“If I ever try to do something that stupid, you better stop me!”
I teased my friend with this line when she asked me to pray about the latest shenanigans of a friend of hers. Truth is we joke about that, but were my friend to actually call me on making a poor choice, I’m not sure I would have an easy time receiving her warning with a grateful heart.
Maybe your friend is dating a guy who you know is not great.
Maybe your married friend is neglecting her marriage and getting too close with a coworker.
Maybe she’s clearly drinking to numb out, and it’s starting to worry you.
Maybe she’s overstuffing her schedule, and you know it’s going to come crashing down at some point.
Or maybe she’s going to China to be part of a sketchy surrogacy program…I don’t know your friend’s latest poor decision, okay?
But I do know that talking to a friend about a poor choice that you don’t think is best for her can be a really intimidating conversation to initiate.
How can we possibly approach this conversation in a way that doesn’t feel judgmental? It almost seems like, no matter how we say it, not matter when, the odds of it not coming across condemning and judgy are pretty low. But just like anything in life, when we doubt how to approach a situation, the best thing to do is to go to the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our actions as we prepare for this talk.
As you pray about having this conversation, I encourage you to talk to the Lord about these five things:
- Ask God to show you wisdom in this situation so that your counsel is wise and correct.
- Ask him to give you a pure heart, full of love for your friend, not judgment.
- Ask him to prepare your friend’s heart and mind to receive your counsel, understanding your heart for her. Ask him to protect her from the lies of the enemy, like you’re just judging her or that she should feel shame.
- Ask him to give you an opportunity to have this talk and courage to actually speak honest truth when the time is right.
- Ask him to drape your words in love and keep them free from judgment during your talk.
And if at any point in praying about it, you feel that the right move is to wait or keep your mouth shut, then okay! That’s what asking, listening, and obeying the Holy Spirit’s leading looks like.
But if after taking some time to pray about it, you know you need to have the conversation, the next essential step is to ensure that your heart is right before and when you bring it up. A conversation like this can only come from a heart of authentic love. But what does love look like in this specific situation? We talk all the time about what it means to love well in romantic relationships, but not as often in regard to friendships.
Although 1 Corinthians 13 is often quoted at weddings, I think this lengthy description of what authentic love actually looks like has a lot to teach us about how to handle this tough friendship moment, as well. So when we know the time is right to talk to our friend about that poor choice, take a deep breath and put on love.
Here’s what this love might look like in such a conversation:
This love is patient…Be patient with her, expecting that she might not listen or change her decision on the spot. Don’t push; trust the Holy Spirit to work in his timing and way. Your job is to speak the truth to her in love, not to change her heart or actions.
This love is kind…Don’t be mean as you point out why the decision isn’t wise. Choose kind words. Like honey, they will soothe her soul (Prov. 16:24).
This love doesn’t envy…Make sure jealousy of any kind isn’t guiding your words, but only a desire to see her flourish.
This love doesn’t boast…Don’t point out your good choices by contrast. Using yourself as an example here will probably not yield positive results. Consider pointing to a mutual friend you both respect, or, of course, Scripture!
This love isn’t proud…Don’t allow yourself to look down on her in your talk. Humble yourself and make it clear to her you’re just as vulnerable to bad choices as she is, but that sisters gotta look out for each other!
This love doesn’t dishonor others…Honor her at every opportunity. This might look like acknowledging good choices, valid reasons she made the poorer choice, and good intentions you can see.
This love isn’t self-seeking…Another motive check: are you having this conversation to make yourself look good or get her back on track so she can better meet your needs as a friend again? Only selfless love for your friend will help this conversation not take a ditch dive.
This love isn’t easily angered…Keep your cool, sis, even if she doesn’t receive your words well. Love isn’t easily angered.
This love keeps no record of wrongs…Do not bring up past times she’s gotten it wrong as a reason for her to listen to you now. This will backfire, even though it might seem like bringing more evidence to the table would be convincing. Shame is already waiting at the door, this will just open it wide and invite it in.
This love doesn’t delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth…Emphasize the search for the truth of Jesus in this conversation. Making it less about her actions and more about your mutual desire for godliness will take some of the pressure off her.
This love always protects…Affirm that because you love her, you don’t want harm to come her way.
This love always trusts…Reinforce her autonomy any chance you get. You’re not trying to control her, because she’s a capable person that you trust as a dear friend. She can make a better choice here, all on her own. You’re rooting her on toward the way that leads to life!
This love always hopes…Seek to have genuine hope and faith that her best days are ahead. Speak life to that hope during your conversation in case she doesn’t have the heart to hold hope for herself right now. Remind her you can hold that for her until she believes it herself too.
This love always perseveres…Easy to say, harder to do, but don’t give up on her.
This talk will be hard to hear and difficult to deliver. But building our motives on authentic love for our friend will drive us to speak truth, but in a way that seeks to uphold, honor, and protect your friendship and her heart, just like you want to protect her from poor choices.
Love ya, friend.
Your Sister, Kimber
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