Proverbs 27 v 6 advises us that: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.
What does this mean?
The wounds of a friend are faithful. A true friend may give advice, instruction, counsel or even just suggestions that are intended for their friend’s good. What a person does with that communication is up to them, but a true friend is not willing to withhold good counsel intended to protect their friend even if it is not received well.
Can you think of a situation when you have been the faithful friend whose words may have caused offence but were given out of love, concern, care and sincerity? Perhaps you advised a friend that the person they were getting in a relationship with had a bad reputation and that it would be better for them to steer clear. Maybe they thanked you for your input, or maybe they told you to get lost, to mind your own business, etc, but had you known what you did, to refuse to share that with your friend would have been cruel and irresponsible. You can speak the truth in love.
However, someone who couldn’t really care less if the relationship would end up being harmful might flatter you with ‘kisses’, i.e. tell you the things you want to hear, rather than telling you the truth. In the moment the enemy seems like more of a friend than your friend whose wounds are faithful. It can be easy to become blind sighted by our own desires, and what our itching ears want to hear.
Just as ‘iron sharpens iron’ so too does good, wise, discerning, loving, loyal and honest friendship mutually sharpen the characters of us and our friends.
However, sometimes a friend can be an enemy, without really setting out or intending to do so. A person may easily identify a lie as being ‘bad’, but they may make excuses for withholding the truth but that doesn’t make it any less of a lie or any less damaging.
If someone habitually withholds the truth from a friend, they are effectively lying to them and keeping things unconfessed, hidden and in darkness. A true friend may be clumsy with their words, but their intention comes from a place of love or at least kindness and respect, and you know that they will be honest with you. Covering things up or withholding truth is very sadly, and however unintentionally a form of deceit, verging on being cruel and selfish.
We are never in a place to judge other people’s motives, but we need to discern truth from error. Sometimes we learn the hard way that when the truth about a situation is withheld from us, or how a situation is perceived by someone is not shared with us, even if it is with the intention ‘not to offend’, then we are being denied honest and sincere communication. We are silently being lied to. If we have done something wrong, we will not be told about it, perhaps because our friend is not willing to ‘faithfully wound’ us for the sake of our own good and theirs. And under the surface, perhaps those who withhold the truth from another party allow bitterness to fester, and silently but very intentionally control the situation, perhaps by pushing us away, but without in the end showing honest and genuine love, care, concern or respect because they have chosen to with hold the truth.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend. We need to be intentional in walking in the light, of being honest and truthful and respectful, rather than withholding truth from people and silently punishing them for something they didn’t even know or weren’t given a chance to know was wrong.
Kind and lovely people can fall into this trap of being unfaithful because it in the short term it seems to cause less damage, discomfort, awkwardness or unease – but in the long run, withholding truth is just as damaging as an outright lie.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Let us seek never to be an enemy to our friends by withholding truth from them, especially if what we don’t tell them leads us to taking a course of action that will affect them negatively while withholding explanation. To do so would be to choose not to walk in the light because in the short term it feels more comfortable to take the easy path. The easy way is not always the best, so take time to ponder the path of your feet for your own good and the good of others. And to keep walking in the light, be quick to choose to forgive, to be understanding, respectful and loving, and to be the kind of person who you yourself can respect. x
This post will be a little lighter, brighter and more colourful than my previous post today (which was a little bit ‘heavy’).
Recently I tried some pottery painting with my lovely mum. I have to wait a few more days to collect the finished pieces as they have gone into a kiln and will come out all glazed, bright, shiny and new!
Here is a sneak peek – the colours will be much more vivid once the pieces are finally ready.
I’ve always been interested in human psychology. I’m sure a lot of you out there reading this are too. However, don’t you find that there is a marked and poignant difference between those instances where we have a purely intellectual fascination in an aspect of psychology from when we have a personal reason or investment to figure ourselves and other people out? I certainly do. The first approach perhaps is driven by curiosity, fascination, a love of learning and discovery. The second is perhaps tinged more with pain, hurt, confusion and a desire to seek out answers to make sense of things we are grappling with ‘in real life’ and / or to find some kind of mental and emotional healing. Sometimes both go hand in hand as two sides of the same coin.
