Finding Authentic Friends in a World Chasing Bitterness

Finding Authentic Friends in a World Chasing Bitterness

Right now in our culture, the word “tribe” is a big deal. It’s a word meaning we speak the same language, know what to do, what not to do, and in general support one another and “get” each other. These places are special because they say, “You belong.” And, “We need you.”

But what if you are like me and haven’t yet found that place of belonging? Surely you and I are just as worthy of deep, committed friendships as everyone else? I think we are but when and how will it happen?

To be perfectly honest, I’ve struggled with female friendships my entire life.

I have early scars of friends I considered extremely close who lied to me, stole from me, and wounded me deeply with words and actions. No, I wasn’t perfect or an innocent victim, but I never intentionally tried to hurt a friend, and I pray that I never will. An accidental comment or misstep is one thing. That I can apologize for and I do, but I’ve searched for years for those close friends whom can be trusted and God is finally delivering some to me.

This has been a process of 30+ years and God is finally gripping my heart to show me a way to some deep, lasting, trustworthy relationships and I’m realizing the hard truth that this new gift actually begins with me.

As I mentioned, I’ve been hurt by friends. I bet you have too. When we are hurt by someone with whom we’ve allowed transparency and trust, the wounds cut so deep sometimes we wonder if they’ll ever heal. My first mistake was choosing bitterness. How could this person hurt me? I trusted them and confided in them? They were supposed to have my back! In the moment, it felt better to feel angry than to forgive. I didn’t know 20 years ago that bitterness weeds continue to grow and swallow you whole when you let them. I didn’t know that the person who caused me pain wasn’t being shamed by my bitterness and that the only person I was hurting was me.

God’s Word warns us in Hebrews about the destructive nature of bitterness.

"Watch over each other to make sure that no one misses the revelation of God's grace. And make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many." Hebrews 12:15-16 TPT

Oh if only my 10 year old self had known the truth of these words, that bitterness in my heart would cause trouble for me and the hearts of many. My bitterness didn’t just hurt me, I took my protective guard and “I’ll leave before you hurt me” attitude into friendship after friendship. How many sweet women did God bring into my path that I rejected or refused because I didn’t want to be hurt again? Only He knows the number.

In His deep kindness, God is showing me a new path toward honest, deep friendship.

It starts with forgiving myself for all the wasted years of using the wrong approaches. I wish I’d known better, but I didn’t. However, today is new and ripe with opportunity. As I allow Jesus to heal my broken places of bitterness He is showing me a way forward.

Almost 2 years ago my family relocated to the city where my husband was raised. At that time I was mentally and psychologically wrecked. Through some postpartum imbalances and a complete lack of healthy self-care, I was a miserable, hollow shell. I prayed out to the Lord asking him to deliver me an honest and trustworthy friend. And wow, did He deliver!

One month after moving, I reached out to an acquaintance friend from 10 years ago whom I knew lived in my new city. This was the first time I began any friendship with someone where I didn’t have it all together and was vulnerable with my mess. I thought it would scare her off. But I was so exhausted and empty that I didn’t care. I was done being the “I’ve got it all together” friend. And you know what? She wasn’t scared off. Well, maybe she was, but she has a very kind heart and is obedient to the Lord and maybe He asked her to give me another try. Who knows? I realized now I should ask her what made her continue to hang out with me a second time. Yea, probably just God.

For the first time since I was 10, I showed up to a new friendship vulnerable, with barriers down.

This has made all of the difference in closeness that her and I share. It’s not all about me. She gets to show up vulnerable, hurting, or however she is feeling too. We don’t expect each other to be perfect. We are both sinful in nature and capable of making all sorts of mistakes. But I would rather find vulnerability with someone who may hurt me than fall back into my old patterns of running away before they ever get the chance.

If at any point here you are reading this thinking that it’s ok for people to go around hurting us, please do not get that impression. That is not what I am endorsing. I’m talking about giving access into our lives to those who show they can be trusted. If I had clung to bitterness like the miserable “friend” that it was, my days would be lacking a lot of joy and acceptance. If you too struggle with bitterness in your heart toward friends, please know you don’t have to stay that way. You will have to do some work of remembering the hurts and choosing to let God take them and give you something new in their place. There is so much to weigh us down right now. Why let bitterness be one of them?

I’m so thankful for my precious friend whom I’ve grown closer to this past year. As we continue to grow deeper and show up for one another, we are building a new pattern of trust. We’ve been able to bring our two families together and share God’s grace and goodness. I guess we’re starting to build a small tribe of our own, and I finally belong.

I promise not all friendships are created equal. If we all had perfect friendships right now I wouldn’t bother, but I feel very confident that many of us struggle with identifying those who help us find a missing piece of ourselves, leaving us more whole, verses those trying to get their fill from us. If you are currently experiencing a lot of bitterness in your friendships it's time to re-evaluate! Sometimes we need to redefine a relationship. Sometimes we are walking with someone and it hasn't been right for a long time and we need to let go. Wherever you find yourself in this puzzle, I'm praying you seek God and His wisdom. Let Him guide you in exposing the bitter roots in your own heart that need to be forgiven and set free.

If this is you, join me in praying,
Father, my heart hurts. I'm finding roots of bitterness are there. Would you please use your loving hands to dig up these roots. May I forgive (or want to forgive) ______(person's name). Would you sow seeds of forgiveness, grace, and love. Help me talk to this person this week about my feelings if appropriate. Help us begin again with a new foundation built on Your steady hand. In Jesus' name, Amen.

It takes bravery to confront bitterness! If you are willing to ask God for help in this, I know He will deliver! It may feel too overwhelming so take it in small steps. But, please, take a small step in removing the bitterness today. Saying you'll do something tomorrow is code for, "I'm not going to do that." The truth is, bitterness only hurts your own heart and relationship with God and others. If you're hurting, it's time to release it and let it go.


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