The other line rang once. Twice. Thr —

“Hey, Dean, how’s it going?” John said from hundreds of miles away through the magic of technology. However, our distance of land was minuscule compared to the distance I was traversing emotionally to actually make this call.

Just a week prior, I was still shunning John; two weeks prior, I had no intention of contacting John for the foreseeable future. Here I was now, hearing his voice for the first time in almost two months with his waiting for me to respond to a question that is asked millions of times a day by people across the world.

What do you say to that anyway?

Obviously, it has not been going wonderfully, John. Clearly, there has been something not great happening, John. I’ve been ignoring you for weeks, I just refused to tell you I would pray for you, and I texted you less than 24 hours ago saying I was angry at you, John. And now you’re asking me how it’s going, John? Is that really a necessary question, John? Am I saying “John” a lot, John?

“It’s going, man,” I responded casually. I figured I would wait to respond with my problems. Apparently, small talk would be the best way to ease into this conversation. We volleyed a few short statements that were vague enough to make even a lawyer feel comfortable. Finally, I started in.

“So, here’s the deal…” I told John everything. I started from my last visit with him, the disappointments I felt, the anger I experienced, and the cycle I went through for most of the past year. I then told him about my realization — that I was wrong.

That I was the problem in this friendship. That I refused to let him be anything less than my absolute closest friend.

And I said I was sorry.

John was silent the entire time. When I ended, he took a breath and simply stated, “Well, man, there’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s all right.”

John has made that statement before when I’ve done something stupid: “You have nothing to be sorry about.” And normally, I believe him; this time, I stopped him.

“No, I do have something to be sorry about. I ignored you. You needed help and I wasn’t there. After everything you’ve done for me, after all the times you have helped me when it wasn’t ideal, I should have been there for you. That was wrong. It shouldn’t matter what crap is going on in my life, I should be willing to pray for you because you’re my brother in Christ. And for that, I am sorry. I am sorry for not being there for you when you needed me, John.”

His silence on the other end told me everything. John doesn’t like admitting hurt. He doesn’t like believing someone did him wrong. But he had absolutely no way to deny it this time. And so he didn’t speak. I simply heard some shallow breaths before he could respond, “You’re right. But it’s ok, man. It’s ok.”

Our conversation went on, moving from my mistakes to what was going on in our lives at the moment. As we ended the conversation, we agreed to each try better in the future. Not try to be closer, but simply to be better at being friends. Trying to be there for each other when possible.

Honestly, that’s what we both need.

Nothing more, nothing less.

And isn’t that what friends are for?

Have you ever had to redefine a relationship with your best friend?

* Photo courtesy Michael Braverman, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • Wow, Dean! That’s so good. You reconciled. You ignored your pride. You reached out in humility. You apologized. (I always have to go back and correct -ized words because in English -ised is perfectly acceptable but not it seems in American. Drat!) Well done, man! That was so very precious. I really pray your friendship continues and grows in spite of any obstacles.
    I had a best friend at school – straight as a dye he was, but after school we lost contact simply because of geography, and we didn’t have internet and mobile phones or even computers in those days (Lol! Sounds like the days of the Ark! Lol!). But all these modern gadgets do make it so much easier to keep in contact. He was my best man at my wedding, but he went farming and I went teaching and our paths pretty much never crossed again. My wife became my best friend and was so for over 40 years. Now, I’m cultivating another friendship/relationship but it’s too new to know whether it will ever get to a best friend situation.
    I have a lovely poem by Walter Rinder that hangs over my dressing table:
    A Friend
    Strengthens the heart
    Repairs the hurts
    Encourages the discovery
    Enlightens the mind
    Dissolves the pain (Just noticed that my plaque only has one s for dissolves!)
    Banishes the loneliness
    Understands the anxieties
    Increases the joy
    Deepens the spirit
    Frees the soul.
    I am in the process of slightly re-writing it as an acronym for BEST FRIEND to read
    A Best Friend
    Banishes the loneliness
    Encourages the discovery
    Strengthens the heart
    Trusts amidst confusion (or something similar – not quite happy with this line yet)
    Frees the soul
    Repairs the hurts
    Increases the joy
    Enlightens the mind
    Neutralizes the pain (not sure about this line either)
    Deepens the spirit.