One area of exploration that has come to my attention over the past while is the use of silence in human relationships, its power and place, its promise, and its pain. I can think of five different people over the past few years who use silence as a form of communication. However, without actually saying anything, how can a person know that the message they are portraying is the one that they want to be received? I don’t know. It’s never been something I have intentionally done to anyone, and never something I intend to initiate. The Power of Silence:
Silence can be a blessed and a beautiful thing. Many of us will be familiar with the phrase that ‘silence is golden’. What does that mean? Silence is rare, precious, valuable, of great importance, a gift, to be treasured.
When I think of silence as a gift, I think of those precious moments of solitude where the noise of the world fades out, and we find peace in the stillness. I think of times of rest and relaxation, of being in nature, and although not being void of sound, of finding repose in the natural sounds of a babbling brook, of wind rustling through golden autumnal leaves, of gentle birdsong.
Sometimes I think of the beauty and power of silence as those moments when you embrace and hold someone you love and where conversation and chatter cease.
There is power in silence also, as Scripture tells us, in our souls waiting quietly before God. As we quieten down, perhaps in the sense of a ‘retreat’ we can find hope and connection, we can ‘hear God’s voice’, we can feel more grounded in ourselves, more in touch with the natural world, and find power in silence in a way that gives us clarity, answers, direction, meaning and restfulness that is all too easily dissipated in a world of noise and rush and hurry.
There is Power in Silence. And it can be Beautiful, as we ponder the vastness of existence, the complexity of the universe, the intricacy of our own souls, the value of the life we live and of the people around us. The Pain of Silence:
Sadly, however, there can also be pain in silence. Perhaps you have experienced the loss of a loved one, and you miss the sound of their voice.
But what of other types of silences in human relations and psychology? Silence that is not so much about absence as it is about presence? It’s something I am trying to understand a little more of just now, for the latter reason in the opening to this post.
Silence as a healer – sometimes we all find that we need to retreat, to pull away from the noise of the world and other people, and take time to be still and to heal, and this can be a beautiful yet painful thing. I personally am the kind of person who needs a lot of quiet time, time in nature, and time away from the crowds. Time to pray, to connect, to be still, to write, to understand. Sometimes we are more aware of our pain in times of silence, but inevitably, if used well, it is a positive aspect of human life to take time out to be still, to be quiet, and can indeed be very healing.
Sometimes I feel the need for taking a few days to myself to find the benefits of silence, and time with God, alone. In such instances, I communicate and let the people closest to me know that this is what I’m doing, so that they know that the quiet time is to do with my own needs for personal growth, and nothing that they might have done wrong.
As we seek to grow in ourselves, we would be wise and mature to reflect upon how our actions and inactions might affect or be interpreted by those around us, especially those with whom we are usually in most contact with so as not to cause unnecessary hurt or misunderstanding. I live on my own, but if I want to have some focused quiet time to myself, I’ll phone my family and let them know, and they respect that and give me some space and when we come together we have a healthy and loving place to pick up from.
Thinking of other people as well as ourselves helps to overcome misunderstanding, hurt and confusion, and it is a kind and responsible approach to life that we all do well to be mindful of.
However, sometimes silence is used in interpersonal relationships to hurt rather than to heal. Why is this?
Perhaps you have a spouse, a family member or close friend with whom you have either used or experienced ‘the silent treatment’ from. How do we interpret this and what could it mean?
