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 and 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 they 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 again) 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 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? Hurt 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 and 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?
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.
Let us not waste our time deciding whether or not someone is worthy of our love. Let us love people all people. Let us climb mountains and cross oceans to love them well, no strings attached.
In the end, it is much more of a blessing to give than it is to receive.
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 we need in our lives and that is the kind of person I pray to be. 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—it will take work.
“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 (Ecclesiastes 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. 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?