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.
"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.
The Courage to Confront
When Jasmine (not her real name) found herself teetering on the brink of an affair with a married coworker, she flew across the state to spend the weekend with her life-long friend, Dee. Tearfully, Jasmine hinted to Dee about what she feared she was going to do if the situation continued.
Although Jasmine employed veiled words and phrases, Dee understood exactly what she was saying. Yet embarrassed and afraid, Dee didn't dole out the bitter-but-good-for-her medicine for which Jasmine had come. Dee was so rattled by her friend's revelation, she couldn't bring herself to take Jasmine by the shoulders, give her a firm shake, and demand, "What are you thinking? Run! Find a new job! Get away from this man!"