peace in your fractured friendship also means some level of reconciliation, you have every right to place whatever boundaries you feel are necessary in it as long as you try to do so with respect. If your friend doesn’t agree to these boundaries, that's up to them, but you can rest in the peace that you have communicated your needs with graciousness and leave it at that.
We live in a world that often puts pride over peace. A world that tells us we are right to be angry, cut people off, and disrespect them whenever we feel we have been wronged. The truth is, however, that when I have listened to these lies and have gone down the path of gaining my own justice, I have never found peace. Roman 12:17 says “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” God's ways are far better than ours, and when we submit to his commands of not seeking revenge, and becoming a person who is always seeking peace with others our lives will be more peaceful, our relationships better, and the light we shine even brighter.