Dear Brittany... Don't Fear Your Critics.
Dear Brittany in 2014,
You're driving to work from the most exhausting breakfast date you've ever had. You met up with a friend this morning, expecting to catch up and chat about "the good stuff" – life, marriage, faith, the work you're both doing. Instead, things quickly turned sour.
You could tell the moment she walked in that something was wrong. Tears in her eyes, she looked straight at you and said the words you'd prayed you'd never hear. That you were fake. That your family, your social status, had skewed you to always "win" and that you were only pretending to hate that. Admit it. You always got what you wanted. You were stealing her life from her, stealing her dreams, and you didn't care. You weren't a real friend. What hurt her the most? You didn't even seem to notice. You sugar coat everything. Why? Can't you just be upfront? Can't you take the time to notice that what you're doing is hurting her?
All you could give was a feeble, weepy, "I'm sorry." Tried to explain your heart was nowhere near what she was saying. Tried to tell her that you hated she felt that way and that you had caused that. The waitress came by to take your order and you realized you were now not very hungry at all. You ordered something random, asked for more coffee, and you both ate bites in between bouts of silence and more awkward, bruising exchanges. You wanted to fix this, but had no idea how. You had no idea this was even going on.
As you drove to work, tears streamed down your face and you prayed, "God, this is awful! Why? Why did this just happen? Please, God, never let this happen again! Why did you let this happen? What have I done? What is going on?" You were lost – figuratively and literally. You were running late to work. You missed your exit. You had to explain to your boss, with embarrassing rivers of fresh tears still running down your face, that you had an unexpectedly tough conversation with a friend and that's why you missed the morning meeting.
This will effect you for weeks and months after. You stop writing. You question everything.
You are spending a lot of time wondering where you went wrong and what specifically you could correct and apologize for to make things right again. You're also spending a lot of time trying to validate that you're owed an apology and that, maybe, you did nothing wrong. Let me tell you something. Neither of these extremes matters. What does is seeing your friend, meeting her where she is, and loving her as well as you can.
Don't hide from her. Give her and yourself time to calm down and then go talk to her. Yes, in person. Give her a chance to speak and listen. Don't listen for "oh, that's how to fix this" – listen for her heart. Ask God to expose yours.
Give her grace. She makes a good point – if you hide, she doesn't get an opportunity to learn how to be your friend. Relationships can be very uncomfortable. It's a vulnerable place to be – it's why you both got so hurt. Give her opportunity to work on her bents simply by being her friend. Offer her abounding grace. Isn't that what the Father offers you, time and time again? He promises to offer you the strength to do the same. You're going to be told to leave her and avoid her. To stop trying to be friends – it's obviously not working. Don't listen.
Evaluate what you've done and let God establish His goodness in your life. You don't mean to sugar-coat – God designed you a naturally sweet person. He's designed the vernacular you use, the way you love others. This isn't wrong. It might not be accepted by everyone, and that's ok. Be honest with your friend and ask her for grace. Pray deeply about your work and your writing. Ask God to expose what He is doing in this. Pray for guidance and direction from Him to continue, pray for Him to continue to stir your heart for His glory. Rejoice that He is at work in you and that He has made it clear that He is in the work that's being done. Remind yourself that it will not be for everyone. Again... this is ok. Be obedient to what God is calling you to do.
Apologize for what you can. Her feelings are real, and – as unintended as it was – she feels real hurt coming from something you said and did. Truthfully tell her you're sorry and ask for her forgiveness in this. Ask her to offer you grace. Ask her where the hurt came from and ask her how you can love her well. Get to know her. You're going to mess up again. But start building up a table of grace between the two of you.
As crazy as it may seem, I can tell you that a year from now, this is going to come up again – with a different friend. You're going to recall upon this season and realize a new level to Christ's saving work upon the cross and the effect it has on your soul and your relationships. You would never get there without first being here.
As crazy as it may seem, your friendship will get better. You will remember this ebenezer in many moments when you hear from family and friends as they talk about tough relationships in their lives – ones they want to walk away from out of the pain that's been inflicted upon them. Tell them what God sewed into your heart in this. Share your testimony that our God is a redeeming God. It is His great pleasure to take the darkest of nights and claim them for his brilliant glory. Take hope, and expect to see Him work.
Love you dearly,
Brittany of 2016.