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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Troubled Friendships

Charles Stanley - Troubled Friendships

Charles Stanley - Troubled Friendships
TOPICS: Relationships, Friendship

When you think about your assets, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Well, for most people, what comes to their mind are things like their finances and their possessions. But second only to your friendship with God, your friends are the most valuable asset you have in life. Because you see, a friend is a treasure. A friend is someone who loves you. A friend is someone who loves you when you're not very lovable. A friend is someone who will catch you when you fall, someone who will accept the worst about you and help you to become the best you can possibly be. A friend is someone with whom you can share the deepest experiences of your life every day if you choose to. A friend is someone whom, when the world walks out, they're still standing there by your side. And that makes friendships very, very valuable.

I read something the other day that I thought was so interesting because it describes oftentimes something that we forget, and that is it said, "Make new friends but the keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold". And when you think about friends and how long it takes us to develop real, godly friendships, real, genuine, lasting friendships, it takes a while. And therefore, if you're late in life beginning to develop friends, you don't have long to enjoy them or do they have long to enjoy you. And that's why we need to take care of our friendships. We need to watch over them because the truth is a real, true, genuine friend is a gift of God's mercy to every one of us. And then there are those times, though, when our friendships have problems. Somebody walks out right when you need them. Or you decide that you can't continue that friendship and you decide to walk out. Or it may be that you don't value that friendship enough.

And so therefore, as a result, the friendship just sorta disintegrates and they go their way, and you go your way. You don't necessarily decide to do it, it just sorta happens, but it happens for some very specific reasons. And what I want to talk about in this message is simply this. I want to talk about the problems we have in our friendship, problems we have in our relationship. And I want to talk about troubled friendships. I want you to turn to just one verse in the Bible for the simple reason that there are many verses we could talk about, and I just want you to look, if you will, in the sixteenth chapter of the Proverbs and the twenty-eighth verse, and notice what he says, "A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends". And so oftentimes we develop friendships that don't last. We intend for them to last but they don't, and there are some very, very specific reasons why they do not last.

Now, how do you damage this relationship, this fellowship, this friendship? How do you damage that? Well, let's think about how you damage it. And we damage it in ways that probably we don't even realize. And the first way we damage, it is this: selfishness. When I'm always looking for something to be coming my way, what can I receive, what can he or she do for me, rather than what can I do for them? You see, if you really want to decide whether you love somebody or not, ask yourself the question: Am I asking most of the time what they can do for me, how they can meet my needs, or am I primarily interested in how I can meet their need and make them happy and cause them to have joy and help them in their relationship with the Lord or with other people?

So, selfishness. You want to damage your relationship, you add that. Secondly is manipulation. Manipulation is simply another word for control. And a person who is trying to control the other person all the time, you can't build, listen, that will damage a friendship as much as anything. Nobody likes to be manipulated, controlled, underhandedly, backhandedly controlled. Now, people can control each other by manipulating them by finances, by belittling them, or they can manipulate them in other ways. You can manipulate people sexually. You can withhold sex from your marriage partner to manipulate them to do something for you, which is a cruel way to try to govern or control someone else's life. There are lots and lots of ways you can manipulate someone. It damages a relationship.

Then of course, there is jealousy. You want to damage your friendship? Jealousy says I'm gonna hold tight to what's mine and I don't want anything to look like it's going to intrude. Well now, if you love someone and you have a genuine friendship, we're not talking about marriage partners now, or people who have a relationship, they're gonna get married and so forth. We're talking about just genuine, close, intimate friends, and other kind of friends. And so, if you're the kind of person who cannot stand anybody to even look like they're gonna be a friend of your friend, that will absolutely ultimately destroy a relationship and a friendship. So jealousy does not work. It's very damaging.

Then there's criticism. You want to destroy a friendship? Then you set your antennas out to find everything you can that displeases you in the other person, the way they dress, the way they look, the way they talk. You look for the ways that they don't live up to your expectations. They don't do what you want them to do. They're always too late or too early or it costs too much, it costs too little. They weren't thoughtful, they weren't this. In other words, you know what, you want to destroy a friendship, you just get in that critical mode, and this doesn't work and I'm not pleased with that and you criticize them for this one. You know what happens after a while? They walk away. You know why? Because they can't handle it. Your friend'll walk away. And if your friend is critical toward you, after a while, you think, God, I can't handle, I don't need this and I can't handle this anymore. A critical spirit is so absolutely unnecessary. If you and I were perfect, okay.

