Anonymous asked (edited for length):
I’ve been helping a former friend who had contacted me recently, but I feel really conflicted and on guard all the time because she broke my trust a long time ago … When I finally came around to forgiving her, God told me in a prayer that night, “I was the kind of person she needed.” She reached out to me in an email & confessed to me her problems. I realize that she is making an effort to change her life around, but at times, I feel like it’s too much for me to handle. You’ve mentioned before that we’re a lot to deal with. I know I’m a lot to deal with too & I know this hesitation with helping her is me being afraid of getting hurt by her again. I sincerely want her to grow, but I am often hindered by the fear of being betrayed.
Hey dear friend: I really applaud you for your kindness and I can tell you sincerely want to help your friend. If you’re going to follow through, I’ll suggest some guidelines here that might draw some safe boundaries while also maximizing how you can help.
1) Take it slowly.
In a certain sense, you’ve been cheated on: and like any relationship where one cheats on the other, it takes a lot of time to rebuild trust. You don’t have to build all that trust in a day.
You can step lightly. Keep note of red flags. It’s not that you want to make your friend “perform” and you’re not expecting perfection, but you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself. I tend to trust people way too easily, and if you’re like me, you’ll get hurt very quickly and often.
Reconnecting old friendships is exciting because you feel that God is happy about this and you’re fired up to rekindle good memories — but I don’t want you to be deceived by the rush. It’s totally okay to be cautious. Let your friend fight for you a little.
2) You both have a history. Don’t let this make your decisions.
On one hand you might feel like, “I am totally being loved by God right now to love this person who hurt me” — and certainly that’s an admirable testimony, but this sort of motive will make you self-righteous and prideful. I’m not saying this is your motive, but really examine yourself to make sure this isn’t some pet-project that you’ll later turn into a trophy. That’s not fair for you and for her.
On the other hand, it’s easy to bring up her history of betrayal as a weapon against her current behavior. I understand this, and sometimes it will feel justified, but then you wouldn’t be helping her. It would only be a subversive form of revenge. Again, examine yourself to see if you can even help her with a clean heart.
3) You are not obligated to do this.
I know you said God told you to help your friend, but you do not have to do this. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean friendship. Only a fool would think you’re a bad person for letting her go. She hurt you and you forgave her, and you can leave it at that, if you want to. Maybe that sounds cruel: but I want to protect you and I don’t want you to be taken advantage of. Being soft is a wonderful thing, but not when it gets you crushed.
If you see old patterns pop up and you’re afraid of getting betrayed again, you can walk away clean. No big drama, no big speeches: you can just step out the door.
4) You can’t save your friend. Only God can.
Sometimes when we help a friend, we develop a Savior-Complex where we think it’s up to us to save them. This can 1) totally devastate you when your friend makes a poor choice, or 2) turn you into a manipulative control freak over your friend and you’ll start policing their behavior.
I bet none of these are your intentions — but this happens easily by degrees, and mixed in with the former history of betrayal, I can see it going this way even faster. Be very aware of yourself that you are not using your flesh to save flesh, but that you are primarily relying on prayer and grace and patience and the Gospel as your agents of change.
5) If you’re all in — do the best you can and don’t worry about the rest.
If you’ve made up your mind about this, then trust God with the outcome. What I mean is: don’t beat yourself up when your friend goes off the rails again. Don’t turn it into your fault. Pray for her, love on her, invite her out, get her ice cream and watch some Netflix and listen to her over the phone and send her Scripture with a funny YouTube video and send her your favorite blogs and podcasts — but leave the rest up to God’s transformative power to change her.
I’m saying this mostly because: if your friend does betray you again, I don’t want you to think that you did something wrong. You did not. You only did your best. And sometimes even our very best is rejected and returned void. But God sees your heart and your hands, and He is absolutely rooting for you even when everything is falling down around us. Your friend might not change, but God will definitely change you.
So if you’re going all in, then take this all the way up to God and let Him be your constant. Not the results, not your friend’s behavior, not even your own: but Him alone. It will not only glorify God, but it will make you better at helping your friend too.