When to Tell a Friend How They Hurt You

When to Tell a Friend How They Hurt You

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

Oh, how careful we must be when reacting to hurt. Quick to listen, and slow to speak. The most important thing we can do is choose to wait on our words and prayerfully seek God’s guidance.“This section of the letter,” the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains of James 1:19-20 (above), “focuses on the power of God’s Word and the need for believers to respond to it in obedience.” The human anger James is speaking of is unchecked emotion. Righteous anger, taking a stand against injustice, has a place in God’s Kingdom.

When we scroll through social media or click through different newsreels, we rarely witness quick listening and slow speaking. Passive aggressiveness is posted for all to wonder if it applies to them, and the entitlement to speak our truth holds little regard for who it’s actually hurting. If someone disagrees with an agenda, they are ghosted. Before telling a friend they have hurt us, filter what happened through the following steps.

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  • two women sitting on couch with crossed arms looking upset and angry

    1. Remember God loves them just as much as He loves you.

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

    God loved the world. Not just those who tried to follow the law, loved, or even acknowledged Him. He sent Jesus for the world. For “whoever” that would believe in Him. God loves all of us, equally. Paul reminded us in his letter to the Romans, we all fall short of the glory of God. Regardless, He has crafted each of us with compassion and care. When we seek to see each other through the Truth of who and Whose we are, it gives us a better perspective to filter our hurt through.

    God created each human being. He knit each of us in our mother’s womb, giving us our physical characteristics, gifts, and talents. Most importantly, He gave us all a specific purpose. He alone is qualified to judge the human heart. We are not here to judge one another, but to show each other the love of Jesus so it continues to spread to the ends of the earth. Before we choose our words, we are wise to remember, “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

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  • 2. Friends are placed on purpose.

    2. Friends are placed on purpose.

    “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

    Friends support us, laugh with us, encourage us, and also hold us accountable. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love,” Proverbs 27:5 states. We can take constructive criticism from a friend, because we trust they have our best interest in mind. “Hidden love,” the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains, “fails to provide the open correction necessary.” Before we tell a friend they have hurt us, consider whether they spoke truth that stung more than we were prepared to admit!

    We serve a purposeful God, who surrounds us with people, and for a purpose! Just as He works in another’s life through us, so He reaches us through the people He has placed in our lives to work in us. Recalling God is not a God of coincidence helps us remember He is ultimately in control. We often recognize behaviors in others we are sometimes guilty of ourselves. Scripture tells us not to worry, and affirms God defends us. Friendship can be one of the ways He sharpens us.

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  • man listening on the phone looking serious

    3. Listen more. Talk less.

    “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-“ (Proverbs 1:5)

    Before we speak to our friends about a hurt they have caused, choose to listen more, and talk less. Listen to Scripture, and prayerfully observe the difference in the way the world deals with offense and hurt. Scroll a little and read on before deciding to join in. One post, no matter how well-worded or aimed, can’t perfectly represent a conflict, hurt, friendship, or human being. “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered,” Solomon wrote, “Even fools are though wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)

    When it is time to speak, choose life-giving words and clarifying questions. We awake to the world and an enemy tearing us down every day. Adding to the carnage doesn’t bring glory to God. We are created for something better, to love when it’s not deserved. To forgive before we receive an apology. To choose wisdom over sarcasm. We can choose not to be offended. We can choose not to accuse. Listen more. Talk less.

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  • mom hands holding tween kid hands on couch comforting

    4. Give Grace.

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    When hurt, resist the temptation to assume the worst intentions of a friend. Consider what may be hurting them to cause them to act this way. This isn’t an acquaintance, it’s a friend. Jesus told the apostles, and reminds us through the Scriptures they recorded, that He calls us His friends. He died on the cross to save us from the punishment of sin, which is death. He was mocked, beaten, betrayed, and wrongly accused.

    Jesus understands hurt at the deepest level. His response was grace. We are called to follow Him, lending grace for every hurt and offense. Not to be a doormat, for sometimes boundaries are necessary. But even to our enemies, we can, in Christ, lend grace. For our friends, even more so we can give grace. It’s important to realize there will be times when we, ourselves, desire others to lend us an abundant amount of grace for our offenses.

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  • friends hugging while crying

    5. Forgive Forward.

    “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

    Without requiring an apology, we can make the decision to forgive. Un-forgiveness grows a bitter root in our hearts, affecting us more than those that hurt us. Watching my daughters navigate girl drama causes me to look back and see how many misunderstandings and mis-aimed hurts caused conflicts in my childhood friendships. We all hurt from time to time and take it out on others. Unfortunately the ones we love often take the bullseye of our emotions.

    It’s still important to talk about the hurts we experience at the hands of our friends, but from a perspective of grace, forgiveness, and understanding. I advise my daughters, “everyone seems to have a turn.” It’s true! We all have our days, not just emotional tweens. It’s important to own this human truth, and forgive forward.

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  • two men having serious talk

    6. Be Honest, and Considerate

    With much thought and prayerful consideration, we can now talk to our friend honestly about how they hurt us. Filtering our hurt through a godly process of prayer and truth allows us to see our friend, and the situation at hand, through the right perspective. We are all imperfect, so it’s unrealistic to expect we will never mistakenly—or purposefully—hurt or offend each other.

    Honesty is so often used as an excuse to fling hurt or retaliate against it. Social media is not a reliable place to find truth, about a situation or the sum of a person’t life. It’s a highlight reel, full of things people would never say in person. I hung a quote on my refrigerator when my girls were young that read: “T.H.I.N.K.: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?” Even when we are called to stand up for injustice, implement a healthy emotional boundary, or share brutal truth, it can be done with tact, care, and grace. Even in our worst hurt, we are called to love one another, as Christ loves us.

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    Meg Bucher 2022 headshotMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as a freelance writer, blogger at Sunny&80, and author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” and “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” and “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ.” She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her passion to write. A member of Faith Church in Sandusky, OH, she serves as Communications Director, and leads Bible studies for women and teen girls. Meg is a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, living by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters and golden doodle.