"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
Many years ago I engaged in a heated argument with my closest and dearest friend. The subject matter is not important, but he ended the dispute with a harsh word of rebuke, invoking the name of our grandfather, and the shame I was bringing to his venerable legacy. I was stunned into silence, and we left that particular controversy to die. Hearing the story from my side, one may be deceived into thinking my friend was completely out-of-line and that I was certainly the victim of a rash outburst of undeserved verbal venom. Yet, such was not the case.
I have always delighted in controversial debates, and my demeanor is generally conducive to such things, as I tend to have the ability to approach various issues objectively and without hot-tempered emotions, which are typically and easily sparked in most people when a sensitive subject is broached. I enjoy arguing about political and religious disputes, areas which generally stir up an emotional response from people. Though I pride myself on remaining calm and refraining from raising my voice, I have learned over the years that I usually underestimate and undervalue the feelings of people when I present an opposing view to issues which are very dear to them. This is a great weakness of mine, and it has caused me unintentionally, though no less deeply, to hurt those with whom I am speaking and arguing; and most often they are friends and family, and people I deeply care about.
With this in mind, as we go back to that tumultuous moment between my friend and I, the reader must bear in mind that I, true to form, had encroached upon a subject which I knew to be a volatile one. In my arrogance I aggravated my friend with facts and opinions, fully expecting that he would quickly realize how right I was, only to kindle his wrath instead. He may have been wrong for his personal attack, but I more so, since I started the whole thing, knowing full-well what his reaction would be.
So ended that debate. As friends do, we eventually put the argument aside and continued our friendship; and I was careful never to be so insensitive again. That was in 1999. Over the years I have revisited that day in my mind, but figured that my friend probably didn’t even remember it. I should have known better, for true friends don’t forget when they’ve hurt one another: a true friend loves at all times, and sticks closer than a brother. (Prov. 17:17; 18:24)
Several weeks ago, on June 23, my friend asked if I remembered that day and that argument. I tried to act as though I did not; but frankly, I was completely flabbergasted by what he was saying! I could not believe that after all these years he remembered that discussion which had never ceased to echo in my own memory. Once I told him that I remembered, he proceeded to apologize for what he had said about my bringing shame to the name of my deceased grandfather.
Though we had continued our friendship since the infamous argument, I could not get over how good it felt to hear my friend actually say he was sorry for the painful comments he had made those many years earlier. He certainly did not need to do that, as the subject had lain dead for eleven years. But he did, and words cannot express how appreciative I am for his humility and courage, for his respect and love for me as his friend. I am grateful to have a friend like him.
This brings up and important point: Don’t ever let time be an excuse for actually saying or doing the right thing. Do not take a friend for granted, but cherish their friendship. Jesus said that if you remember a past conflict with a friend, do your part to be reconciled with him. (Matt 5:23-24) While it is true that love covers a multitude of sins (Prov 10:12; James 5:20; 1 Pet 4:8), may we as Christians never fail to “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from [us], with all malice. And [may we] be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave [us]... And walk in love... (Eph 4:32-5:2)
Part of this involves putting words to our actions. It was one thing for my friend and I to act as though all was forgiven, and I even thought that was enough; but it was quite another thing for him to put words to his actions, and actually say that he was sorry for what he had said. Sometimes our friends can be our greatest teachers!
Do you have anything to say... that your friend needs to hear?
In : Meditations
Tags: friendship conflict forgiveness love
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