“My Life is Over!” I screamed into my pillow with all the natural drama of a 14-year-old girl.
My first boyfriend, the love of my life, had just broken up with me with the smoothness of a crocodile’s backside. Hardly. “It’s not you, it’s me,” he’d awkwardly muttered before hanging up and crushing my heart.
One of my best friends flopped down on my bed, flipping through a magazine. “I didn’t really like him anyway. I never thought you two were good together; you’re better off without him,” she rambled. Upon hearing those remarks, I gazed at her and asked with deepest sincerity, “Well, why did you not tell me this WHILE I was dating him?”
Good news—like most adolescent breakups, I quickly got over it and moved on. But today, twenty years later, I’ve discovered that a lot of friendships still operate under the same premise. Few women dare to raise a yellow flag or express concern until AFTER the damage is done. Why? Because even when solicited, many women feel uncomfortable offering honest, heartfelt advice to friends. Fearful we will appear self-righteous or judgmental, we shrug and nod or raise our eyebrows in a questioning manner. We remain silent, which is often interpreted as consent.
Of course, we should carefully consider our words before speaking. I’ve learned this the hard way. As the recipient of the high school senior superlative ‘Most Outspoken,’ I used to struggle with blurting out whatever sprang to mind, sparing no one’s feelings. Indeed, I was a ‘loose cannon,’ firing off in all directions—definitely not an example of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
I wish I had understood at an earlier age both the negative and positive impacts of self-expression. Thankfully, God has taught me the value of asking a few questions before I speak:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it something I would want someone to say to or about me?
Perhaps wounds and splinters in many of our relationships could be avoided if we asked ourselves these same questions before verbalizing whatever comes to mind. However, carefully choosing our words does not necessarily mean that we should shy away from speaking up, even if our comments are unpopular or make others uncomfortable. When a sister in Christ asks an opinion or seeks advice, should we respond with a softball answer because we want to spare her feelings? No—but we often do, don’t we?
Instead of offering wise, biblical counsel, we hold back because the Accuser convinces us that if we hold her accountable, we’re judgmental. If we disagree, we’re unsympathetic. If we confront, we’re self-righteous.
Paul instructed the Galatians on how to interact with one another, as people who now walk in light, not darkness: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load“ (Galatians 6:1-5).
Throughout the book of Galatians, Paul drives home the need for confession and accountability within the church body. His principles clearly outline what our responsibility and reaction to other believers should be if we see them sliding down the slippery slope of sin:
- If a fellow believer is in a sinful situation or about to go down a potentially destructive path, tell her. Prayerfully and lovingly approaching a sister in Christ with genuine spiritual concern is not being self-righteous. Paul reminds us we can just as easily succumb to our fleshly desires and the enemy’s schemes as our friends can.
- God commands us to bear one another’s hardships. Real transformation and true repentance begins with confession. We must first ask for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father, as all sin is ultimately against Him. But we must not fool ourselves into believing that we alone can conquer temptation. Pride and shame shackles us to sin. A trustworthy Christian friend who prays for us, encourages us, and holds us accountable is vital to victorious Christian living.
- Our daily goal should be to become more like Christ. Paul did not say we must be perfect before giving counsel to a friend or shedding light on a dark area. He reminded us that we all have sinned and continually struggle with carnal desires. Only the blood of Christ has redeemed and purified us. Remember, it’s only because of His mercy we live.
- Having gospel-saturated, honest friendships with those who will keep you accountable is essential. Whitney Capps wrote, “If your friend’s passion isn’t to see you look and live more like Jesus, she may not be the hard-place helper you need.”
So should we keep silent when our friend goes forward with a relationship that raises red flags? When our married friend starts messaging an old boyfriend, do we wait until she has an affair before weighing in on the dangers of such conduct? Do we engage in conversation dissecting a friend’s parenting style, or do we encourage the group to choose grace? What about the grey areas: a co-worker takes more than the allotted hour for lunch; you see a post with salty speech from a fellow church member; maybe a family member is allowing a seemingly innocent habit to begin to consume their life?
Long gone are the days of first crushes and bouncing right back after a poor decision or a misguided step or two. As adults, the consequences of our actions run much deeper. Over time, sin will morph what would have been simple scrapes in our adolescent hearts into significant scars in our adult souls. Honest, real friends try to prevent this when they can.
We need to be the kind of friend who is willing to softly speak hard-hitting biblical truth, even at the risk of rejection and resentment. Likewise, we must be open to the well-meaning admonishments and warnings of others, instead of quickly dismissing them as jealous or judgmental. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). All of us are susceptible to sin.
Ask the Lord to help you to be a “hard-place helper” kind of friend—a genuine compassionate sister in Christ. Thank Him for those in your life who care enough to confront you and help when you, too, are in a hard place.
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