When given the option of ‘Fight or Flight’, more often than not, I have chosen flight. I’m a runner. I have run from difficult relationships because it’s easier that way. I like easy. I know all too well that the people who push my buttons have the ability to expose the ugliness of my heart. I want, more than anything, to protect myself by shutting down and running away from the relationship.
Have you ever believed the lie that maintaining your pride or surrounding yourself with “positivity” is more important than pursuing a kind heart in your relationships? I’m guilty.
In the midst of my relationships, no matter how weak or strong it may be, it can sometimes feel like a personal inconvenience to be a consistently good friend in a difficult relationship. It can require everything from us that we selfishly do not want to give. But that is exactly why we need it. These relationships prevent us from always looking inward, they keep us from giving in to spiritual pride, they remind us how weak we really are when things don’t go smoothly and they help us to get on our knees and set our eyes upon God.
I have pushed people away because of my tendency to get caught up in solutions and answers rather than compassion and understanding. Patient, kind, forgiving and selfless love doesn’t always come easily to me in hard relationships; and though I have not come near to perfecting it, it is something I do actively work toward, and enjoy, daily. Why?
Because God has gently reminded me (over and over and over) that I am that difficult person in our relationship that He hasn’t given up on. As the daughter of a King who pours out a love so beautiful that it is without condition, I am called, and blessed, to give my love in the same way.
Do you know someone who struggles with jealousy and can’t seem to rejoice with you in your accomplishments?
Someone who doesn’t invest time or love into your relationship after you’ve given them your all?
Someone who is unforgiving of your faults or is unwilling to talk things out?
A friend who seems to always “one-up” you?
Someone who becomes frustrated when they don’t get the majority of your time?
A family member who is critical of your every move?
The friend who gossips and breaks your trust?
What do they all have in common? Hurting people hurt people. These friends, family members and spouses need your love. They don’t need you to run the opposite way. Do not dwell on who they are (or aren’t) to you; instead, focus your time thinking about how you can be better to them.
I want to note that I am not excusing gossip or a hard heart; healthy boundaries must be set and admonishment & repentance are important. But we have to keep in mind that these people are imperfect, just as you and I are, and these ‘difficulties’ are areas of sin that they need to work on.
And what does scripture say to us about sin?:
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
When your buttons are pushed, the true state of your heart shows through. If you respond in grace and love rather than anger or frustration, despite being pushed to your limit, you are looking past their faults and loving without condition. You are being an example and pointing them to True Love.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.” See that? At all times. This means through seasons of hardship and difficulty. Through confusion and sadness. Through unkindness and distance. Through joys and accomplishments. Again, at all times.
I recently posted a photo on my Instagram that says:
“Don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you…”
No. Do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love people, all people. No conditions attached, no wondering whether or not they’re worthy. Cross oceans, climb mountains. Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give.
I have been the difficult friend, wife, daughter and sister – probably more often than I even know.
I have overwhelmed others with my problems rather than lifting them up in prayer.
I have become defensive when I was hurt.
I have hurt others deeply.
I have allowed envy to silently pull me away from otherwise healthy friendships.
But my heart has been grown and strengthened in this area because of people who have chosen to cross oceans for me. They display grace and forgiveness when I least deserve it and point me back to the only One who can change my heart. Those are the kind of people that we need in our lives and that is the kind of person that I pray to be.
My best friend Morgan is pictured with me above. She is one of those friends who crosses oceans. Our friendship is one of the sweetest, most fun and most God-glorifying friendships I have ever had. But it hasn’t always come easy; we invest earnestly in one another and work hard for our cherished friendship.
Because the truth is, relationships should not be confined to small talk over lattes and thrift-store finds. If you’re doing it right, even the easiest relationships will absolutely have hard moments. When you choose to be a real friend – one who is faithful, one who goes down in the trenches with the people around you, one who pursues real conversations – that kind of friend, it will take work.
And when this hardship does arise, because it will, I believe that it is important that we approach these hard conversations with gentleness and grace.
Despite the issue, the goal should never be to prove that we are right, but to think the best of one another and pursue righteousness together. Seeking reconciliation and addressing sin or something that a friend or family member has done to hurt us may elicit a defensive, or even downright nasty, response. Yet, when we choose to make less of ourselves and much of them because of who God is to us, we then strive to make that person feel valued and loved, even when we ourselves are hurting.
We have the opportunity to begin the conversation with our own apology rather than starting with accusation. It can be hard and very humbling. But God’s kindness leads us to repentance – we must let our kindness lead the way.
“Two are better than one…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecc. 4:9-10.
Are you weary of your relationships today? Are you lonely? Keep pushing forward, sweet friends. We are never closer to where we’re meant to be than when we are completely giving of ourselves to others.
As you read this today and think of your most difficult relationship, does the feeling of bitterness supersede the sweetness? I want to encourage and remind you that although it may be draining and wearing, God can use it to bring beauty from the ashes. These people and trials have the ability to restore pieces of your heart that you may have never known were broken. In the midst of your hardest moments, always, always, always focus on the sweetness.
With many people, you will pour more into them than what you get out; in others, they will pour more into you than what you can give.
And though society tells us to get rid of anyone who doesn’t meet our expectations, I want to offer a refreshing perspective: Destroy all expectations. Don’t stop forgiving, even when they don’t apologize. Don’t stop trying, even if you’ve had the same conversation one thousand times. Don’t stop loving, even if you don’t feel loved in return. You will never find a perfect friend, spouse, sister, brother, or parent; they will inevitably fail you and you will fail them. But grace.
Tell me, which of the sweetest gifts in life don’t take effort?
Some relationships will test your heart and soul. Some will refresh you, encourage you and bless you. I believe that both should be treated with an equal amount of effort, grace and an exceptional amount of love. Invest your heart, time and talents into the people around you. Give sacrificially, be trustworthy and love without condition.
We will be the difficult friend in different seasons of our lives and it will be a blessing to have people surround us at our worst – knowing that they love us in spite of everything, as a picture of how they have been loved by Jesus. It is in these moments, when we see the gospel tangibly, that we become motivated to be that for other people in our lives. Not because we have to look like Jesus, but because we get to.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take [the thorn] away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:8-10
So Much Love,