How to speak the truth to a friend without harming your friendship
| posted 10/13/2009
I'll always remember when my good friend, Sheri, called me on the carpet about my attitude problem. I'm thankful now, but at the time …
Sheri and I were sitting in her cozy kitchen sipping coffee and nibbling on bake-sale leftovers. "I saw Darla in Sears yesterday," she said. "She's lost a bunch of weight."
"Wonder how long it'll take her to gain it back this time," I said, reaching for a third macadamia nut cookie. "She always does, you know.
Darla-of-the-fluctuating-weight and I once had been good friends. Not any more. For more than a year, we'd barely spoken. Even though Darla had made numerous attempts to mend the rift in our relationship, one caused by a misunderstanding involving our children, I continued to nurse a grudge against her.
Learn more with our Bible study: Lasting Friendships Between Women.
"Darla told me her eldest daughter just got accepted into medical school," said Sheri. "Her middle girl's engaged to an attorney, and her son's in line to be awarded the high school's art scholarship this year."
"Darla always thinks her kids are better than anyone else's," I sniffed.
After refilling my mug, Sheri looked me in the eye and said, "Annette, we need to talk. Hasn't it been long enough? What's the deal with you still having such a hateful attitude toward Darla? Everyone who knows you can tell you don't like her."
"It's that obvious?"
"It is. And Annette, listen to me." My friend put her hand on my arm. "Whatever the problem is, you need to get over it. Your attitude isn't right, and you know it."
Ouch. Sheri's honest words hurt my feelings. But they also affected me in a way a dozen sermons on forgiveness hadn't. She was absolutely right. My hateful attitude was wrong. We talked some more, and I was overcome with shame and remorse. That night I prayed for forgiveness for myself and for blessings for Darla and her family.
Later that week, with shaking hands and a pounding heart, I delivered homemade banana nut bread and a ribbon-wrapped cinnamon candle to Darla's new house. That afternoon, over glasses of iced tea, Darla and I spoke careful words of apology and forgiveness. We avoided the specifics of what had caused our estrangement; it seemed pointless to visit that place again. What mattered to us both was our mutual desire to make things right.
Today, Darla and I are real friends again, thanks to Sheri's honest words.
Caring Enough to Correct
I'm grateful my friend Sheri spoke up. The fact she loved me enough to confront me says volumes about our relationship. I realize it wasn't easy for her to talk to me about my bad attitude and unloving behavior.
Touchy topics are difficult to discuss for even the closest of friends. Yet, relationships involve flawed people who make mistakes and get into messes. Friends need to be able to count on each other not just for fun and affirmation, but for careful words of instruction and correction, too. Committing ourselves to a friendship means that because we care on a deep, intimate level, we have the courage to speak up even when a friend needs to hear tough words of truth. For with true friendship come joy and responsibility.