Like many arenas of life, friendship has its own unwritten code.
Never date a friend’s ex.
If your friend has something in their teeth, discreetly tell them.
Always celebrate each other’s successes.
Don’t post a photo of them without getting approval…and without using the “skinny app”.
Don’t ignore their text messages.
You would be amazed at the various lists you can find via google search about “bro code” and “girl code”. One such rule which permeates the atmosphere of a friendship is this expectation…
“If I don’t like them, you don’t like them. If they have hurt me, you have to be mad at them. If they wrong me and offend me, you are required to also be offended.”
Let me make this clear…Friendship does not require us to take on the offense of our friend. It is not a prerequisite of loyalty, that you must allow your heart to get bitter because your friend has been wronged. To use a familiar phrase, we are not obligated to “take up the offense” of another.
I do believe there are moments when coming to someone’s defense is absolutely appropriate and godly…it’s a matter of justice. However, coming to the defense of another is for the objective of protecting someone in the way of harm, righting a wrong, validating someone’s name or bringing healing and peace to the situation. This is far different than taking on the offense of a friend. It is important to distinguish the difference.
To take on an offense is to open a valve in your soul, through which toxins can come and pollute. It seems somewhat absurd on the surface…we weren’t wronged…they were not mean to us…but I am going to allow my heart to get polluted on behalf of my buddy. Also, taking on an offense tends to lead us into affirming and feeding unhealthy emotions in our friend. To allow ourselves to creep toward bitterness, we begin to disqualify ourselves from being a peacemaker and an agent of reconciliation. A friend who takes offense ultimately is at risk of allowing a friend to be comfortably wounded…allowing a friend to wallow in anger…allowing a friend to be more damaged from a situation than they should.
The particular situation may not seem so monumental, but to allow hurt, anger and offense to fester affects all regions of the soul. Our attempts to show solidarity, unwittingly position us in territory which stifles emotional health and sensitivity to Holy Spirit. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to guard our hearts above all else. A friendship does not have the right to encroach upon that responsibility. No version of godly loyalty will lead you down a path toward an unhealthy soul. You can love the friend, but there are some rights they do not have with you.
Most friends will not consciously demand that you become angry with them, but in most relationships it is an underlying, unspoken pressure. We have a responsibility to our own soul and to our friend’s health, to resist the pressure. We can can listen, console, offer wisdom, agree with them when they are right and be an all around good friend. All the while we must contend, often silently, against offense.
It would also be wise, in those moments when WE have been offended, to ask our friends to help us find a place of peace and a path toward healing rather than trying to “get them on our side”.
Be a good friend. Just make sure you understand what that means.