When Friends Disappoint You

by Reggie Sinon - April 17, 2018

Friends are supposed to be there for you at all times, right? When they disappoint us, it can hurt the trust between us, but there are steps the Bible says we can take to regain it.

We all recognize the value of having close friends. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light,” and Bill Watterson said, “Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.”

But what happens when your friends let you down? Does the Bible give us any advice for when this happens?

The pain of disappointment

When friends let us down, it can lead to some of the deepest pain we feel. These are the people we rely on and trust the most. It can be easy to get bitter about the way they have treated us, and it can lead us to alienating and cutting them out of our lives.

While allowing ourselves to get angry may feel good in the moment, it can lead to long-term problems that go unaddressed. Ephesians 4:31 tells us to rid our lives of bitterness and anger. By allowing those harmful emotions to take hold in our lives, we can potentially cut ourselves off from valuable relationships.

Forgiveness mixed with honest and open communication can help to alleviate the pain we feel and can help move us down the road to recovering our friendship.

Forgiveness is continual

In Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive our brother. Peter thought he was being generous when he offered to forgive his brother seven times in one day. According to human thinking, that would be quite generous, but Christ had a different answer: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (verse 22).

Christ’s point was not to count up to 490 offenses and then stop forgiving the one who asks forgiveness, but to forgive always. Forgiveness should be our state of mind. Just as God is merciful with us when we repent, we should be merciful to others.

If friends disappoint us, mercy is not always our first reaction, but it is a response that we must learn and practice. It is important to keep perspective and recognize that we are not perfect friends all the time.

No doubt we have disappointed our friends, and the Golden Rule takes important significance: How would we want to be treated if we let our friends down? A good principle to remember is given in Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” When we keep in mind our own weaknesses, it is much easier to extend mercy to others.

Going to your brother (or sister) in love

Before Peter asked about forgiveness, Jesus gave instructions about what to do when our brethren let us down. Matthew 18:15-20 addresses when your brother sins against you.

The key first step is to go to your friend privately and address the issue. Hopefully he or she will respond positively, and further steps will not be needed.

The key to going to your friend is that you must do so in love. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Without first being willing to forgive your friend and striving to remember your love for him or her, you run the risk of making matters worse. Your hurt feelings and disappointments may come out in anger and drive your friend away.

Friends are to hold each other accountable. Solomon wrote about this in Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” The point is not to tear each other apart, but to build each other up and hopefully make your relationship even stronger.

Success or failure: what is my responsibility in the future?

Once you have truly forgiven your friends and reached out to them, then the responsibility is on them to respond. Hopefully their response will be positive, and the problem will be resolved. But if not, you will have peace in knowing that you have done everything in your power to make amends.

There is joy that can come in gaining a brother back, but recognize that doesn’t always happen instantly. As time moves forward, our responsibility is to not allow disappointment to generate bitterness, but to replace that disappointment with love and forgiveness.

For more insight on this topic, read Eddie Foster’s three-part blog series on conflict resolution:

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