“I can fix this mess!” Do you say that a lot? Do you get nervous when you make a mistake or willfully do something that perhaps you never considered was wrong before? Do you just have to mend broken friendships right away?
Well, I do. I can’t stand having someone angry at me. I’m learning to deal with this whole concept of “haters” because hardly anyone with a thoughtful opinion on anything seems immune nowadays, but when I cause trouble with someone I care about, my whole life goes out the window. I can actually get physically ill from it and want to fix it right away. Unfortunately, these situations often call for time and patience.
So what’s a fixer to do?
The most important thing you can do to heal broken friendships is to give them up to God. Sounds easy, right? Well, no, not so much to a fixer. It means that I am absolutely not in control and that I have to wait until God fixes this thing. But while you’re waiting, there are steps you can take when you’re in this kind of a bind.
1. Shut up.
You need to stop talking or doing or saying anything for at least a brief period with this person. Odds are high that you are going to “fix” yourself into a situation can no longer remedy, or you will do more damage than good. Just back away for a little while – they might even feel relieved you are not “in their face” while they hopefully work on forgiving you (if you are in error). Instead, fill your mouth with different words…
You need to pray for your eyes to be open to your part in the problem. Ask God to set your heart right. I didn’t find it beneficial to pray for the pain to go away, since it really felt too me-centered – and “me” was already the problem. You probably already know in your heart what you did wrong, you just didn’t see it that clearly. The light of day is a good thing! 1 John 1;6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” We need to expose that thing to the light of our own eyes first. Naturally, pray for the person you are in conflict with as well. This can soften their heart. Meanwhile, remember own up to what you are responsible for and avoid false guilt over things that are not your fault.
3. Sort out the guilt.
You’re going to feel guilty, and maybe you should. The problem is not the real guilt, which is the kind that convicts you of your wrong and helps you understand a flaw. God can help you work through that through the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The problem is false guilt and this most often comes from the enemy (Satan). Feeling guilty for something you did not do is another way that fixers like us try to control the situation. It’s way of saying, “I can fix this too!” No, you can’t fix something you didn’t do wrong. (I frequently have this problem.) Read “What is False Guilt and How Can I Avoid It? for instruction on this problem. Once you’ve sorted this out, then you can work on the one and only thing a fixer can solve.
4. Fix your own issues by reading God’s word.
Firstly, you can’t fix every single sin all at once. One thing at a time! If a friend called you out for a bunch of shortcomings and your self-examination proved them all true, you will probably lose it your mind trying to you them all at once. (Fixers always want everything to be perfect now.) Instead, ask God’s guidance in helping you to prioritize the issues in a way that you can handle. As fixers, we tend to want to tackle the biggest thing first. That may be the direction God is sending you – or He may know you don’t have strength to tackle that Goliath right now.
This is why it’s really critical to pray and read Scripture together. You can continue studying whatever you had already been working on, like the sermon you heard on Sunday. It’s often been my experience that something is going to leap out at you and keep coming up – you’ll read a passage, for example, that “just happens” to come up at your next Bible study or in your feed or on today’s message in that Bible app. Or, grab a concordance and look up the problems you think you have. With enough time, prayer and openness to God’s will, scripture will convict you and you’ll know what you have to tackle first. Remember, too, that God always gives us a way out (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). After fixing what you can, you can now move forward to forgive.
I’ve always said forgiveness comes easy to me, but that’s not exactly true. The real truth is that I’ve been blessed to have had only a few broken friendships with people I really love – and all those times, forgiveness was painful. I’d even say that it took a while – and I’m quite ashamed to admit that. Not only that, but you might find that you are very angry with yourself. So while you work on your faults, remember to forgive yourself as well as those who hurt you. Often, I’m the last one I forgive but that can be a short cut back to false guilt.
Concerning others, you have to forgive, true, but you also have to have the heart for it. Continue to pray for that person when forgiveness is taking time. There are times you feel sucker-punched and have to work through it. This happened to me some years ago with one of the people I love best in the world and it turned out the whole situation was a miscommunication, which is why the next step is important.
6. Make it right.
When you are finally calm and feeling God-centered, when you have prayed it through and when the person you’re in conflict with is ready, you need to meet – face to face, if possible – and make it right. Start by apologizing – without excuses. Somehow, I never learned this growing up. I only even got convicted of how much my apologies sucked a few years back. I always believed excuses go hand-in-hand with apologies so they know your reasons. (Don’t ask me where I got that from, I have no idea!)
It’s important to apologize without excuses for what you did wrong only, even if what you did wrong was get pissed off for what they did to you. (Only righteous anger is Godly, and I’m willing to bet that if you thought the term “pissed off” accurately described your feelings, your anger was not righteous.) At this point, the discussion should, hopefully, flow. Let the other person speak but then apologize if there is more that you did wrong that you didn’t know. And by the way, “I’m sorry you felt that way” is not an apology – it’s a deflection. “I’m sorry that I hurt you” is the right way to apologize.
Finally it’s important to remember that you may never get to #6. Some people are just “done with you” or maybe they are just not in a forgiving space. Some broken friendships can’t be “fixed” because it takes two people to make it right again. Your inner fixer will hate this, but this too you must give to God by going back and praying on it and reading scripture again. Your pride will take a huge hit – and that’s ok! As Christians, we need less ego and we need to know that not everyone is going to love us. Friends can turn into haters and back-turners.
Jesus knew this all too well when he told Judas to do what he had to do at the Last Supper. When we read this story, I think we forget that Jesus WAS human as much as He was God. It couldn’t have been easy, even for God Himself, to say, “Go” to man entrusted with the group’s money and his a close friend for 3 years, when He knew Judas was leaving to betray Him.. But Jesus knew that He could not change Judas’ action or mind. Some friends may permanently make up their minds against you too. Just remember that God is never against his children, for we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Col 3:12).” Give Him the tools to fill that empty space by worshiping Him with all your might and He will be faithful to fill it with joy.