    • Thank you, Jeremy. It definitely was not easy setting my pride aside. But I am glad that I finally did it- I just wish now it hadn’t take me so long to do it. And thank for sharing the poem- it has so much truth to it.

  • I have always had difficulties with same sex relationships. Elizabeth Moberly’s theory of same sex ambivalence and defensive detachment truly describes my brokenness. Years of emotional dependency and my love/hate manipulation in these relationships have had their toll. What has helped definitely has been my understanding of redemptive relationships. Such relationships only work and prosper if both persons relating horizontally are relating vertically with God at the same time. Only if the two keep fresh and intimate their relationship with Jesus will their horizontal relationships remain healthy. Paul Tripp describes redemptive relationships well: “People do not belong to us, they belong to God! Relationships are not primarily for our fulfillment. On the contrary, relationships between sinners are messy, difficult, labor-intensive, and demanding, but in that, they are designed to result in God’s glory and our good as he is worshipped and our hearts are changed…. God has a higher goal for our relationships than our personal happiness. He wants our relationships to be the context for the change he works in and through us.”
    This all has meant that redefining my relationships is to let go of my agenda substituting it for God’s agenda for my friend and realizing that when we are together there are not two in the room but wonderfully three! And God is concerned for the both of us. How freeing and incredible is that!

    • Love what you have to say here, but I do object to this business of subjugating personal happiness in order to serve God. Yes, put God first rather than our own personal agenda, but when we do that He restores, fulfills, brings so much more into our lives that we cannot contain it all, and we end up being more than content, happier than we could have imagined had we chosen our own way first. It’s always made to sound like some sore of sacrifice of our happiness when it really ends up being the other way round.

      • Relationships are messy with fuzzy boundaries and confusing needs by us humans. It’s hard to determine what needs only Jesus can provide and what needs our human friend can provide and when. That’s where our own agenda needs examination. I am learning that Jesus is a real person who is the God of all comfort, strength, and power for me. Instead of expecting those things from my best human friend I finally see that he can only give me some of those when he himself is receiving from Jesus. But, if he neglects Jesus even for an hour (which is the human tendency) then he has little to give me. It’s then that I can misunderstand and become hurt. But, I agree Jesus is interested in our happiness which is a byproduct of healthy maturing relationships :).

  • I’m so glad to hear this, Dean! As you know this is only the beginning of a renewed friendship. There are probably some rough conversations ahead, but this is a powerful start in a happy direction.
    I definitely plan to tell some of my own stories of friendships gone bad, then restored.

  • That’s great! I love seeing the outcome of situations like this! God’s obviously been working in you to bring you to this point of humbly confessing to your brother, and pursuing reconciliation! Keep following Him!

  • If you read this, I’ve been going back through old posts and I have A LOT to say, because I’ve commented on pretty much all of them but one. I find so much in common with each of the stories that I’m just a bit overwhelmed. I haven’t had many conversations about these experiences with many people. The “redefining” conversation was my achilles heel. I was convinced that my male friends who I wanted to be closer with and knew about my SSA were distant and I always felt it was because they were homophobic. I still think that was true, but I know the problem wasn’t always with them, it was me. I was always dissatisfied with those relationships and often said so, trying to understand why they were keeping me at arms length. The answer was denial until I pressed enough that I got an answer I didn’t like. They had a problem with me. What hurt the most was that many of them didn’t admit their own faults or acknowledge I was doing my best. I think they were afraid I had a crush on them, which sometimes was the case. I hated it. It made me go back and forth between pulling them closer and pushing them away. Today I just don’t pursue friendships with people who aren’t very interested. I can say though that despite my push and pull behavior, there were still some incredible growing moments with those guys on both our parts. I still don’t regret the friendships, just my behavior and fears.

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