Sir Godfrey Gregg
Friendships are special but they can be damaged or destroyed. Solomon gives us several ways we can strain or destroy a friendship.
Proverbs 25:18-19 A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow. 19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an axe, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.
Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.
Because friends are so cherished, and because we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to them, we can also be hurt. If someone says something bad about you it hurts, but if a friend says something bad about you, it wounds much more deeply. Solomon’s description is powerful, if we hurt a friend it is like wounding them with an axe, a sword, or shooting them with an arrow.
If someone lies about you it is one thing, if a friend (who you know knows better) lies about you then it is much more devastating. In these cases, it feels like a betrayal. The hurt inflicted and (we believe) intended is much greater.
The one thing we all want from a friend is someone who is reliable; someone we can depend on. If we discover that our friend is not reliable, the reality is very painful.
Proverbs 17:9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.
A second thing that can ruin a friendship is an unwillingness to forgive. Someone told me once in regard to marriage: “in every marriage, there is as much evidence of a person being a good spouse as there is of them being a bad spouse. It all depends on which evidence you want to focus on.” The same is true often in friendship. Sometimes we are unrealistic in what we want from our friends. If we focus on all the little “slights” we have experienced, then we will create a wedge with our friend. Bitterness and resentment will grow, and the friendship will be strained and may die.
The antidote is to forgive quickly. Friendships are maintained because we trust the heart of our friend and overlook things that others might determine are offences. We understand that everyone has a bad day. We know that sometimes our friends are preoccupied. No one is at their best all the time (truthfully, none of us is even at our best most of the time.) Sometimes forgiveness and silence can save a friendship.
Proverbs 25:17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
Don’t visit your neighbours too often, or you will wear out your welcome.
This is how Benjamin Franklin is noted for saying, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.”
If we are constantly demanding things from our friendship; if we are becoming a “pest,” that friendship will start to erode. If you always show up at dinner time, if you always call the moment you see that someone has returned home (that is creepy on many levels!), if you text them constantly, your friend is going to start avoiding you. Obnoxious people don’t have a lot of friends.
Proverbs 18:19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.
Conflict can separate friends. Being overly sensitive will create conflict.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, the apostle Paul asks an important question: “Why not rather be wronged?” In other words, “isn’t it worth absorbing an offence rather than losing a relationship?” Let’s say you were planning on doing something with your friend. At the very last minute, things were cancelled. You were out a little money and your friend didn’t offer to offset the loss. You can become really angry. You can lose the friendship over this hurt. Or, you could overlook the offence, absorb the loss, and conclude that your friendship is worth more than the money.