Handling Conflict Well in a Friendship

Dr. Lucy Ann MollFor Those Seeking Hope1 Comment


FRIENDSHIP: Sometimes a friendship goes along just fine but then. . .WHAM. . .a conflict hits. So what then?

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WHEN A FRIENDSHIP TURNS SOUTH, what’s the best way to respond?

Two thoughts may come to mind immediately.

1. Drop your friend.

2. Stick it out and repair the friendship.

Which one seems best? What choice have you made in the past when a friend has hurt you? And is there an even better solution than these two?

Friendship Coach Chimes In

Best-selling author Dee Brestin wrote The Friendships of Women, which has sold over a million copies. By this book and her bible studies she has mentored many women through problem friendships as well as loneliness. She writes,

As roses vary from quiet pink to sunny yellow to razzmatazz red, so do women. And when you draw near to a woman, she will often quite willingly open to you petal after petal of fragrant loveliness.

But lurking beneath the glossy, green leaves of roses are surprisingly nasty thorns. After experiencing a few jabs into your soft, tender flesh, you handle roses with more respect. A dedicated rose gardener, one who believes that the glory of the rose more than compensates for the occasional wounds it inflicts, learns to bear the pain and to handle roses in such a way that she is seldom stabbed.

Lovely roses with pointy, blood-thirsty thorns? Even the thought of it freaks me out. Often when hurt, I back away. But is this best? Perhaps I’m protecting myself when I should investigate what’s going on. Maybe she didn’t even know she hurt me.

And what about you? When was the last time you were jabbed by a friend? How did you handle the pain?

When a Friend Did NOT Mean to Hurt You

Very often we feel hurt — and a friendship may be in rocky ground — when something minor happens. Common culprits for hurt feelings include:

A careless remark.

A forgotten invitation.

An unexplained silence.

A last-minute cancelled plan.

A misunderstanding.

Hurt feelings – as painful as they are – confirms Scripture, that each of us has a fallen nature. Indeed, we’re all in trouble and need help.

The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. Yes, this good news of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension has an astonishing effect on you and me. It says God first loved us. And we who love Jesus are loved by God. We are his daughters — despite the messy mistakes we make and the friends we hurt. When possible let love cover your hurt. The apostle Peter wrote,

Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

But what does this mean?

Yes, God sent his Son to cover our sins and to remove them as far from us as the east is from the west. But this is not likely the meaning here. In this context, Peter is talking about interpersonal relationships among Christians. It’s a dual kind of grace to which he is calling us. In other words, we think charitably of one another and assign the best of motives to the other’s actions.

So don’t sweat “the small stuff.”

SOLUTION: When unintentionally hurt by a your friend, let love cover the hurt and keep your friendship. Tell her, lovingly, that she hurt your feelings. Talk it through. And guess what? You’ll grow closer.

When a Friend Meant to Stab!

What’s a solution when your friend turned enemy, and she actually meant to slice and dice?

Right away, I think of Janna and our bible study fiasco. Many years ago, when I served as women’s ministry director at a church and the team decided to move the day of our study for the upcoming semester, Janna had a behind-the-scenes fit and told a mutual friend. You see, she highly valued the women’s bible study but the new day didn’t work for her. And I was hurt by her gossip.

I never meant to leave her out. However, the team also had failed to survey the women from the previous semester about days.

After a difficult conversation where Janna and I each confessed where we went wrong, our friendship survived. In fact, the team decided to have two bible studies that year.

Tough but needed: forgiveness!

SOLUTION: Find a female biblical counselor or mentor at your church to talk through your hurt feelings. Then discuss how to set up a discussion with your former friend. It may be best to have your mentor with you during the discussion. As always, talk with God in prayer before you meet.

An excellent resource is Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.

as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13b

Now What?

Outside my door, I had a rose bush with the most beautiful magenta blossoms. It also had nasty thorns. When stabbed, I don’t take it personally. The rose bush is just being itself. Thorns and all. This is the nature of the rose bush.

So it is with friendships. They are not perfect and never will be. (And sometimes they are best ended. But that’s another post.)

  1. Recall a friendship that brought pain. Did you handle the conflict well? If not, what would you do differently?
  2. When a friend hurt your feelings but did not mean to harm you, how did you respond? Was your response in line with the command to love one another? If not, how would you respond with the Gospel in mind?
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