Three words we hate to say and love to hear

Dear Andrea,

I said hurtful things to a close friend, and now he won’t have anything to do with me. What can I do to fix this when he won’t take my calls?

Contrite in Indiana

Dear Contrite,

If you have his snail mail address, and your penmanship is legible, write him a handwritten letter taking responsibility for your actions and seeking to make amends, such as by saying relevant positive things about him–that are truly meant. Tell him you were wrong, mentioning specifically what you did wrong, and that you’ll seek to do better in the future. Finally, ask for forgiveness. Then back off and give him space.

If you need to send the letter by email, use a subject line along the lines of “I was wrong” or “you were right,” whichever smarts least for you and is most appropriate in your situation. Those three little words, said contritely, most of the time will open closed doors–how soon depends on the depth of the wound. You may also consider simply, “apology” or the opening sentence of the letter. If you have opportunity, issue the apology in person–and do apologize face to face (or by phone if face to face isn’t possible) at first opportunity also. It means more to most people.

With many, if the wound is deep, you will have to show yourself repentant–meaning that you’ve changed–before you regain the person’s trust enough for him to let you close again, and that takes time. So apologize, give him space, and the Lord also to work in the situation, so pray as you wait in hopes of reconciliation. If that never happens, chalk it up to a bitter lesson learned the hard way and be more diligent to guard your other relationships from the tongue’s sharp sword.

At the same time, remember, Proverb 27:6 says wounds from a friend can be trusted. Good relationships must be based upon truth.  Apologize for mean-spirited, caustic words, but never apologize for painful truths spoken in love. If  it’s the simple truth that offends your friends, and they walk out over it, they weren’t really your friends to begin with, they were the friends of the person they wanted you to be,  hence the relationships probably weren’t good for your spiritual health anyway. While it’s always sad when that happens, all you can do then is accept their choice and pray for them.

In Christ’s Love,
Andrea Graham


  1. Andrea, thanks for the insight. I finally got around to catching up and this and it is so appropriate this very moment. I just went through a horrible experience with my neighbor this morning. I am angry, but cooling down. I guess I should quit trying with her. She is bound to upstage me no matter what and I am hurt. Please pray that I don’t have to deal with a homeowner’s claim from her. I have documented paperwork but she decided it wasn’t expert enough.

    I am letting go and letting God, I am totally powerless now in this situation and I feel that I am free to let her go and let God help me beyond what I have done to rectify the situation.

    This morning, your insight was so sweet and just what I needed.

    Love and hugs,
    Paulette Harris

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, Paulette. I’m glad you were blessed. Perhaps we forget that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective, even when we are weak and powerless, though. A soft answer turns away wrath (Prov. 15:1,) but that’s also difficult to remember when you’re getting screamed at!

      In Christ’s Love,
      Andrea Graham

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