Why do my friendships fade? Am I not a likeable person? Life coach Deborah Haddix writes:
Let’s give a little attention to those things that threaten the very existence of our relationships. The Bible identifies many such characteristics – comparison, envy, jealousy, pretense, and gossip among them.
Familiarity with these potent threats will help us better guard our friendships. And while there are many, many threats identified in the Bible, today we will concentrate on the ones found in Ephesians 4:17-32.
7 Threats to Friendship
“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
The first threat is found in verses 19-24. Self-indulgence and greed show up in our friendships when we put our own wants above God’s purposes.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
A true friend puts away falsehood and speaks the truth. There is no place for dishonest speech and the manipulation of truth in our friendships.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
If we are doing biblical friendship the way God designed, there most certainly will be times that bring angst and even anger. The threat here is not so much in the anger, itself, but in hanging on to the anger. These verses in Ephesians tell us that to hang on to our anger is to welcome the devil to wreak havoc in our hearts and in our friendships.
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
Selfishness rears its ugly head when we choose to protect what we have rather than offer it in service to our friend.
5. Unhelpful Communication
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.” This is not referring only to vulgar language and cuss words. Reading on, we get a little more clarification, “but only such as is good for building up… that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Any speech that does not build up is a threat to our friendship. Not only does this include speech that tears down, but speech that is neutral or even non-existent.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
The Bible calls us to unity. When we view our friend as an adversary rather than a companion, our unity is broken.
7. An Unforgiving Spirit
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
What’s the old saying? “We want justice for others but forgiveness for ourselves?” Unforgiveness – wanting our friends to pay for their wrongs or misdeeds – is a powerful threat to our friendships.
In Real Life
Admittedly, it easy enough to read these threats and nod our heads in agreement. Afterall, we surely are not guilty of allowing any of these atrocious threats into our friendships! Or are we?
Let’s do a little reality check. Below is a sampling of what some of the threats listed above might look like in a friendship today:
- Pick at everything our friend says or does
- Always offer a better suggestion than they made
- Put down their spouse
- Drop by unannounced – all. the. time. – and stay forever
- Offer unsolicited advice
- Expect our friend’s undivided attention
- Find fault with their children
- Bombard them with phone calls
- Pick apart their every decision
- Be generally disagreeable
- Help ourselves to all their possessions
- Snub their other friends
- Insist on exclusivity in the friendship
This list is a little more difficult to read. Isn’t it? Instead of nodding in agreement, we find ourselves convicted realizing that we have jeopardized a friendship more than once.
So, what do we do about the ones we are convicted over?
See the struggle for the sin that it is. When we confess our sin, we receive God’s forgiving mercy and empowering grace. God never exposes our sin to embarrass us but to grow us in Christlikeness.
Instead of trying to “conquer” every threat that may have slipped into your friendships, choose one or two that the Holy Spirit has convicted you of and focus on it. Pray for God’s help and wisdom in overcoming that sin, meditate on applicable Scriptures, and invite a soul friend to hold you accountable.
Let it go!
Don’t wallow in past mistakes. God’s timing is perfect. Rather than living with regrets, sulking, and wishing you could go back and fix things, thank God for His perfect timing in revealing truth to you. Go forward living each day in this revealed truth.