How to Heal (Not Fix) Broken Friendships

“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?

healing friendships

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…

2. Pray.

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.

5. 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.

One Caveat

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.

  1. “You can’t fix something you didn’t do wrong.” Sage advice. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on mending rifts between friends. When relationships hurt, we all long for healing. We need reminders like this that God’s work in both lives is what most effectively brings it about.
    Janet Reeves recently posted…Because He Said SoMy Profile

    • Well, said, Janet! It’s only with God’s direction it can be set right, but we must act when He says too. One time, he prompted me to heal a relationship, at least twice, and I backed away in fear. That person unexpectedly died a few weeks later – a painful reminder that God’s timing is always best.

  2. I’d like to add one more to the list: Give it time. There have been times that I have gone through rocky spots with friends, where we’ve hit a big enough bump it entirely derailed our whole friendship. In spite of handling the disagreement like adult Christian women, things were still off between us for a very long time. Years. Sometimes even when you handle disagreements the way you should, it still takes a very long time to heal.
    Amy @ Accidental Happy Baker recently posted…Chunky Monkey Chia Breakfast PuddingMy Profile

    • Yes I was trying to convey that but I’ll admit, I hope it’s not years! I went through years of it written my other loved one. Was so happy when it was over. And glad we fixed it too.

  3. I know there are some relationships I tried to make right and others I felt better walking away from. I totally agree with your steps. Also, some friends are toxic, even if they’re “Christian”; I’ve learned to walk away from the people that don’t believe in me, and don’t want to see me succeed.
    Maria Hass recently posted…A Body And It’s GloryMy Profile

    • I have been there too! Some friends are too toxic or self-centered. Hoping I’m not one of those ever…

    • Yes! That shutting up thing is a fine balance though. I kept quiet in a different situation and that was a problem. Tricky, but we have to keep listening for God’s direction.

  4. You are blessed. This article was sent to me at the right time. Thank you for your words. I read it, loved it and will be re-reading with friends.

    • Wow, thank you! His usually gives things when we don’t even know we need them! Hop it helps.

  5. Ahh yes forgiveness and what a great topic with our friendships. It seems as we get older and have children friendships change and how important it is to forgive. I love how you said sort out the guilt. Such an important one because guilt can be devastating to the healing process.

    • True, Tasia! I guess guilt is actually selfish in this place. Good point – friendships do change but the more it’s based on things in common with God, the more easily it can heal.

  6. As a fixer, I really appreciate this post! I can think of at least one relationship that very much needs prayer right now. I’ll keep these steps in mind. Thank you for writing this!
    Joy recently posted…The Joyful Truth is Two!My Profile

  7. Such a timely reminder. Matthew states that one of the signs of the end times is increased offenses between Christians. Perhaps it’s because we often feel so bad at the offense we’ve caused we just run and pretend it never happened. Your comments are well organized, scriptural, hopeful, and most of all … helpful. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
    Susan recently posted…Your Giggle For the Day – Learning CursiveMy Profile

    • Thank you so much, Susan! Well end times aside, we ARE living in a very worldly world nowadays. I learned that it’s REALLY easy to fall into that trap if we are not super careful and surrounding ourselves with Christians at every turn!

    • I love your questions, Traci! Absolutely the right things to ask. I learned a LOT…honestly, more than I thought I could handle, but I’m blessed that my friend extended to me almost so much grace that I truly saw the face of God.

    • Very true Jamie! I am learning that myself. It’s a blessing when it’s fixed even if the confrontation is difficult and painful.

  8. This turned out so great! I am tweeting it tomorrow and pinned it today! I care so deeply (and write somewhat regularly) about relational reconciliation. AWESOME job! I love that you brought out that it has to be made right and somewhat talked about at the end in order not to sweep it under the rug…so many people don’t get to this place and it stays there stinking between them like rotting relationship. I also love that you mention some won’t get through the list with us. So true! LOVE it! Blessings from “Espressos of Faith”!
    Bonnie Lyn Smith recently posted…Choosing to Be IntentionalMy Profile

    • Thanks, Bonnie! It’s only happened a few times and it’s grown me but it’s painful. I was in an issue with a friend recently but we are ok now. Maybe there are things to figure out, but feeling good about it!

  9. Gina, I really needed this, even though my friendship cannot be fixed, as a fixer, I suffer because it cannot… this information has been great to read and will be lots of future reference for me as I move into a new way of life without the person that hurt me the most. while it has been at least a year, the pain I feel is still just as hurtful as the day it happened. the hurt, the deceit, the emotions, and the pain that came so hard so fast for me being betrayed.
    I know I must forgive and we actually tried. I welcomed her back into my life with open arms. However the betrayal she committed was just not going away. I fully believe Go forgives me for not forgetting. I have since forgiven, an empty chair a name in a journal, however, complete unabashed forgiveness. That isn’t going to happen. Due to choices she made for my life, along with another person.
    When those decisions were made, by then, for my life, they lost all respect. Respect i cannot give, because the need to forgive and apologize is not available due to choices made by my friend and family member. I just want to say that the flip side, sometimes, the forgiveness cannot happen any truer, other than as a gesture of good will and was placed in a world of non forgiveness afterwards. Told I was meaningless and that I was the cause of her entire issues, even though I did nothing wrong.
    Jesus will protect my heart,will protect my inner mo st beings,
    The hurt that I have experienced is truly sad to me and my family.
    ]while I trust God to fix it, somethings are just unfixable and that’s okay. My job is to forgive and be done.
    thank you for these and for your willingness to share… what a blessing
    Laura Hix recently posted…David Phelps – Freedom – ReviewMy Profile

    • Thank you for sharing, Laura. I’m so sorry. I know your pain is real and deep. As far as forgiveness, that in no way means a person has to be or come into our lives. I’ve had friendships that were toxic for me, and while forgiveness was there, healing only came when I let those people go completely. Not everyone is meant to be in our lives – and God will remove those who are not supposed to be. We still have to forgive them, but sometimes the only way to forget is to put them out of our lives. That, I believe, is God’s call, not ours. I wish you peace over this issue.