Do you struggle with how to end a friendship in a way that honors God? I can relate.
My heart started beating just a little bit faster as someone in the room began asking about my ex best friend. I knew the conversation would turn to me in a moment with questions that always felt like everyone was looking at me under a microscope. “What happened, you two were so close?” “You don’t stay in touch at all? What about social media?”
Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot better at these awkward conversations. I loved and cherished that friend for years and even though our lives don’t cross paths anymore, I feel confident that all God asks of us in the ending of a friendship is this: honor.
1 Peter 2:17 tells us to “honor all people” and that includes those who aren’t a part of my life anymore.
1. Begin with honoring God
I used to feel so much shame when a friendship came to an end. I wondered if there was something wrong with me or if I could have done something differently. After a big friendship “breakup,” I went to the Lord with these emotions and asked Him what to do. Admittedly, I needed to do that a lot sooner. As soon as I sat down with God, I realized what was happening actually had nothing to do with me. I traded in my perspective that was wholly focused on me, how I was being perceived, and how I felt for a kingdom perspective.
God started to bring honor to my attention and I realized that sometimes God calls us to end things with our friends. Maybe it’s because of a circumstance like needing to be positioned in a new way for a new assignment or maybe it’s because “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Either way, if we cling to all of our past relationships, we fail to honor God. If we cling to a good, consistent God, we are able to honor Him even in the end of friendships.
2. Honor the other person as God would
Psalm 8:5 says God has crowned us with glory and honor. I think God takes the old adage “treat others as you’d like to be treated” much further by asking us to serve one another and treat each other as someone who is crowned with glory and honor. In the end of a friendship, this can feel extremely difficult. You might want to cut ties and stop communication if it’s been a hurtful friendship, or you might be desperate for a long conversation when your friend doesn’t want to keep hashing things out. For me, my perspective on ending friendships changed when I focused on this verse. How can I see this person as someone who God crowned with glory and honor? Then, how can I treat them that way in this circumstance? It might mean having an awkward conversion to honor giving them clarity or it might mean being willing to give someone time and space even if we’re desperate to talk it out.
3. Continue building each other up
The awkwardness of a friendship ending eventually passes. Then the questions start. “What happened?” It can be tempting to jump in and defend ourselves when the end of a friendship was difficult but becoming defensive is far from creating a culture of honor. Instead, trust God to defend you and build one another up. When I had fallen out of touch with a group of friends and someone asked about it, I simply shared that we weren’t in touch anymore. I didn’t say why or how, even though the situation was deeply hurtful. Instead of indulging myself in sharing my side of the story, I chose to trust that God knows when and how to convict others better than I do. My role is to continue honoring those friends after the end of a friendship by speaking highly of them and building them up (1 Thessalonians 5:10) whenever I get the chance.
The end of a friendship can feel messy, hurtful and out of our control. Even though we can’t control when a friendship ends or why, we can control how we handle the end and moving on. I’ve found that I don’t feel shame for ending a friendship when I know I left focused on honoring God and honoring the other person as best as I can.