I recently read a book about the power of friendship and it ended up having a romantic theme show up at the end. The two characters, who were friends, decided near the conclusion that they had feelings for each other all along. But in my
own life – as I am sure in yours – only one of my friendships happened to end up that way.
I ended up marrying him. Romance is simply not the reality of what most friendships look like.
On the other end of the spectrum, we see examples of friendships that are labeled as “toxic.” We see
this in books, TV shows, and even music.
If we are constantly fed messages about how we will either fall in love with our friend or end up betrayed and hurt, how are we supposed to navigate these relationships?
I had a friendship in college where this struggle played out. At the start of our friendship
things were easy. We told each other everything, spent all of our time together, and while we
had our struggles we were always able to work through them. A few years in, that changed.
We had more and more issues rather than enjoying one another’s company. She began to bond with other
people and I felt replaced. We started arguing more and spending more time apart. Everything was a passive
aggressive dance, but we never talked about it. Both of our guards were up and we defined one another as “toxic”
without even batting an eye. I don’t even remember to this day what started it all. I just know
that when things had reached their boiling point, I made the decision to cut her off completely.
I ignored texts, phone calls, messages for months. I gave no explanations. I just called it done. And in
that season that followed I learned one of the biggest lessons about friendship. I learned about
the power of letting go.
I regret how I handled this situation with my friend. The “cut and run” method is
never very effective in these types of situations and it led to a lot of heart ache on both
accounts. Looking back, I now realize that we should have had a conversation about how to move forward. Although I needed to let her go at that time in my life, I did not go about it the right way. Regardless, we both had some growing to do and we needed to do it apart.
Walking away from someone is not automatically a bad thing – sometimes it’s the
healthy thing. I was so stuck in a pattern of constantly looking at what she had done wrong that I
could not truly reconcile in a healthy way yet. I couldn’t look in the mirror and realize I was also to
blame. It took time, reflection, and separation for me to realize I was just as guilty. I had some individual growth to do with God.
All friendships go through seasons and we need to recognize that. There are always opportunities to start over again, but I had to learn how to let go of the toxic label.
In Proverbs 17:9 it says – “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a
matter separates close friends” (ESV). The issue in my friendship wasn’t that we both kept
making mistakes, though thats what we believed at the time. Mistakes are a reality for every single
relationship we will ever experience here on earth. We make mistakes constantly and sometimes even repeat the same
offenses again. We are sinners. No matter how hard we try it’s going to happen. We have the refreshing grace of Jesus to fall into.
The real issue was the laundry list of offenses we had against each other. It seeped into
everything. We had tunnel vision of hurt and pain. I no longer saw her as a friend, but instead approached her as a warning label. Just like it says in Proverbs: If we cover the offense it shows love and if we don’t, it leads to brutal separation. I labeled her as
toxic, dangerous, harmful without giving it a second thought. It took time to peel those labels off and let it go.
I needed to forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Through that simple act God restored something that was broken.
It didn’t look anything like it did before. It had changed for the better. We grew and our expectations of each other changed. We now are able to celebrate life with each other and reach out when there’s time to catch up, without viewing one another as radioactive.
The story that matters here is that God peeled those toxic labels off of both of us. He gave us a new outlook on each other. Taking that space to grow and allow Him to do the work of restoration was the best decision we could have ever made.
Now I approach friendships differently because I understand that there is no hurt that He cannot cover with grace.
It takes time, it takes work, and it takes a willingness to trust who God is first and let Him be the one to define your friends. His label is the only label that really matters in the end.
Callie is in love with Jesus, married to her best friend, and a fur mama. She currently lives in Indiana. She has always loved written work because it allows her to portray thoughts in a way she can’t in person. She is excited to come on this journey with you and would love to chat or grab a cup of coffee! You can follow her on Facebook @Callie Kemmerer or Instagram @calicaaat.