My husband and I have a rule: divorce is not an option. We don’t joke about it, we don’t have it in our back pocket as a last resort, we don’t use the word at all. This makes it, admittedly, challenging to live together, because I can’t walk away from him. I can’t move in with my parents when we have a fight. I can’t even sleep on the couch! Since we’ve decided there’s no way out of our marriage, we’ve had to turn in and deal with our problems instead of running from them.
I wonder what it would be like if we treated our friendships like that, too.
As I confessed last week, it is tempting for me to cut people off. I have agoraphobia, which is the fear of being stuck. Even if I know I’ll never leave, or that the situation won’t be harmful for me, I like to know that I have an option to leave if need be. To be honest, marriage was very scary for me in the beginning because I couldn’t try to escape. However, with friends, it’s easy to leave if I don’t want to deal with conflict. I simply don’t return their texts and stop making eye contact with them in social settings.
That is not the way that God intended us to have friendships.
In Romans 12:18, Paul writes: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The writer of Hebrews also echoes this thought: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (12:14). What if we took this admonishment from the Bible to the extreme? What if we acted like we were stuck in a room with our friends and we had to resolve our conflicts instead of run away from them? How honest would we be with each other? What would we say? What secret sins that we’re hiding would be exposed? You see, there is healing in confession, and there is healing in conflict resolution.
As a result of last week’s post, I had a few people ask me, “How do I know if I should cut someone off?” My answer to that is, do everything in your power to keep the peace between you and that person. If you want to cut someone off, at least talk to him/her first. Make it clear why you are unhappy with the friendship, and see if there is any way you could work it out together. We make fun of people who break up with their significant others over text or “ghost” their significant others, but we think it’s totally normal to do that to our friends. I would only cut off the friendship if A) the friend has made it very clear he/she wants to end the friendship (by saying “I want to end the friendship”), despite your efforts, or B) the friend has abusive behavior that makes you uncomfortable, such as inappropriate touching, pressure to abuse substances, codependency, etc.
If you feel like you’re being abused and you’re not sure whether to confront the person or run away, seek out wise counsel. Abuse is a tricky subject, because you can think someone looking at you funny is abuse, but you can also think someone beating you to a pulp is not abuse. That’s why I recommend seeking wise counsel as soon as possible.
If you bring another person into the situation, be careful to express your feelings and not gossip. It’s tempting to use that opportunity to talk badly about someone that has hurt you. If you are a friend that wants to help, listen empathetically and remain as neutral as possible.
Since I can’t run from my husband, I’ve grown in ways I would have never done so on my own. I’m learning how to lay down my pride, admit my mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and extend forgiveness. Whether you are married or single, you can apply this same principle to your friendships. Lean into the relationship instead of running away. Practice the tips we discussed last week about how to deal with conflict. Learn from the experience, and trust God to reveal to you where you need to grow. And of course, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with one another.