It was the day of the big neighborhood block party. My good friend was in charge and it was her debut effort to run the show – a monster effort that included thirty families, two water slides, a bike parade and a barbeque. I knew she was stressed, so I promised to help set up and assured her I would be available to assist her.
Unfortunately, right as I was walking out the front door to help set up, my boss showed up out of the blue with his two dogs and a pressing work matter to discuss. I tried to wrap up the work stuff as quickly as possible and get over to the party, but by the time I got there, most of the tables and decorations were set up. My friend brushed past me with tears in her eyes and an accusing look. I knew I was in the dog house.
Disagreements are a normal part of life, and no one scrapes by without some conflict. Unfortunately, when the conflict is with a close friend, it can create an extremely stressful and awkward tension until the argument is resolved. In this scenario with my friend, I knew I had disappointed her, but she also didn’t understand the totality of the circumstances. So although I had empathy for her, I also needed some grace from her regarding my dilemma of being caught in the middle and needing to be in two places at the same time.
Conflicts generally occur when we struggle to see another person’s perspective or feel that our perspective isn’t being acknowledged. Sometimes, tension results because your values and your friend’s values are vastly different, and you are both operating with conflicting priorities.
The day of the party was not fun. My friend chose to ignore and avoid me in her hurt. After I tried multiple times to apologize and explain what happened, I eventually got hurt by her behavior and was upset that she didn’t believe the best about me.
The problem with avoiding a situation is that it only makes the problem worse. Instead of one person with hurt feelings, you now have two. Friends can generally sense when you pull away from them emotionally, even if it’s not an obvious avoidance.
The Courage To Confront
Confronting an issue isn’t easy, so spend some time in prayer, check your heart for anger and try to remain calm. Give your friend a call and ask if you can have a conservation to resolve the issue. Set aside a dedicated time to meet and then stress how important they are to you and how you want to move past the issue. Before you meet, try to write down a few things you need to discuss so you can stay on topic and cover your main points. If they don’t want to meet, try writing a letter or an email to open up a conversation.
Be prepared to listen when you do meet. It’s important to remember the value of understanding another’s perspective in any conflict. Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” True wisdom means having a clear picture of what happened from both perspectives. Listening requires not jumping in and giving your opinion or explanations until you have allowed your friend to feel heard and validated.
When it’s your turn to share, gently explain your side of the scenario. Try to keep your annoyance or anger in check. If you are sad, it’s okay to use “feeling statements,” but try not to accuse or blame. Say, “I felt disrespected and undermined when this happened.” Remove the pointing fingers and simply share how you feel.
Occasionally, the conflict may be too big or the emotions too volatile for the two of you to handle on your own. You might need assistance in the form of a counselor, mediator or pastor to help you move towards resolution. I once had a good friend who stole something of mine, and I needed to call in the big guns for backup because I was out of my league on that one.
A Relationship Is A Choice
At the end of the day, each relationship we have is a choice, and choosing to love someone is an intentional decision. You can work hard to grow closer through the conflict, but you will still have to put in the effort to forgive and release the hurt. Sometimes, you will simply have to agree to disagree and live in that awkward space because of differing values. Conflict resolution is not about who is right or wrong; it’s about finding a solution that respects both people’s hearts and encourages relationships.
You may never agree with your friend, but if they are important enough to you, then some issues are worth moving past and accepting that you just see things from a different perspective. Fortunately, when I sat down with my friend after placing a small gift of flowers on her door, she was more open to resolving her hurt and hearing my heart. After a few tears and apologies, we were able to move past the incident with a hug and a commitment to love one another better. I will admit that, for the next block party she planned, I was the first one there to help set up.
You may also be interested in How Being Vulnerable With Your Friends Can Set You Free