You can probably relate to some degree. You had a friend. Yes, had, for he is no longer really a friend. You had a friend—a best friend perhaps. But then something went wrong. It might have been a very clear and memorable moment where some great offence was caused, or it might be something that was not even noticeable at first, but over time had turned the friendship into an awkward conflict situation. Although much can be said from Scripture on how that happens, this meditation today is on how to resolve such a situation and “re-friend” again.
A helpful word to describe a conflict among friends is the word strife. It is a common word in the book of Proverbs, and therefore a great starting point in thinking through the nuances of your particular situation.
The first thing to do to “re-friend” is to stop the strife. Stop doing the things that by now are clearly keeping the friendship cold. Proverbs 17:14 uses the image of a small leak eventually breaking a dam wall, as a call to quit the quarrelling. Just because a few years ago have gone by since you should have applied this verse, doesn’t mean it is now too late. Even if it feels too late, stop now all the things you are doing that keeps the relationship cold.
Stop, what Proverbs calls, being a whisperer“. A whisperer is normally guilty on two counts. First is the whispering of speaking when one should keep silent. This is also called slander and gossip in the book of Proverbs. This is the typical whispering of things about your friend to another that you would never say out loud in his hearing. The other form of whispering is speaking too little when more needs to be said. If your friend is in the wrong, you are whisperer if you beat around the bush in how you speak to him about his wrong. The first form of whispering is speaking of his wrongs to others, the second form of whispering is not speaking of his wrongs to him. We often do this with good intent. We want to help our friend, so we whisper his faults to another without him hearing it, and when we ought to speak clearly to him about it, we mumble and fumble our words like a whisperer, somehow hoping that enough whispering around him will eventually fix him. That has never worked. Proverbs 16:28 says whispering when you should keep silent, or whispering when you should be speaking clearly, will always separate close friends. Stop immediately all forms of whispering. Repent of your whispering about your friend to others, and go speak clearly to your friend.
Another “hostile-friend” habit to stop with immediate effect is the subtle forms of mockery. Proverbs 22:10 says that if you remove all mockery from a relationship, then strife will go out like a fire without fuel. You might not be an open scoffer of your friend, but our whispering often takes on a scoffing tone as does our suspicious disbelief in our friend’s goodness. Because we are constantly whispering about our friend behind his back, we tend to cloud all the current good he does with the original wrong he had done. We fail our friend, and keep the strife alive, when we do not keep the good and the evil in their own domains. Sinful and foolish behaviour needs to be addressed and corrected, but so also every good and wise deed ought to be commended. Do not be a subtle scoffer, for then you are as guilty of being a hostile-friend as the original offence of your ex-best-friend.
And above all, let go of anger. Anger never helps a relationship. Proverbs 29:22 affirms that a man of anger always causes more strife. Your own anger will eventually make you the one with the greater guilt in the relationship. Ephesians 4:31 lists various forms of anger from the most explosive to the most suppressed, but they all must go.
If you had a best friend, who had been a bad friend, and is now a terrible friend, then it is your Christian duty to re-friend (Matt 5:9). Stop being the terrible friend, even if you mean well. Confess your part in the strife, make peace again, and then show kindness and forgiveness as you both work on being better friends to each other again (Eph 4:32).