Seeking Forgiveness When You Unintentionally Hurt a Friend

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (5)One of my best friends and I were working out at the gym together this past summer. We are both teachers, so summertime is the perfect time catch up on things we aren’t able to do during the school year. As we were both on the elliptical one day, we found ourselves in a conversation about friendship, specifically, when friendship doesn’t seem to go right.

We discussed our friend wounds. The times when we expected someone to invite us to an event, to reach out and give us a call, or simply to show that they cared more. The times when those things didn’t happen and we were left hurt. Then I began to think of all the people I have missed the mark with as well. And it hit me. We all have unintentionally hurt other people.

As our conversation continued, one specific instance where I had made a previous mistake with my friend Lauren came to mind. She was one of my dearest friends in middle school and high school. I have always enjoyed her company and gentle spirit. We did cheerleading together and had many sleepovers. We have had a close sisters-in-Christ kind of relationship, and she even asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. It was such an honor!

And then life happened. She was enjoying time as a newlywed, and I was focused on college and my boyfriend. Our friendship sadly faded into the background.

My boyfriend proposed, and we began planning the details of our wedding. (OK, maybe I did more of the planning!) One of the big tasks was to create our guest list. My initial list was around 175 people. As we looked at our budget, we realized we needed to cut down the guest list to 130 people. I went through the list several times and reluctantly removed several people. You guessed it: Lauren was one of them. And it has haunted me ever since.

As I headed home that day from the gym after the conversation with my friend, Lauren was the first person I thought about. I was heavy with regret and began to pray. I felt that I needed to reach out and apologize to her. I had thought of doing this several times before, but for some reason couldn’t find the courage. Well, not this time. I decided I was going to contact her.

We still kept in touch mainly on Facebook, liking each other’s pictures and occasionally leaving comments, so I decided to write her a message there. I finally apologized to her for not inviting her to my wedding, and told her how thoughtless that was of me. Thankfully, she graciously said I had already been forgiven. I’m so glad God worked that out! Even though we may not see each other very often, she is still someone close to my heart, and I would never want to hurt her.

Whether it’s on purpose, or a mindless mistake, we all hurt each other sometimes. We are a fallen, broken people apart from God. We need Him. None of us is excluded in this. He alone is perfect love, and He knows the way for us to be in right relationship with each other. Therefore, it’s important that we give our relationships to Him, the broken ones and all. He will mend them as needed. Here are a few things we can do in order to surrender our relationships to Him.

1. Ask God to open our eyes.

Ask God to show you where you have sinned against someone, whether you meant to or not. Take time to examine your relationships according to His Word. Did you say something that you shouldn’t have? Or maybe something you did was taken the wrong way? Or maybe, like my story, you hurt someone out of ignorance? Instead of casting the blame on someone else or making excuses, search your own heart and actions. Open your eyes to what has happened.

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If the hurt happened on both sides, don’t focus on their actions; focus on your own. Matthew 7:3-5 tells us, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

2. Take the first step and reach out.

Once your eyes have been opened to a relationship that needs healing, take the steps to reach out and make it right. Pick up the phone, write a letter (or Facebook message), or make plans to get together. Apologize from a sincere heart. Show the person that you care enough about the relationship to take a step of faith, even if it feels uncomfortable.

3. Trust God to bring healing.

Whether the restoration happens immediately or takes a while, trust God. Pray about it. Surrender the broken and the tainted things to Him. He is faithful, and His Word will not return void. He wants us to be in right relationship with each other, and “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).

I know there are other instances where I have wronged those around me. I’m praying that God helps me to do these three things as I continue to pursue needed healing. I fully believe that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16).

Let that be me and you.

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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When It’s Not Wrong to Be the Center of Attention

I often find myself in a state of metacognition, a time of thinking about my own thinking.

My dad and I were in a tea house last year (yes, I’m a con-artist to get my dad to go to tea!), and there was a party of ladies sitting near us. The whole time we were there, I noticed that one woman totally dominated the conversation. She sat in the middle of the table and chimed in her own perspective on every topic. I didn’t know the woman, but I couldn’t help but think how obnoxious she was in comparison to her friends. Maybe I felt that because I recognized myself in the middle of that circle.

