Shunning former friends closes door to possible reconciliation

Mark Pickup


July 7, 2014

I had a Christian friend who wrote off our friendship, like a bad debt. Perhaps he saw me as a liability perhaps I am a friendship liability. His name is David. I miss him and wish I knew why he severed our friendship so abruptly and without explanation.

David has not spoken or communicated with me for over a decade; my overtures went unacknowledged; my attempts to contact him to set things right were met with stony silence. We are no longer friends.

Recently I tried one more time to approach him with a short email that said, in part: "Dear David. I have never understood why you shunned me so completely and with no contact since 2004. Please let me know what offended you so I can try to make amends and seek your forgiveness."


After all these years, I do not really expect an answer. Even if David did respond, it is unlikely we will be friends again. As T.S. Eliot once wrote, "A friendship once ended cannot be mended."

But it would be good to set things right so we can at least conclude our association with some level of understanding, if not reconciliation.

I have a strong suspicion that it was because I became Roman Catholic at about the time he stopped communications. David is evangelical. His denominational anti-Catholic prejudices are rooted in unfortunate tales of the Reformation and 500-year-old grievances.

I bring this to your attention because there is a much larger spiritual principle here that's more important than simply a squabble between one man and another, or animosity between Protestants and Catholics.

If David's rejection of me is not about my decision to convert to Catholicism, and there is something else I did to hurt or offend him then, as a fellow Christian, he has a responsibility to come to me with his grievance. He must forgive me, and I need to know for what I am being forgiven.


It gives me the opportunity to seek his forgiveness for the sake of my soul. If David truly thinks I have sinned against him then it is his duty to forgive just as Jesus commanded us to forgive one another. Christ said, "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6.14-15).


Forgiving, seeking forgiveness and being forgiven are critically important principles we must not take lightly or discount. It is important for the victim to forgive because his own spiritual health depends upon it just as the perpetrator must seek forgiveness and repent for the sake of his spiritual state.

The aggrieved must let go of grievances past and present.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this:

"We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that he will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord's Prayer: it was emphatically stated by our Lord. . . .

"He doesn't say that we are to forgive other people's sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of the sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don't, we shall be forgiven none of our own."

I must have done something spiteful or frightful to David. If he would only tell me what it was I would surely seek his forgiveness even though it's 10 years after my dastardly deed.

There can be a perverse pleasure in refusing forgiveness and holding a grudge. It can be delicious to nurse a grievance, savouring it like rolling a hard candy around in our mouth. Victimhood has a certain appeal.

Unfortunately, the cost of being a perpetual victim is a bitter and caustic spirit, and it eventually has an isolating effect. That is not what Christ wants for his followers. He wants the freedom that forgiveness can bring to both victim and perpetrator.


Just prior to his passion and crucifixion, our Lord prayed for unity of believers. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote about unity of believers in Christ.

If unity in Christ was important to Jesus and Paul, it should also be important to you, me, David and all Christians. That does not mean that we must agree on everything. We must be charitable toward each other.