Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy…
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it…
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
Some time ago, I was accused of being “bought off” in a situation. The accuser believed I had changed sides in an argument and must have been manipulated or bribed in some way. Since I know that my bank account (emotional or otherwise) has not increased in trade for my support, I took a step back to consider what it could mean.
In fairness and full disclosure, this comment was not made directly to me, but it has been repeated multiple times to people close to me. And, as the accuser and I do not have a relationship currently, I am unable to address the situation directly. So, I am left to ponder on my own and glean what lessons I can.
The truth, as far as I can tell, is that I have grown up in a particular area of relationship where I once was foolish and weak. I can only assume that my choice to pursue healthy, honest relationships has created this disconnect. I’m certainly ok with that.
Let me explain…
I’m a verbal processor. I wish it weren’t so, but often, I only put the pieces of a puzzle together in my mind when I hear the words out loud. This can sometimes be accomplished in writing (I should definitely journal more than I do), but most often, it’s in conversations with those closest to me that I come to understand and untangle my thoughts. I thought I was choosing wisely where to have these conversations, but I’ve learned, sadly too late, that not all people who should be safe actually are safe.
My best friend, has been one of those safe places for me. Without fail, I know I can show the darkest parts of my heart to Jamie and it will remain safe. She is able to step back and offer wise counsel, and she has been known to put me in my place more than a few times. I could go to her in full-venting-mode and express the harshest of words or most dramatic of sentiments and she would let me get it out of my system and off of my chest. Once the smoke cleared, she was wise enough to say to me, “Do you feel better having said that…because you know it’s not really true, right?”. She would help me walk through my hurt feelings and over-dramatized responses and get my heart back in line.
I have a few other precious believers in my life who do the same thing for me:
Mrs. Katie was always faithful to remind me that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness. And, the true struggle was spiritual, not actually between me and another person.(Ephesians 6:12).
Mrs. Shirley always had a way of making me think of the other person’s pain in the situation. She would often say things like, “I wonder what kind of pain he or she must be in to act in that way”.
I will NEVER forget the day that Rachael said to me, “You have to ask yourself what it is you don’t know or understand about forgiveness because God loves her and forgave her just as He loves you and forgave you. So, what is it you don’t understand about His love and forgiveness that you can’t forgive her?”.
There’s also the time that Bridget pulled me aside after small group to say, “You know the Lord has placed a calling on you and given you a gift, and you are not using it as you should. Please, pray about that.” But, all the while I knew she was just calling me to my best in the way I was made and for God’s glory.
I know that Holly and I have a way of talking one another off a cliff because we understand what it’s like to be an emotional rocketship sometimes. And, it’s beautiful to have a friend with whom I can be completely irrational and she doesn’t hold it against me because she really knows my heart.
Or Karlee, with whom I’m never afraid to be open and honest even if the critiques sting a little…I know they are always given in love. (Even, if she doesn’t share my love of commas…she sure loves me!)
Of course, I now have the honor of being married to someone who honors me by allowing me to express my jumbled thoughts, frenetic emotions and deeper hurts and then lovingly help me find the Truth.
I could go on and on about the way my Parents have corrected me or how I’ve wrestled through misunderstandings and questions of faith with Jodi and Joanna. Or how Nicole and Mary can reign me in at work when I’m feeling a bit agitated. And, there have certainly been others along my life’s journey who have spoken truth to my heart. It’s such a privilege to have this community of believers who surround me.
These are faithful wounds and I am desperate for them. I long for the loving correction of a true friend.
And, I grieve the times I have “vented” frustration or hurt feelings in the presence of those with their own agendas and lack of wisdom. I can think of several conversations where I shared feelings that seemed true and that I experience very deeply. I remember speaking freely about an exaggerated hurt to people who fanned the flames instead of dousing me with the cold water of truth. And, these words have haunted me ever since. They have been used as ammunition against me and the people I love. They have been etched in stone in the minds of those who licked their chops for the juicy morsels of gossip and strife I delivered on a silver platter.
It is as if I am frozen in time in the minds of those people, painted permanently in my weakest of moments.
I recognized, about five years ago, that a lack of honest communication in some of my relationships was doing far more harm than good. You see, I used to believe that peace at any cost was the most valuable thing. I continually swallowed real or perceived wrongs in an effort to avoid confrontation or someone else having hurt feelings. I have since learned that relationships suffer in these conditions. Good, healthy relationships are built upon honesty, trust and the willingness to speak up when my boundaries are crossed.
As a result, I’ve implemented a rule for myself in relationships:
“If I am not willing to speak up, then I forfeit the right to be angry”.
This rule has served me well. It causes me to evaluate whether a slight is worth confrontation or if it’s something I’m willing to just let go. It’s not fair to assume that people can read my mind. It’s a disservice to the relationship when I fail to speak the truth and harbor secret animosity. And, my relationships are better for this understanding.
I have been fortunate to have few relationships lost to true discord. Some have changed due to proximity or stage of life, but very few have died because of turmoil or strife. I grieve the ones where my weakness of character caused the rift. I’m grateful for the friends who have given me grace when I’ve disappointed them instead of terminating our relationship. It’s beautiful when others embrace me in spite of my flaws instead of permanently punishing me for them.
But, I have learned to choose better those with whom I share my heart. There are relationships that I have come to recognize as more toxic than beneficial and I’m grateful to have distance from them until issues can be resolved or trust rebuilt. I’ve learned that it’s not just ok, but wise, to limit the intimate circle of friends with whom I bare my soul. And, it’s for the want of faithful wounds that I pulled away and found health, healing and happiness.
To those who would accuse me, I invite them to honest dialogue, to understand why it seems I’ve changed. The truth is, I have changed, I’ve grown in my understanding of relationships, and I’m much healthier because of it.
I’m ever grateful for the faithful wounds of my friends. They bring the wisdom covered in grace and it’s breathtakingly beautiful.