She was me, and the vision of that time in the tea house has haunted my memory since then.

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I have no desire to be an introvert. I enjoy the fact that I can be bold. I like being the life of the party. I like being the center of attention. However, at the end of the day, I find myself replaying every word I’ve said and asking, “What crossed the line? What did people think of how I said that?” It’s not a cocky thing — it’s an insecure thing, an I-will-never-fit-in thing. Who would think that an extrovert who willingly draws so much attention to herself would regret most of the words she so carelessly tosses out? I wouldn’t believe it myself if I weren’t my own eyewitness.

Maybe you know me in real life, or maybe you just know me through the written word. Whether you’ve heard me say it or not, my life’s mission is to change the world. No, really. Some people just say that, but I will live and die by it—live abundantly as in John 10:10 or “die many times before [my] death” in the manner of Shakespeare’s cowards. I can’t rest (really I can’t) unless I feel like I’m accomplishing my mission, and for the task facing me, I need all the bold extroversion I can muster.

So how do I take what can be a vice and make it a virtue? If you’re in the same boat as me, with a personality too big for the room and the self-chastisement that follows, may I give both of us some advice?

Using the Center of Attention for Good

1. Let’s be slow to speak, and let’s make that speech important.

James is my favorite book of the Bible, and his words in the first chapter inspire me on this point: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (v.19). As long as what I have to say is carefully thought out, I don’t need to worry about it. That’s not to say that there won’t be consequences when someone takes me the wrong way, but I will be able to rest easily knowing that I planned what I meant for them to hear.

2. Let’s develop a group of protégés.

Surely we are not to be the only audience of our own wisdom. God has called all of us to do what author John C. Maxwell, author of The 360° Leader, refers to as leading up, leading across, and leading down. It’s in that leading down that we can really make an impact with our words.

Let’s call together a group that we can “do life with” and then regularly meet with them. I lead worship for eight years—maybe an upcoming leader needs something less painful than the school of hard knocks to bolster her own journey. Perhaps young women need to know that they don’t have to go through sexual impurity or depression; they can benefit from what I have to share instead and choose a different direction.

3. We have to translate speech into action.

No one wants to hear a ranty windbag go on and on about the way the world should be without ever seeing those ideas come to life and change the culture. To quote my brother John, I don’t want to be “a serial notrepreneur” for the kingdom. Ideas worth saying are worth doing, or we should keep our mouths shut.

4. We must seek humility as a lifestyle.

We are not the only ones with important things to say; that’s what the whole tea house scenario taught me. If I love an introvert, like my sister-in-law Rachel, I will give her time to think about what she’s going to say (which no doubt will be very profound) without running my own mental to-do list of what I’ll say next.

True love really cares about what the listener (aka victim) thinks and feels. We can’t think so much of our own opinions that we don’t remember what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.”

5. I must be OK with me.

That means that we have to be OK with we as well.* The Bible proves the value of a bold lion’s heart time and again. After her idiot husband Nabal treated David’s men with contempt, Abigail’s boldness in restitution not only prevented death but also garnered her a future spot as a king’s wife. Peter walked on water, preached to thousands, and commanded a lame man to walk — these acts of boldness redeemed the times his brash personality got him in trouble even with His Lord.

John the Baptist didn’t hold his tongue to religious or secular leadership, even when it meant his head would be served on a platter, and by such boldness became the forerunner for Jesus. If you and I are in such good company with those who “loved not their lives unto the death” and who “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11), maybe our big mouths aren’t such a bad thing. *That’s not bad grammar. That’s Babyface reference. 90’s music anyone?

The bottom line: If you or I find ourselves the center of attention, let’s use that platform for good. What about you? Are you a spotlight person or more of a wallflower? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments below.

Photo Credit: The featured photo, “Tea Party,” is copyright (c) 2005 Jay Ryness and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. It has been modified for use on this blog.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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