I’m not an expert, but as I try to figure some things out, my ponderings have led me to believe that silence when used by one person against another could perhaps convey some of the following: 1. The need for space:
Sometimes people use silence as a way of forming and setting boundaries with other people, of highlighting the distinction of one from another, and of asserting individuality. Men and women communicate differently, and sometimes men are silent, not in a manipulative way, but just because they want space and time to think about things, whereas women’s default communication style seems to be to talk things through. However, regardless of gender, people more generally can be silent because they may be subconsciously or intentionally creating space, distance, and be thinking through some things by themselves. 2. Silence as avoidance:
Whereas with the first point above, silence and space could come from a natural gravitation towards ‘problem solving’, or thinking things through, it can also be used more negatively as a form of avoidance. Sometimes people fall silent as a means of self-protection, of avoiding conversation or confrontation, or because they just don’t want to deal with something and it’s easier just to wish it away, by running away, or creating space. 3. Silence to communicate hurt:
We all hurt each other and get hurt from time to time, it’s inevitable in any human relationships, and for the most part in healthy interactions it is totally unintentional. Still, sometimes we just need time to be silent to either deal with and process or to communicate hurt that someone has caused us. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t caused me hurt or offence in some way at some time, and being human I must reflect that it must be the case that I have unintentionally done to others similar things as they have unintentionally done to me. To err is human, to forgive divine. Sometimes we feel it is all we can do to slink away, to nurse our wounds, and to come back when we are ready. For the most part I don’t tell people of all the things they do that hurt me because I know their character that they are kind people and don’t intentionally mean to do the things they do, just as I don’t if I cause people to feel that way – I don’t do this because overall I know that I can maturely bring my ‘issues’ before God and seek His strength, wisdom and grace and move on in healthy communication. The point is the intention to continue to build upon healthy relationships. 4. Silence as a weapon:
Unfortunately some people use silence, whether intentionally or only partially so, as a means of control, of negative communication, of power, and even punishment or manipulation. Certain personality types such as narcissists may have these tendencies, and may use silence to hurt other people, to cause concern, confusion, self-doubt in the other person as to what they have done wrong to ‘deserve’ being ignored, or to illicit a response.
I’d like to think that people like that are few and far between. I have come across, and worked with people like that in the past, but I’d like to think I can safely say that all of the people I consider friends do not set out to hurt or manipulate people by using silence.
And yet, I find that friends can and do use silence as a means to communicate, quite loudly, the problem being that maybe they aren’t aware of the message that is being conveyed. On the receiving end:
Being on the receiving end, unexpected silences from friends can convey the following, whether true and intended, or not:
You have offended me, and I will not tell you why.
You are not important to me.
I can’t deal with you.
You have served your ‘use value’ to me, I don’t need you or your friendship any more.
I discard you.
I don’t want you to be involved in this aspect of my life / my life.
I’ve moved on, and don’t consider the friendship important enough to communicate this to you.
My feelings are more important than yours, you should know why I am silent, and if you don’t you should figure it out.
I don’t want to deal with confrontation, so I’ll do things on my own terms, managing my own feelings, and will try not to worry about if I have hurt you, because I can’t really handle that.
You’re too much for me, these things….xxxxx……about you bother me, but I don’t know how to tell you that.
I have a new life, new friends now, you’re in the past but I don’t want to offend you by telling you this, so I’ll just move on and hope you figure it out – no hard feelings.
I’m moving into a new season of life, I have new people, I wish you all the best, but the past is the past, hopefully you can understand that from the silence.
I don’t like you.
I’m too good for you.
I’m too busy for you.
You’re a nuisance and inconvenience in my life, I’m better off without you, please leave me alone.
So in case you feel you have good reasons to use silence in a relationship or friendship, be aware that it could be misinterpreted, cause a great deal of hurt and confusion, and can leave the other person feeling used, washed up and discarded.