Now, is there a time to be critical? Now, listen carefully. There is a time when you and I can be critical, but that criticism ought to be criticism motivated, listen, motivated by genuine love to help the other person. And I certainly have friends that are critical toward me. And I mean, they come at it in the right way. Now, here's the difference, this is what old human nature's about. If somebody comes to you with a critical spirit, I don't mean critical spirit, let's just say they're gonna criticize something you've done or you've said. If they come to you in the right way, you can handle most, if they said, "Look, you know what, I love you dearly". Now, watch this, don't say, "I love you dearly, but". They know what's coming. And you know what happens? They shut it down. If you say, "I really love you and there's something that I think could help both of us". Now you've gotten yourself into it. That's the way to do it. Okay, so, when you think about this whole idea, here's the way you can tell whether criticism is good or nor.

Now, listen carefully. You listening? Say amen. The criticism is right when it hurts you far more deeply to be critical of something he or she did or said or their attitude than it does, in other words, it hurts you more than it hurts them. In other words, it hurts you painfully to have to say, "That was wrong. You hurt me deeply". When it hurts you, it's probably right. When it's just something that you just don't like, it may be that you need to think about whether it's even worth saying. And you see, we all have to let some things pass. If you've got to criticize everything you see in a person that doesn't suit you, you'll never have any friends. Just let it pass. What difference does it make? Ask yourself the question: Is that significant? Or is it insignificant? Said it just happened once? Or is this a habit? If it's a habit, then let's deal with it. But if it's just something that you don't particularly like, criticism will absolutely destroy a relationship.

Then there is covetousness. Now, covetousness and jealousy are two different things. Jealousy says I'm gonna hold tight what I have. Don't let anybody even look like they're gonna get in this relationship. Covetousness says I want what you have. How can you develop a friendship with someone who wants what you have? Now, maybe they say, "Well, you know, we're friends," but they want... In other words, it may be that you have more material possessions than they have. You live in a bigger house, you drive a better car. Or you dress better. Or you have a better job. Now, here this friendship's going on and all the time deep down inside, it's not that they just want something like yours.

Next thing you know, we got jealous and covetousness all mixed up together. And so, what happens is they want what you have. Now, watch this carefully. When that gets really out of control in some people's lives, they don't want what you have, they want you. There've been many people who've had good relationships to begin with, and I'm talking about men and women, and then when sex becomes an issue in that relationship, that relationship starts down the drain for the simple reason sex outside of marriage does not add to and build up and strengthen an intimate relationship. You can't add anything into your life that is not of God, that builds up and strengthens the relationship.

And so, people start out, say, "Oh, just everything's just fantastic," and all of a sudden something happens. Or maybe over a period of time something happens. That's why all these people who are running around together and so forth and this, that, and the other, and then they get into that. And then they think, I don't understand what happened in our relationship. Because you violated the very specific principle of God. And when you do, when you have coveted someone or something that is holy and sacred that you should not have at that point in your life, you destroy that relationship.

Then there is just absolute pure dishonesty. And that is, you can't trust 'em. You can't have a relationship with somebody you don't trust. It just doesn't work. You have to trust 'em. People make mistakes. If they're willing to face it, yes, you're absolutely right. I told a lie. I was weak at that point. Or I was afraid, or whatever it might be. At least deal with it, admit it, confess it, repent of it, say, you know, please forgive me. You know, help me to understand. I, you know, or it may be that you didn't intend to say something, but you did. But when it's intended, that's dishonesty. It'll destroy a relationship.

So now, let's say that you've damaged the relationship that you really and truly value. How do you retrieve it? How do you heal it? How do you get it back together? How do you get the pieces back together? How is there healing and retrieving and rescuing this hindered, broken, hurtful relationship that you really and truly cherish? How do you get it back together? Well, I just want to give you a list of things for you to think about and consider, and then you have to apply them the way you see fit in your own life with the person with whom you're a friend, and maybe that friendship, maybe it's not broken but it's damaged. So it is broken truly. Maybe it's not gone too far but it's heading in that direction.

Now, we said in the very beginning, you may have some relationships that you need to walk away from because you know they're gonna lead you in the wrong direction. So we're not talking about that. We're talking about those relationships that have been damaged in some way. So let's think about it. How do you handle that?

Well, the first thing you do is this. You address it. You say to your friend, you know, there's something in our relationship that's not right. Maybe something I did or maybe I misunderstood, but I think we have a problem and I would like for us to at least face it and deal with it, and I'm willing to do that.

The second thing you do is determine what happened. What happened in this relationship? What was said? What was believed? What was understood or misunderstood? What did I do? Or what did he do or she do? That is, you determine what is it? Where and when did it, what made it get off track when it was going so well?

