Young People Ask . . .

Why Did My Friend Hurt Me?

“I had a couple of friends . . . Then they started being friends with one other girl and if I’d walk up to them, they’d stop talking. . . . They started excluding me from everything. It really hurt my feelings.”—Karen. *

IT CAN happen to the best of friends. One day the two are inseparable; the next day they aren’t even talking to each other. “A friend is supposed to be somebody you can rely on and trust, somebody you can turn to no matter what,” says 17-year-old Nora. Sometimes, though, your best friend may start acting like your worst enemy.

Friendship Under Fire

What causes a sweet friendship to turn sour? For Sandra, the trouble began when her friend Megan borrowed one of her favorite tops. “When she returned it,” says Sandra, “it was dirty and there was a little rip in the sleeve. She didn’t even mention it, like I wasn’t going to notice.” How did Sandra feel about Megan’s lack of consideration? “It drove me crazy,” she says. “It felt as if she had no respect for my things . . . or my feelings.”

Hurt might also be caused if a close friend does or says something that humiliates you. This happened to Cindy when she told a group of her schoolmates that she had not yet read a book for her book report. Suddenly, her friend Kate started to scold her. “She embarrassed me in front of a bunch of our friends,” recalls Cindy. “I was so mad at her. Things really changed after that.”

Sometimes a rift occurs when a friend starts spending time with new companions. “I had a good friend who became a member of this little clique,” says 13-year-old Bonnie. “She started ignoring me.” Or it may be that you begin to detect ulterior motives in a friend’s companionship. “Bobby and I were really good friends,” says Joe, 13. “I thought he liked me for me, but I found out that he only liked me because my dad is in advertising and could always get good tickets to games and concerts.” How does Joe feel now? “I’ll never trust Bobby again!” he says.

In some cases a friend might reveal information to others that you wanted kept  confidential. Allison, for example, talked to her friend Sara about the personal problem of a workmate. The next day Sara brought up the matter right in front of the workmate. “I never dreamed she would be such a blabbermouth!” Allison says. “I was furious.” Rachel, 16, had a similar experience when a close friend divulged something that the two had discussed in private. “I felt embarrassed and also betrayed,” Rachel says. “I thought to myself, ‘How can I ever confide in her again?’”

A friendship can provide a source of emotional support, especially when there is a feeling of mutual care, trust, and respect. Yet, even close friendships can undergo periods of strain. The Bible candidly observes: “There exist companions disposed to break one another to pieces.” (Proverbs 18:24) Regardless of the cause, it can be devastating when you feel that you have been betrayed by a friend. Why does this happen?

Why Friendships Falter

No human relationship—whether between youths or adults—is problem free. After all, it is just as the Christian disciple James wrote: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8) Since everyone makes mistakes, it is only to be expected that sooner or later a friend will do or say something that hurts you. You may even recall a time when you caused hurt to that person as well. (Ecclesiastes 7:22) “We’re all imperfect, and we’re going to rub one another the wrong way once in a while,” says 20-year-old Lisa.

Besides human imperfection, there are other factors that could be involved. Remember, as you grow and mature, your interests—as well as those of your friends—tend to change. Thus, two people who once shared much in common may find that they are slowly but steadily growing apart. One teenager lamented regarding her best friend: “We don’t call each other very often and when we do talk, we hardly agree on anything anymore.”

Of course, it is one thing simply to grow apart. But why do some people hurt their friends? Often jealousy is involved. For example, it may be that a friend starts to resent you because of your talents or accomplishments. (Compare Genesis 37:4; 1 Samuel 18:7-9.) As the Bible states, “jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30) It breeds envy and contention. Regardless of the cause, what can you do if a friend hurts you?

Making Amends

“First,” says Rachel, “I would observe the person and try to determine if what he or she did was intentional.” When you are the victim of some word or deed that you feel is insulting, do not react merely on the emotion of the moment. Instead, be patient and think the matter through. (Proverbs 14:29) Will your reacting rashly over the perceived insult really improve the situation? After considering matters, you may choose to follow the advice of Psalm 4:4: “Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart, upon your bed, and keep silent.” Then you may choose to let ‘love cover a multitude of sins.’—1 Peter 4:8.

What, though, if you feel that you cannot simply dismiss the hurtful conduct? In such a case, it might be best to approach the person. “Get together, just the two of you, and talk out what happened,” says 13-year-old Frank. “If you don’t, you’ll hold a grudge.” Susan, 16, felt similarly. “The best thing to do,” she says, “is tell them that you trusted them and they let you down.” Jacqueline too prefers to handle things on a personal basis. “I try to get things out in the open,” she says. “Usually, the person is straight with you and you can fix things practically on the spot.”

 Of course, you should be careful not to approach your friend in a fit of anger. The Bible states: “An enraged man stirs up contention, but one that is slow to anger quiets down quarreling.” (Proverbs 15:18) So wait until you are calm before attempting to resolve the situation. “You’re mad at first,” admits Lisa, “but you should allow yourself to cool down. Wait until you’re not intensely angry at the person. Then you can go to the person and sit down and discuss things in a peaceful manner.”

The key word is “peaceful.” Remember, your objective is not to give your friend a tongue-lashing. It is to settle matters amicably and, if at all possible, to restore the friendship. (Psalm 34:14) So speak from the heart. “You can say, ‘I’m your friend, and you’re my friend; but I just need to know what happened,’” suggests Lisa. “You need to know the reason behind the action. Once you do, it’s usually not so hard to deal with.”

It would certainly be wrong to try to retaliate, perhaps by gossiping about the person and trying to get others to side with you. The Christian apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: “Return evil for evil to no one.” (Romans 12:17) Really, no matter how deep the hurt may be, lashing back will only make matters worse. “Revenge is not worth it,” says Nora, “because you’ll never become friends again.” In contrast, she adds that doing your best to repair the relationship “makes you feel like a better person.”

But what if your friend is unresponsive to your attempts at reconciliation? In such a case, remember that friendships come in varying degrees. “Not every friend will be a close one,” says family counselor Judith McCleese. “Learn that you can have different kinds of relationships.” Still, you can be comforted in the fact that you have done your part to restore peace. The apostle Paul wrote: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”—Romans 12:18.

Storms will pass through even the best of friendships. If you can weather the storm without letting it destroy your view of others or your self-worth, you are well on your way to becoming a mature adult. Although some may be “disposed to break one another to pieces,” the Bible also assures us that “there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.”—Proverbs 18:24.

[Footnote]

^ par. 3 Some names in this article have been changed.

[Pictures on page 15]

You may restore a friendship by talking about what happened