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Mending a Broken Friendship

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
When Christian friends do not resolve their conflict swiftly, their lives are a hindrance to others.

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In this final article of a three-part series on conflict between friends, Dr. Dunlap urges Christians to resolve any conflict that exists between themselves and someone else. He offers readers four practical steps that they can implement when they are unable to resolve disagreements. He emphasizes the importance of resolving conflict swiftly and lovingly.

Two Christian friends, Katherine and Linda, met with me so that I could mediate their ongoing disagreement concerning how to lead a women’s prayer group in our church. After we defined the problem, listed the obstacles to solving the problem, determined what points they agreed upon, and identified each person’s contribution to the misunderstanding, we continued with the final step.

Fifth, I asked them if they were willing to make several changes and take certain steps in order to reach a solution. They assured me that they were, and we began to work together on a list of specific suggestions that they would begin to implement immediately.

a.       I explained to them that they had disobeyed God’s Word by focusing their attention and energy on each other’s offenses rather than seeking to restore each other in love. I urged them to focus instead on their own weaknesses and blind spots and reminded them to be careful to examine themselves before evaluating someone else’s behavior. We discussed Romans 2:1, “Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things.” Then I directed their attention to the command of Romans 14:13, “Therefore, let us not judge one another any more.”

b.      I cautioned them of the danger of forming opinions based on first impressions. Katherine wrongly assumed that Linda was gossiping about her to the younger woman in the prayer group, and then she looked for evidence to confirm her mistaken assumption.

I pointed out that Linda, on the other hand, had acted unwisely by seeking someone else’s advice in the matter without Katherine’s prior knowledge and consent. I urged them both to make a commitment in the future to check the accuracy of all facts and all related circumstances before reaching a conclusion in any matter.

c.       I admonished them for exposing each other’s faults to other people. Each woman had complained to her husband and children about the other woman’s behavior. I exhorted them to always deal as privately as possible with any future situations. I read them Proverbs 17:9, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”

d.      I challenged each woman to seek the other’s welfare above her own. Someone whose primary motive is self-seeking will withdraw his fellowship from a brother or a sister, and avoid him or her as a means of punishment. I asked them if they believed that they had obeyed God’s commands to “prefer one another in love” and to “consider others as more important than themselves.”

I went on to read them the command in Hebrews 12:15,

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

They both agreed that their bitterness had defiled other people. Then I read the warning in James 4:6,

God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

Katherine and Linda acknowledged the fact that they had been unwilling to humble themselves before each other. As we bowed for prayer, they asked for God’s forgiveness for their willful pride and for having judged each other. Then they sought one another’s forgiveness. Together we petitioned God for wisdom in making the necessary decisions to lead the women’s prayer group in a way that honored and glorified the Lord Jesus Christ, and in a way that incorporated both of their leadership perspectives.

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