However, if you find yourself on the receiving end and thinking any of the above, try not to internalise these things, however hard that might be. Most likely those things aren’t true or valid, or aren’t entirely so, and we all have things going on in ourselves and the person treating you in what feels like the above ways probably (or hopefully) doesn’t intend you to feel any of those bad things. Be kind to yourself, communication takes courage, so be gentle with yourself and with those people in your life who don’t really know how to do that well, and so prefer to risk causing greater hurt through silence. We all need a bit of work, and we all need a lot of grace, so focus on being loving, kind, gentle, and understanding, try to gain insight, and try to be the type of person that you aspire to be – one that is kind, patient, loving, understanding, gentle, keeps no record of wrongs, forgiving, helpful, strong, courageous, communicative, an encourager and a blessing to others rather than a source of hurt. The Promise of Silence:
As you can see from the above, silence leaves room for a whole lot of things! It can leave room for healing, for growth and for hope, but conversely it unfortunately, when communication is withheld can leave room for miscommunication, false beliefs, hurt, pain, negativity, and confusion. Be careful how you use silence in your life, and the lives of others. Don’t abuse it, because you never know how much you could unintentionally lose when you’re not brave enough to bring things to the light. Don’t let things fester, be honest in your communication – “Speak the Truth in Love”. So you might offend someone by what you say, by wanting to clear things up or communicate how they made you feel. Maybe you will find that you have caused them hurt too and give them an opportunity to help you grow as well. But by bringing things to light and communicating, you create the opportunity for growth, for sharing, for understanding and for a healthy and mature way to move forwards taking into consideration what both parties have to say. Don’t be afraid of that. But speak Truth in Love and with noble and kind intentions. You may just find that people are far more understanding than you give them credit for.
What is of more concern, I think is not the hurt and offence caused by trying to communicate, but the hurt, pain, and confusion by leaving space for things to be imagined, by not saying anything at all. Maybe what you think is ok from your point of view, comes across very differently to your intended recipient. And if you do intend to hurt people by using silence, perhaps it is time to turn away from that in humility and seek Forgiveness.
So, what of the promise of silence?
In the Bible, there are passages where people are calling out to God, lamenting His ‘silence’ and that He seems and feels far from them. I have experienced such seasons in my life. However, I realise that I have a relationship with God and as I grow in that faith replaces fear, trust and knowledge replace anxiety and worry. Why? Because I know my God’s proven character. Where He is silent on something, He is drawing me closer to Him to trust Him. It doesn’t mean that what is important to me, that He is silent on, isn’t important to Him too. He loves me. He loves you. He is a communicating God, and if He is seemingly silent on something it is for a very good reason, and I can trust His Word and His Character – He Is Good, and He Is Love. There is great promise in silence, in knowing Jesus Christ.
However, there is no one else who is so faithful and true. No one. No family member, friend, relationship, spouse or soul mate. There is no one as Faithful, Loving and True as The Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no one else who always has your absolute best intentions in His Heart, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. There is no one else who has or ever will pour out their love in sacrifice to take your punishment and forgive your sins, and draw you into His eternal care, as the Living God.
There is promise in the silences we commit to God. There is hope in knowing that with all the manifold things in our lives that we don’t understand, He does. And He Is loving and gentle and kind and knows how to lead and teach us more about Him, about ourselves and about other people and to learn to live these things out in a way that honours Him as He enables us. God Is always drawing us to Himself, to think upon Him, for His ways Are Perfect. His arms stretched wide on the cross remind us that He Is selfless and calls us to be like Him, to think of others and not just of ourselves.
It can be hard to know how to do this in practice, because we are a bunch of muddled up sinful people. But we are not alone. All we need to do is ask in faith, believing that Jesus Christ Is The Way, and that we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.
How intensely practical this is when it comes to human relationships, when we don’t know what to do. When we put God first, we allow Him to work in the silence, to bring promise where without Him there would only be pain.
And if you find that you can’t relate to these things, if you don’t believe, then what promise can you find in silence? From where you are just now, you can still find promise, you can find hope and a desire to understand people better, to be self-reflective and think about the impact your behaviour, your communication or lack of it has upon other people, even as you think about what effect they have on you.
None of us were made to live in isolation, we are social beings, but we also have a sometimes intense need for space and silence.
