Before children, I think I was a decently considerate friend—spending time, calling or sending messages, and posting birthday cards on time were all routine activities. However, since having children, I have had to let my previous standards slip, while struggling to keep up with the daily demands of raising a family. Often, as a mother, it is all I can do to keep up with the family schedule and punctually drop off and pick up the children from school and activities, let alone remember the birthday cards and regular communication with all of my friends.
Recently, my family and I came back from a week’s trip to see my parents in California. It was a quick trip with two of those days being travel days and having an eight-hour jet-lag from England. On a normal two to three week trip, I would be messaging local friends and planning get togethers. But with limited time, I chose to focus solely on my parents for this occasion.
One of my close friends who found out we were in town was incredibly supportive of my decision. She understood that I was creating a boundary of what I was able to handle, and that I desperately needed some rest myself and quality time to focus with my parents.
Another dear friend from childhood was not so compassionate. Upon learning that we had been out, she proceeded to tell me how hurt she was—that I, regardless of what was going on for me, should have made the effort and time to see her.
Looking back, I can see how my decisions on this one trip hurt my friend. Unintentionally, I made her feel sad, neglected, and disappointed. And through messages back and forth, I have offered my apology and asked forgiveness for hurting her feelings.
In a different context and with finalizing my book on motherhood, I had asked a mom friend if she might read my manuscript and contribute a few sentences of praise as an endorsement toward my book. I knew this friend was busy but she would see what she could do. My deadline passed—I chased my friend but heard nothing back. I still haven’t heard back and the book is nearly at production. I had a choice to make, would I hold onto a grudge and allow bitterness to turn into resentment toward this friend? Or would I handle this challenge with God’s supernatural grace?
I did struggle for a few weeks with hurt feelings. This was someone I used to spend time with regularly, but now it felt like I was being dismissed. God presented both friend situations to me and reminded me that it is always better to forgive than to hold onto a grudge, disappointment, or an unmet expectation. We don’t know what is going on in our friends’ hearts, minds, and lives—surely the best thing we can do is have forgiveness and understanding readily available to our friends.
Both situations have triggered me to stop and think about the expectations which we have put upon us by our friends and also the expectations we place on our friends. The desire for close friendships and supporting one another is fine, but we need to be careful at setting ourselves up for disappointment with unspoken expectations. In order for genuine friendship to blossom, there have to be heaps of love, forgiveness, and grace present on both sides—ideally with expectations dropped.
What I am able to give to my friends, near and far, and what I receive from them has had to change. I no longer get flustered if my birthday is forgotten or I receive a belated text message and equally so, I hope there is understanding when I cannot get back to friends promptly. Motherhood has granted me more compassion, understanding, and grace for my friends and their circumstances.
Whether you have been the one to unintentionally hurt your friend or you are the one who felt hurt, I pray that all of our friendships would be presented to Jesus and that the Holy Spirit would help us all to grow deeper in our love, grace, forgiveness, and compassion toward each other.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.Galatians 5:22-26