If you’ve lived past middle school, chances are high that you’ve lost a friend a time or two. The relationship dies for any number of reasons: neglect, betrayal, distance, growing apart . . . But even friendships that were never really good for us hurt to lose. My friend Mary DeMuth, author of dozens of books both fiction and non-fiction, releases a new work to help us all deal with those unhealthy friendships. Have you ever considered that there could be seven different types of friendships, and that all of them are deadly? Thankfully, there are other, life-giving friendships too!
Mary’s new book releases today, and she’s kindly shared an excerpt with us here.
We have to learn from past relationships so we can move forward with the new ones God has for us. Yet many of us stay entrenched in broken friendships for years and years because we can’t see our patterns. We are terrified of change, worried about hurting someone else’s feelings, or we somehow feel we deserve harsh treatment. We worship the status quo.
Yet growth comes in endings.
“When we fail to end things well, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that keep us from moving on. We choose the same kind of dysfunctional person or demoralizing job again,” author Henry Cloud writes. “Not learning our lessons and proactively dealing with them, we make the same business or personal mistakes over and over. Learning how to do an ending well and how to metabolize the experience allows us to move beyond patterns of behavior that may have tripped us up in the past. We do not have to keep repeating the same patterns.”[i] But so many of us do. We chase deadly friendships with a clinging tenacity, hoping beyond hope that this time will be different.
These deep friendships wound us; it is a universal truth. David experienced it too, often in the form of long-term betrayal. “This isn’t the neighborhood bully mocking me—I could take that. This isn’t a foreign devil spitting invective—I could tune that out. It’s you! We grew up together! You! My best friend! Those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation” (Psalm 55:12–14 MSG).
Can you sense the agony in David’s cadence? The sting of dismissal? The bewilderment? I’ve been there, and I’ve listened to enough stories to know that you’ve been there too. Particularly when a deadly friend erupts in anger—via conflict, misunderstanding, or differences in perspective. Harmony and companionship you thought were givens suddenly morph overnight into discord and hostility. I still feel the whiplash of the swift U-turns some of my friendships have taken.
And one haunts me nearly every day of my life—a mixture of narcissistic, unreliable, and predatory. Only now do I see this. Only now do I discern the patterns.