The third thing is this: apologize. You say, "Supose it's not my fault". That's not even the issue. Because it, listen, if the friendship is worth saving, it's worth assuming responsibility, whatever responsibility you had. Maybe you say it was totally his or her fault. Let me ask you a question. If you love somebody, really and truly love somebody, does it make any difference whose fault it is? Not really. If you want to mend it, you assume responsibility. Very important. You say, "You know what, I want to apologize because I must have done something that caused this to happen".

Now, if it's something the other person did and it wasn't your fault anyway, you're still winning. What are you doing? You're assuming responsibility because what you're saying is this. This relationship and this friendship is so important to me, you know what, I'm willing to take the heat. I'm willing to take the discipline. This relationship, you see, know what that is? You call it unconditional love. That's what you call it. You're willing to take it no matter whether you deserve it or not's not the issue. And so, you say to that person, "I apologize, I'm very sorry".

And the next thing you do to remember is you refuse to blame and you refuse to defend yourself. That person says, "Here's what you did". "I did not do anything of the sort". What's the goal? Is the goal to be right or to win the person? Is the goal to be right or save the relationship? If I don't care anything about the relationship, I can say, "You know what, you just, you're blind as a bat. That's what you did. You're just projecting on me what you think. That's not true at all". And you know what, this is what cause, this is the beginning of fellowships, relationships, friendships, and marriages to go down the drain. It's not my fault, it's your fault, hmm-hmm-hmm, and on and on people go, and what happens? Before long, they have so damaged their relationship, somebody walks away.

So, what you have to be willing to say is you know what, whatever my part is, or I want to apologize. And so, you refuse to defend yourself. And then here's what you do. We're talking about saving a fellowship, relationship. You say, "What can I do to repair this? What can I do? Tell me something that I can do to help in this relationship. Whatever it takes, I'm willing to do that". So, you ask for a suggestion of how you can repair it. What do I need to do?

And then the next thing you do is you make a commitment. You say, "I'm committed to rebuilding this fellowship, this relationship, this friendship. I'm committed to rebuilding it, whatever it takes, I'm willing to do it". Now, the other person may say, "I'm finished, I don't care about this relationship any longer. I'm gone". You can't make somebody love you who doesn't love you. You can't make somebody be your friend who doesn't want to be your friend. You can't make somebody be... have the kind of relationship that you desire unless they choose to. And so what happens is you assume that responsibility.

You say, "I'm making a commitment to you. I want to be your friend, I love our friendship, I love our relationship. It's very helpful to me, very meaningful to me. I think I'm closer to God because of it. You sometimes give me wisdom that I need". In other words, whatever it takes, you have to make this issue. Is this friendship worth what it's gonna cost me to mend it? If it's not, then we're just talking out of our head. If it is, you'll pay the price. Now, once you've come this far, I want to give you four questions that'd be good to ask yourself. You really want to save this friendship, there are four questions that I'd like to suggest that you ask. Number one is this, and this is so very, very, very important.

I want to ask you... are you listening? Say amen. All right, here's the first question: am I projecting on my friend something that happened in my past? Let's say back in your past somewhere, you were deeply, deeply hurt. And maybe it was some woman in your life, or maybe some friendship, relationship that someone you deeply, deeply loved, and they betrayed you. They were disloyal to you. They were dishonest with you. And they walked away when you thought that person was one of the dearest friends you could possibly have. Now, what does a person naturally, normally do? They start building their defenses. And they build defenses so it cannot happen again. So therefore, someone comes along and you begin to be a little close to that person, and you begin to feel it.

And so, next thing you know, you're being critical of something in the other person's life. And it's very real to you, very real. What you don't realize is this. Because of past hurts, you are taking your past emotional experiences and projecting it on the other person, not even realizing that you are blaming them for something that somebody else did to you years and years and years ago. That is so common and so destructive, it's absolutely amazing. Projection. And all of us have had people do that to us. And I certainly have had it done to me.

People say, well, they'll make some critical point about something, and what they're saying is when a person projects something on me, here's what I know. When they project something on me or on you, what they've done is revealed what they're thinking. And oftentimes they're revealing something about themselves, and something that may not be so good about themselves. It's easy to project on someone else. And what you're really saying is that's what I would do if I were in his or her situation. Therefore, and what you do is you project on them something that may not be true at all, maybe a thousand miles away from the truth. When you project on a friend something out of your past, something deep down inside. You may have been hurt, it could be one of many things. And what happens is you're going to destroy that friendship.

If you want to retrieve that friendship, you've got to lay down the past. A second question you need to ask yourself is this: Am I just too fearful to have a close relationship with anybody? In other words, is the problem in my friendship the fact that that person's getting too close and I'm a little bit uncomfortable with this. In other words, I gotta have a lot of space. Give me room.

