I walked away from the conversation, and I could tell she was irritated with me. It was one of those days when I seemed to always be putting my foot in my mouth and saying the wrong thing. Her responses were sharp and short, so I knew she was done.

I felt like our friendship had been broken, possibly beyond repair. My head swirled together thoughts like “I ruined it” or “She doesn’t like me anymore.” I got so twisted up about it that I began to plan how to escape the current situation and implement my usual avoidance strategy.

I would wait awhile before responding to her text messages. I would limit my interaction on social media so I would be out of sight, out of mind. When I ran into her, I would pretend to be really busy and couldn’t talk. Surely, these actions would protect me from feeling hurt over the demise of our friendship.

Can I just confess that I literally cannot remember what we even argued about?

The tension I felt over the crack in our friendship way overshadowed the conflict itself. I got so lost in my emotions that reason and rational thought took a hike. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time in my life a friendship ended this way.

I could come up with lots of theories about why I had this toxic view of conflict in friendship. Maybe it’s because I am a perfectionist or sensitive or a control freak. Maybe it’s because I never learned healthy conflict resolution growing up. Whatever the reason, the bottom line was my inability to resolve conflicts well left a wake of broken and lost friendships. It was terribly isolating and lonely.

I knew this was destructive thinking, but I felt powerless to overcome my negative thought habit. It just seemed that this would be the pattern of my life, a vicious cycle that I could not break.

I resigned myself to the fact that I would never be one of those women who had friends for over 20 years, who knew each other inside and out. The kind of friends who would know what you needed before you did, would love your children as much as you, and who made you a better person.

I desperately wanted that kind of friendship in my life, but eventually my cracks would show and my dream would fall through them.

I had tons of grace for other people’s flaws. I was deeply understanding and forgiving if ever they messed up. The real problem, I came to recognize, was that I didn’t have any grace for myself. It wasn’t that friends couldn’t forgive my mistakes; it was that I couldn’t forgive them. It wasn’t that friend’s thought poorly of me, it was that I thought poorly of me. It wasn’t that the friendship was over; it was that I no longer felt worthy of having the friend.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. {2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV}

My thoughts weren’t demolishing arguments; they were demolishing me and robbing me of God-given community. I needed to change them to match what I knew to be true through the Word of God. Now, when one of those ugly ideas pops into my head, I practice reciting truth, offer myself grace, and believe the best. It’s a process but it is far more life giving than the old way.

That day, my irritated-with-me friend found me. She knew my thoughts were likely going rogue, and she wasn’t going to put up with it. We were friends no matter what! I can’t help but grin when I remember that moment. She gave me grace I couldn’t give to myself and demonstrated that conflict will happen but friends are worth fighting for. She’s great at taking thoughts captive, and I am learning how to be a better friend because she models it so well.

I’m beyond grateful for a friend who followed after me and God, whose Word is the best tool against negative thought habits.

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  • LaToya Brown

    Ann, this is good stuff! Besides my mother, my two best friends and I share long distance relationships. One of my friends is just absolutely loyal and she won’t let me shake her. My other friend and I talk every other month, but we always pick up where we left off. I’m better at long distance friendships than with people I see on a regular basis. I tend to hold women at a distance. I long for closer communion, but that requires a level of vulnerability I have a hard time showing, especially if I know I’ll have to see you again. Fear and pride. Yes, fear that if I showed my ugly our friendship would change. Pride, because I desire to control what people know of me.

    This post challenges me to get real with myself; I’m a little messed up and so are others, but grace allows us to accept ourselves and others… His grace is sufficient for me. Thank you.

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      I know exactly what you mean, LaToya! Long distance relationships are so much easier! But up close and personal ones can be so life giving if we have the courage to stick with it even when it’s hard! Thanks for your comments and encouragement! God’s best to you!

  • Carmen Horne- carmenhorne.com

    I too like to run from conflict. It grieves me to mess up. I have a dear from friend of many years that just accepts me as I am and I, she. We have that easy kind of relationship that is sure of our love and doesn’t need to talk or spend lots of time together. I treasure it.