My reflection point for myself, and perhaps it could be for you, is how can I seek to use silence in my life in a way that is borne out of love, and is selfless, taking into account the needs of others and the impact it might have upon them. For me, the only truly wise and loving way to do this, is to look to Jesus. And for those in my life who use silence negatively, and not in the Love of God, I choose to forgive, and commit these silences to Him, to find in Him, their promise. x
Birthdays, Laughter, and Hopes for an Unknown Future:
Yesterday I celebrated a belated birthday with two lovely female friends. A beautiful, crisp autumnal day, bright with hope and promise, in the midst of change and old things fading away, was spent catching up over lunch, wandering around quirky shops, trying on winter jumpers and cardigans, and then one of my friends and I continued on to enjoy the beauty of autumn in the park, as we said a fond farewell to our other friend as she headed home. Life was alive, as it were, all around us. Children chased squirrels, dogs delightedly frolicked in the autumn leaves, an old lady sat quietly on a park bench, couples embraced, and laughter lightened the air in the playpark. Squirrels scampered, ducks quacked and splashed in the pond, and cameras clicked as people took it all in, and took time to capture the moments. And as we slowly traversed riverside walks, where the ground was strewn with golden leaves, and dappled with sunlight, my friend and I embraced the opportunity to linger a bit and to chat about the deeper things of life, and of our experiences. A moment shared in the passing of time, and the joy of a golden autumn afternoon. We reflected upon changes in our lives and also hopes of things we wanted to do together and in some newly forming friendships. We talked about faith, about creative projects, pottery, painting, art and photography, about friendship, about God and the deeper things of life. We had only intended to walk through the park briefly before parting ways to go to our own homes, but we walked around the park once more just to linger in conversation and each others company, and to help each other gain understanding of certain things. The blessedness of friendship.
Earlier, at lunch, the three of us had laughed – the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes, makes you clutch your belly and be completely happy in the moment, forgetting your cares and worries. We laughed because we were talking about age and time passing and as we chatted about stories we had heard about people in their 80s, 90s and early 100s who had taken to adventures such as hand gliding, diving, and doing all sorts of other adrenaline stoking activities, we imagined ourselves in the future as old, old ladies, not letting age hold us back but telling ourselves that the sky is the limit as the three of us jump out of a plane in a sky dive! We thought about how we might lighted our loads on the way down by throwing out our walking sticks, zimmer frames, glasses and false teeth, while at the bottom our future children and grandchildren would be aghast at our crazy and carefree antics! We were not mocking old age, but just delighting in the crazy things we might get up to in the future, when we no longer cared about what other people thought, as we resolutely refused to allow age to hold us back. It was lovely to think of the three of us, still friends well into old age, a long, long time from now, and it brought joy to our souls to share the laughter in that moment of a life well lived.
Time Passes, Leaves Fall, Seasons Change.
When I was a teenager, there was a fun and upbeat song by a teen band that was about friendship and how we can plant seeds of friendships, but we don’t really know which ones will grow and which ones will last and stand the tests of time. I had a friend at the time who I think also liked the song, we had known each other since we were about 4 or 5 years old, and when I was 9 I had to move to another town quite far away, which meant new schools, and not seeing each other every day. We tried to keep in touch, and we did well at that for a while, but as the years went by we changed and the friendship of our childhood and early teen years became more of a memory. We really thought we’d be friends into old age, and we did reconnect online in more recent years, but the thing is sadly we won’t be friends into old age. Not because we no longer cared, not because we had drifted too far from the possibility, but sadly because my friend died.
I won’t go into details of that, but it is a reminder that we don’t know which seeds will grow, which will last or how things will turn out. Our friendships are precious though and should be cherished for what they are in the moments.
Change Comes in Different Ways
Aside from the tragedies of life, like the death of a friend who we thought would be around forever, other changes can be positive, can bring growth and hope. Yet some changes can be challenging, and come about not because of death but because seasons move on and time passes. Circumstances change, people get married, have families of their own, and in some cases a strong foundation of friendship can mean that those friendships last through differing seasons where we no longer have so much circumstantially in common – I am blessed to have quite a few of these, and it is a choice, to continue to ‘give and take’, to listen and learn and love. I have friends who live thousands of miles away now, in totally different parts of the world, but our friendships continue and are blessed as we value each other. I have friends who are married, have children and are in stages of lives that haven’t happened for me yet, but that I wait and hope for, but our friendships stand strong, they might waver from time to time, but because we have a bond that goes deeper than circumstance, we continue to ‘do life’ together, and that is such a blessing in this ‘throwaway’ society.
