by Muriel Gregory
How to Handle Challenging Military Friendships
She likes me… she likes me not…
The room was big and filled with chatter and laughter. The mood was light and festive. I have always enjoyed Christmas parties and had been looking forward to this one all month. From my vantage point, I could observe all the ladies talking to one another, sharing tips on holiday survival. Yummy food filled the buffet.
Yet I felt like running home and hiding under my covers.
My husband and I were new to the unit and this was the first spouses’ event I had been invited to. It was a new unit for us, but we had been stationed at this post for over a year. It was a sweet relief to know one of the wives in that unit. We had been in the same Bible study together and shared many good conversations. We even met for coffee a few times.
It is always such a relief to see a friendly face in a foreign surrounding.
As I came into the room, I went straight to my friend and said hi. My smile quickly dissipated. She stared at me, said hi, then turned her back to me and continued with her conversation. Not what I expected. I felt rejected, left out, and lonely. Feeling lonely in a room full of people is the most desolate place on earth.
I tried to stick around for a bit. Made small talk with a few ladies. I did not want to look defeated and run out. But my heart was heavy, and I just wanted to head back to the safety of my home.
Relationships are complicated. They involve sinful and faulty humans with different personalities.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. Proverbs 4:23-27 NLT
Rejection highlights the worst that someone said or did and robs me of my best. Friendships can sometimes feel like a landmine field. It is much easier to navigate if you know where the mines are.
Thankfully we have a guide who has experienced those minefields and can identify with us: Jesus.
And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. Matthew 13:53-57 ESV
Jesus understands rejection. He knows the pain that envelops you when people who have known you for a long time give you the cold shoulder.
Jesus knew that rejection and suffering was part of his walk.
But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Luke 17:25 ESV
Too often I assume that every person I meet is a friend. I also want to believe that every friendship will be full of joy and laughter and last forever.
Lysa TerKeurst said it perfectly in her book Uninvited, “Relationships don’t come in packages of perfection, relationships come in packages of potential.”
Rejection did not surprise Jesus because he knew it was part of life. The moment I accepted that being turned down was a possibility, it did not hurt me as much.
Another major roadblock in friendships is pride. Mine and the other person’s. Since I cannot change the other person, I need to focus on me and deal with the pride that blinds me.
“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10 NIV
When not correctly addressed, my pride will prevent me from seeing the other person’s point of view. I will also be less likely to forgive any trespasses. I will not learn any lessons, and will make no progress.
How to Flourish Under Challenging Friendships:
There are still plenty of times when rejection pierces my heart and leaves me destabilized. I have learned over the years, however, to accept that it is part of life and that my attitude toward the situation often influences my reactions.
- Don’t take anything personally. There are times when the rejection is not geared towards me. The other person can also deal with insecurities and fears. (Philippians 2:3)
- Don’t make assumptions. The biggest hindrance in any relationship is communication. When I make an assumption, I base my beliefs on what I feel is right. However, more often than not, what I heard or perceived is not what was actually said. (Philippians 4:8)
- Choose my words wisely. Regardless of what has been said about me or been done to me, I need to be impeccable with my words. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Always remember to ground my self-worth and identity in God and not other people. (Colossians 3:1-3)
How do you navigate difficult friendships? What tools have you developed over the years? Share in the comments below.
Father, thank you for sending your son. Thank you for knowing the deep pain of rejection and showing me the way. I pray, Father, that in all situations I will remain confident that you are there with me, loving me and guiding me every step of the way. Amen