Now, it's one thing to smother somebody and to be possessive of them. You don't want to be smothering. But is the truth that when that person begins to become close to you, something inside of you, you don't even know what it is, something inside of you just raises right up, or you pull right down and you think mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm, I can't handle this. What is it you can't handle? Well, I just can't handle it. What it is, is you have this defense mechanism up because you're afraid to have an intimate relationship with somebody else because you've been hurt and you said you would never be hurt again, no matter what.

Let me say one word to you, and this is something that's been said probably a thousand years, but it's true. It is a whole lot better to have loved and lose it than never to have loved at all. It's better to have a great friend and lose them than never to have had a friendship at all. If you're one of those persons who is so dead set on not being hurt in life, you're in for a lot of disappointments because you're gonna get hurt over and over and over and over again. And the only difference between you and somebody who has a dear friend, they've got somebody to share their hurt with and you've got to stuff it. You got to keep it to yourself. You don't have anybody you can talk to about it. So, you have to ask yourself the question: Is my problem in my friendship the fact that I'm really fearful, too fearful to have a close, intimate relationship?

Now, the same thing would be true of men and women. So sometimes women have probably more intimate relationships than men, and somehow, you know, men just don't want to say too much, it's just macho, strong, you know what, none of that's scriptural. There's nothing to that, except that it'll damage your relationships. Then there's another question you need to ask. Do I have unreal expectations of this relationship? Am I expecting more than this person's able to give? Listen, there are some people who have an enormous amount to give. They know how to love and they know how to express it. They know how to be happy and peaceful and contented in life. They know how to give of themselves. And some people don't.

Listen, not only do they not give of themselves, they don't even know how. They don't even know how to love you. They don't have it on the inside. They don't have the capacity to love. So, you have to ask yourself the question: Am I expecting more than they can give? And if you're expecting more than they can give, then you're gonna have a problem in the relationship. So, if you understand that, then you build that relationship, and here's what that means. You're gonna have to give more. You're gonna have to do more. You're gonna have to probably forgive more because they're not there yet. But if you value that relationship, you'll do whatever is necessary to save it.

One last question, there are many questions, but one last I'll mention, is simply this: Are these feelings of rejection in my friendship because he or she is rejecting me, or is it because I have such a poor sense of self-esteem and poor sense of self-worth, I don't think I really deserve acceptance, and I don't deserve this kind of friendship, and I don't deserve that kind of love, I don't deserve this kind of relationship, I don't deserve this kind of intimacy. And what you're doing is you are feeling rejected not because they've rejected you. You just don't feel worthy of somebody just pouring out love on you and loving you and, with an abundance of love. Because that's their person, that's the way they know how to love, and yet you don't. You can heal a damaged relationship if you want to, if you choose to, if you try to, if you're persistent at it.

Let me say two other things. Number one, after you have said to that person, "I'm committed to you. I'm committed to making corrections". Then every once in a while, just ask them a question. "Well, how am I doing"? Well, what you want to hear is what? You're doing fantastic, man, you're doing fantastic. Well, suppose they say, "Well, you're doing pretty good". That's a little humbling, but you have to ask what, here's the thing we forget. We forget what's the goal? The goal is mending this relationship, a wonderful, loving, intimate relationship with somebody. In other words, if they say, "Well, you're doing better". "Well, thank you very much. Well now, tell me how I can improve this a little better". You know what, if you want to save it, you can save it.

One last thing I'd say is this, and this is real simple but it's powerful. Be sure you don't miss what I say. The last point is simply this: Ask God to show you how, listen, to show you how to help your friend to become a godly person. If you'll ask God to help your friend become a godly person, God will work in your life in the most awesome fashion, to help you strengthen, heal, recover, and rescue what will turn out more than likely to be a wonderful, intimate, loving relationship that you'll be glad you didn't lose. Now, I don't know where you are in your friendships, but I can tell you this. What you've heard in this message can make all the difference in the world. If you value friendships, and if you're willing to forget yourself and you're willing to give it all you've got, you'll build friendships and relationships that will last, listen, not just the silver ones, but the gold ones. That is, those that you'll treasure till the day you die.

Father, thank You that You're the best friend we'll ever have. Thank You that You know all about friendship and You'll teach us how to be to others what they need us to be and what in the process we can become. I pray the Holy Spirit will enable every single person who hears this message to, first of all, look within themselves to see what is it on the inside that may drive others away? What is it on the inside that draws others to them? And how can they be the kind of friend that every friend they have will help their friend be a better friend with the Lord Jesus Christ? For we ask it in His name, amen.

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