    Your transparency is so moving. It reminds me to accept myself and others, and to love unconditionally. xxxooo

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Your comment reminds me that I need to go ahead and thank my friend for sticking with me even when it’s hard. Friends like that are rare and like you said, a treasure. May we have those friends and may we be those friends, as well. XOXO

  • Angela

    I am just like this……I can’t endure any conflict in a friendship. I just tolerate things others say or do that hurt until I can’t tolerate anymore and then back out of the relationship till it’s over, never explaining why. I also fear not really being wanted as a friend, so I don’t share too much, not wanting to turn anyone off, so I’m isolating myself from really being known (and possibly rejected). I second guess others, looking for wrong….why? I want close long-term friendships so much but don’t know how to trust people or resolve conflict. Where is this dealt with in the Bible?

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Oh, Angela! I relate to this so much! The entire bible is all about how we need to trust God more than anyone else but there are countless stories of people risking big rejection. Look at Moses, Esther, David & Jonathan, Rahab, Ruth….they all had to risk something when they trusted another and every single time, God was faithful. He will be faithful to you, too, friend. Here’s the thing…if you isolate, you’ll never have or be the friend you want but if you risk it, you may just find something beautiful! Be, brave! XO

      • Webbgurl2000

        True. This is a Word in due season. We are not perfect. None of us. We try to patch up our selves to be that way, and it makes us further from God and each other. I’m determined. I want God to make me Authentic this year with myself and others.

  • Claudine Phillips

    Anne, you are a gem in your authenticity. Thank you for sharing your imperfections so that we can walk in freedom my friend. You are a guidepost for many including me. XOXO

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Love you so much, sweet friend! XOXO

  • charlotteeasley

    Thanks Anne! Shared this on my fb page… I am a therapist who works with women… most of us struggle with conflict and self-compassion… grace, grace, grace!! Thanks for being so honest and open

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Thank you so much, Charlotte! I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Blessings to you!

  • http://faithspillingover.com Betsy Cruz

    Brilliant writing, Anne! Words we can all relate too. Thank you so much for this encouragement to rehearse God’s truth to ourselves when the ugly thoughts crop up. Sometimes I feel so powerless against my own thoughts. I can relate to having grace with others, but denying it to myself. Thank you.

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Thank you for your kind encouragement, Betsy! I am so grateful. I know just what you mean about being powerless against our own thoughts. It takes work and practice, and sometimes index cards with truth written on them strategically taped to places I look at often. (Car dashboard, bathroom mirror, fridge, washer/dryer, etc.) It’s hard but not impossible! Lean on Him and He will make it happen!

  • http://dorisswift.com/ Doris Swift

    So true! It seems when we don’t hear back from a friend in a “timely” manner, right away we’re trying to figure out what we said wrong. Most times, it’s just a lie from the enemy trying to drive a wedge. Great post! We need community, and we need each other. :)

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Thank you, Doris!

  • Donna Jones

    Great words, Anne! Thanks for your wisdom.

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      Love you, friend!

  • Kim Duvall

    Thank you for this truth – and for being transparent about a struggle because it is always good to know others struggle to -your words have encouraged my heart and I thank you for the reminder about taking every thought captive – I need to do that all the time and I am so thankful for Gods reminder

    • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

      God’s blessings to you, Kim. We are all a work in progress, right?

  • http://Goddots.com Anne Watson

    Exactly! Thank you so much, Lisa!

  • Holly

    Very good stuff! I could have written much of this myself. I particularly liked the line about good friends are worth fighting for! I get bogged down with shame for my friendship screw-ups. I forget God is a loving, forgiving, gracious God. God doesn’t want us to pull away when relationships get hard although that is our natural response. He wants us to follow His example and press in, draw near. I need to look upward and outward rather than inward which pulls me into a downward spiral of out-of-control negative emotions, irrational thinking, etc. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!