A Sure Foundation
Sometimes we don’t fully know why change happens. Sometimes people move on, and that’s ok. God, in Christ Jesus is the foundation for my relationships. And when things are challenging, I know I always have a True Friend Who Is always Faithful who will guide and direct me to be the kind of friend and person He wants me to be, through all the changing seasons of life, through times when people are challenging, or through times of hurt.
I am learning about the freedom in Christ to let things go, to allow Him to be Lord, and to allow Him to know and be content in not knowing why things don’t always go smoothly in human relationships. People may treat us in ways that don’t make sense, that seem unkind, but He knows the reasons and the details. It is a challenge to love, but He gives that love, we can’t do it on our own.
In Christ we are called to be part of a Body, a Family, to have equal concern for each other. When the blood flows and the Body is working together healthily, it is a beautiful thing, but when there is a fracture, a tear, a clot, a disease or a break, then we need to allow the Healer to heal, and nobody said this would be an easy or comfortable process.
My responsibility in all of my relationships, is foremost to honour and be faithful to my God. Jesus Christ challenges me to be the person He wants me to be, and as much of a challenge as that is, especially in a world filled with broken people, myself included, He gives me the grace, the means and the power to be changed and to become that person. I remind myself, when faced with the challenges of broken people in a broken world that His Arms were opened wide on the Cross, embracing us in love, forgiving us, pouring love, grace and peace upon us. I cannot fold my arms and heart to other people when He has given everything, this amazing love for me.
However, just as God gives us choice, whether or not to respond to His invitation of forgiveness and love, or whether to walk away and continue in our rebellion, sin and apathy, we need to realise that the people around us are also making choices. Choices to love, or to be s
elfish, choices to build each other up and look to each others interests, or to look only to our own, choices to communicate or to be silent, to embrace or to walk away.
God gives us the freedom to choose, but also find freedom in letting things go into His Hands, His perfect wisdom and understanding, and into His Love. We can give things to Him without fear, and we can know that He is in control.
What matters to me, and what He Is teaching me, is that He Is my Truest Love, my most Faithful Friend, the most important relationship in my life – and He commands me, Love my neighbour as myself – if I love Him, then I need to choose to love other people in a way that honours Him, even when that is difficult, when they are difficult, or unkind. I want to love Him, and not to hurt The One Who has loved me and given everything for me. That is what matters.
But learning what that means is a step by step process, allowing Him to hold my hand and walk me through it. I can’t take responsibility for anyone else’s actions or inactions, but I can love the Lord my God, with all my heart, and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength, and by His grace and power and love working in me, I can choose to allow Him to show me how to love my neighbour too.
And as the autumn leaves fall around me, I too can let things go, let them go into His Hands, choose to listen to Him and obey Him, and embrace the love and light that He has for me as I live to honour Him.
Investing in what matters.
Sometimes people don’t want our company and we can’t force or control that, but we can pray for them, let them go if that’s what they wish for love and friendship cannot be forced or imposed upon someone, and we can put our hearts and our efforts into those relationships and friendships that are right in front of us, where there is reciprocity and faithfulness. I am so blessed to have such friendships where both choose allow Christ to Be the Centre, and even in my friendships with people who don’t believe in God or aren’t Christian brothers or sisters, to continue to love each other, invest in the friendship, in understanding, and these are such blessed and fulfilling gifts in my life.
I look around me as the seasons change, as certain things fall away, and I thank God for the beautiful gifts of love and friendship in my life that stand the test of time, for those that don’t I give thanks for the good times, I pray for those for whom the seasons of friendship have passed, and I embrace the opportunity to invest in the beautiful friendships I have now, and the new ones that are budding and beginning to bloom and blossom in my life in this new season with God at the centre of it all, and look forward to seeing who I will do that OAP skydive with, as we embrace laughter, love, joy and faithfulness together! 🙂 . x
Jesus Christ Is the Same, yesterday, today and forever. His Steadfast Love will never change. 🙂 x