How are your friendships? In the Bible study Reclaiming Friendship: God’s Plan for Deep Connection, Mallory Smyth encourages us to take inventory of the type of friend we are by asking, “Are you trustworthy? Do you keep your confidential secrets to yourself? Do you give as much as you take from your friendships? In what ways can you change behavior to grow into Christlike maturity in your friendships?”
As I tell my teenagers, often we gossip, ghost, or distance ourselves from a friend because we do not have the courage to say TO her, what we are saying ABOUT her. Ouch, that’s tough to admit! But if we long for authentic friendships (and we all do!), God is calling us to get honest and keep “short accounts” with each other.
What does this practically look like?
When I was a college student, I had the honor of attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., with my parents. One of the keynote speakers, a U.S. congressman, introduced us to what he called the “5% rule,” based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The concept rattled me. He encouraged us, if we had a disagreement with someone, to first look intently at our part in the exchange. But here was the kicker, he invited us to initiate asking for forgiveness for our part, even if we were 5% in the wrong and the other party was 95% to blame. No matter how little we personally were at fault, and no matter how badly we had been wounded by the other party, he challenged us to take the first step toward reconciling.
From then on, our family of six adopted this rule toward forgiveness. When a conflict, misunderstanding, or unkind words were exchanged between us, we learned how to prayerfully ask God to help us discern our “5%” and ask forgiveness for our part, no matter how small. I have carried this principle of “owning the 5%” into my marriage, parenting, and friendships. It has not been easy, but each time I ask Jesus for His sacred, humble heart to help me take the first step.
Imagine what would happen to our marriages, interactions with family members, disagreements with coworkers, and friendships if we adopted this 5% rule!
We would be wise to take heed of Ephesians 4:26–27: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the enemy of our souls [the devil] a foothold.” Imagine if we resolved to keep short accounts with each other and not let the day end before we reached out in reconciliation. How would this change our relationships?
Speaking the truth in love requires we see others the way Jesus sees them—as His beloved children. Reclaiming Friendship says:
We can often get stuck playing the blame-game, but the Lord is inviting us to do the next right thing in our friendships. If we have been hurt, Jesus encourages us to forgive. If we have done the wounding, we are called to ask for forgiveness. No matter if our part is 5%, 45%, or 95%, Jesus is inviting us to take the first step. This is not natural because we long to point the finger at what others did wrong, but God is calling us to maturity. We must be brave enough to open our friendships up to healthy communication. We must lead with kindness and authenticity. When we have the courage to do this, we sharpen each other. Honesty helps us develop fruitful, virtuous friendships.
Consider your current friendships. Are there small tensions that could easily be diffused by speaking the truth in love? What keeps you from looking at your part? Is there a friendship account you need to settle today?
Even if we played a part in the rupture of a friendship, redemption is always possible. Jesus always speaks the truth in love to us. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance and reminds us that He will finish the good work that He started in us. To follow Him fully is to increasingly become better at relationships, to become a better friend.
Let’s have enough courage to have hard conversations with those we love and be humble enough to admit our own personal barriers to friendship. Let’s keep short accounts with one another. Before our head hits the pillow this evening, let’s seek forgiveness from those we may have hurt, even for the most minor infractions. Let’s look to the words of St. Francis of Assisi to guide us: “Blessed is the servant who loves his brother as much when he is sick and useless as when he is well and can be of service to him. And blessed is he who loves his brother as well when he is afar off as when he is by his side, and who would say nothing behind his back he might not, in love, say before his face.” 
P.S. Want to dive into Reclaiming Friendship? We’ve got two digital options for you: e-Book (iPad/tablets/smartphones) and Amazon Kindle. Perfect to take on your upcoming vacation or day trip to the park.
 Mallory Smyth, Reclaiming Friendship: God’s Plan for Deep Connection (Walking with Purpose, 2021), 49.
 Smyth, Reclaiming Friendship, 48-49.
 Smyth, Reclaiming Friendship, 50.
 Francis of Assisi in His Own Words: The Essential Writings, Translated by Jon M. Sweeney (Paraclete Press, 2018).
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