A good friend. A loving church community. So many memories shared. Like all good friendships, as time went on, the relationship bond grew stronger. This is a habit I get myself into. Again. And again.
Some people have lots and lots of friends but don’t get particularly close to any one friend. Just a good group of community. This works for some people. I’m the kind of friend that, when I make a friend, I’m all in. Unconditional. BFFs. Except that I’ve had a poor track record of keeping it that way. Sometimes I’m to blame for being too codependent. Other times I just get completely taken at no fault of my own. For better or worse, I trust too quickly and too deeply. The latter friendship breakup is the hardest.
I’m learning how to not make excuses. Friendships die. The hard part is when that death of a relationship brings you down with it. Healing is possible, but it’s a journey only God can bring you through.
My family recently experienced one of these friendship deaths. We made some mistakes that left us vulnerable. We trusted an employee too much. Then we were taken advantage of to the point of financial wrongdoing, slander, and damages to our business and its reputation.
Let’s call the offender “Donny.” Donny was our employee. He became the primary point of contact for the business. I was good friends with his wife and we hired him based on connection and his word. It was a hard lesson in judging a book by its cover.
Donny was listed as “Prince Charming” in the office phone directory. He worked in client relations, vendor relations, and administrative tasks, including keeping track of shop bills and other financial responsibilities. Our only employee at the time, he was slipping in his duties and things just weren’t adding up. His words didn’t match his actions. At times his conduct at work became combative, unprofessional and inappropriate. Then money was found missing. And that’s when he was confronted. And that was the day he walked out of our office with no notice.
The difficulty with Donny built up slowly but then fell down fast, like an eagle swooping down to collect its prey. I was left reeling, in shock, and deeply wounded. My husband, the rock, forged ahead and sought the Lord for how to deal with it.
At that time Donny had something against me. He told me that he spoke with friends and his pastor and, therefore, decided to approach me with his grievance. All I knew was he was offended, but when asked why, he refused to tell me for what without bringing in the pastor. So, he has something against me, but chose to talk to other people before coming to me.
All I’ve been able to find out is that he perceived some sort of disrespect during a couple of phone conversations. I remember these conversations well because they ended with him verbally berating me. His talk was full of gaslighting. I had only once in my life been spoken to in such a horribly degrading way. I told him that if I was disrespectful I wanted to know how so I could make it right, but he never responded.
Alongside trying to resolve Donny’s and my personal conflict, Andrew and I were navigating the conflict with the business and financial matters. When we brought our offenses to Donny he denied the events and then spoke untruthfully about them to others.
Gossip tainted the whole situation. As mentioned, Donny shared his offenses with friends, family, and his pastor (we’ll call him “Pastor George”). We had yet to be approached when Pastor George approached us about the situation. We chose not to engage in gossip with him because we had yet to talk directly to Donny, but we did welcome the pastor to ask us any questions he might have about our personal conduct. When the right time came to bring Pastor George into the conversation, he was already biased toward Donny.
To add to it, Donny’s wife – my good friend – had little, if anything, to do with the whole situation. More of an onlooker and recipient of consequences from Donny’s actions. The situation stressed her out so much that she told me, “I’m still your friend, but I can no longer have any communication with you and your family.”
My friend hasn’t spoken to me in almost two years.
Even now, I still don’t know what was my offense to Donny two years ago.
Two years have passed since the start of this conflict. Two years.
We’re still trying to pick up the pieces from the broken relationship and the wrongs done to us two years ago.
Our son, Arthur, one and a half at the time, was used to being home with me. I was still recovering from surgery following life threatening postpartum complications requiring follow up treatment multiple times a week. We were used to Andrew’s hours being long as we worked to grow the business. Andrew was now running the shop alone, so I went back to work three days after Donny left to fill the gap.
I had no childcare set up. Arthur hadn’t been mentally or emotionally prepared to be away from me 50 hours each week. Family pitched in at a moment’s notice to watch him when I first went back. Then we enrolled him in an early childhood learning center. After just a few months, the school’s building was sold and they had to close. Then a teacher from that school offered to babysit. Then when he was two and a half we found him a new school.
If this wasn’t a big enough heartache at this tender age, then consider that Daddy had to work very long days and was rarely home at night for them to spend time together. There were nights when he just started crying for what seemed like, no reason. But we know there was a reason.
To the mix, the same week Donny walked out on us was the very week our house suffered a major flood. The center of the house was gutted. It was mitigated for mold. We spent Christmas at the house of a friend who was out of town 3 weeks later. We lived with Andrew’s parents off and on for four months while it was cleaned up and put back together. It was like a move where there was no time to pack – stuff got shoved into the garage or brought over to my in-laws. Two months after we finally got to move back in, with the attempt at conflict resolution still in progress, the other half of the house flooded. We were isolated from the church community we had been visiting, and I was accused of harboring unforgiveness by Pastor George.
The extreme stress from all these situations sitting on top of each other triggered severe mental illness. About eight months after Donny walked out I was diagnosed with manic-depressive illness (aka bipolar). It’s been an epic nightmare.
While it’s obvious Donny had nothing to do with things like the house flooding or our son’s school closing, when we sin against one another the weight of that sin adds to an already heavy load. Arthur was forced to deal with the loss of time with his Dad, isolation from a church environment that he enjoyed, AND the situations with our housing and his school.
Sowing in the Spirit
My husband and I are firm believers in the Word of God. We hold His Scriptures close to our heart and we strive to live like Jesus. It’s appropriate, then, that the first thing we did was go to the scripture.
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Throughout the whole ordeal, we sought to come together in love and unity with him. This elicited anger, deflection, and serious untruthful accusation from Donny. It was challenging to continue to respond in love. I admit that I had to repent and ask for forgiveness for being reactionary at times. My husband, Andrew, is much better at keeping a level head and he helped me to take a deep breath and respond wisely and lovingly along the way.
This posture bore no fruit.
What is the biblical response in a situation like this? Learn how we responded and the results in Part 2: The Lesson.