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How to Tell A Friend They’ve Crossed the Line

Posted by nbarnes on November 8, 2010 in God Thoughts, Practical Advice on Faith |
American Idol

The American Idol Phenomenon

I’m not sure if this is okay to say or not, but I really don’t like watching American Idol.  I don’t mind watching the last few episodes of the season, you know the part where everyone left can actually sing on key, but I can’t stand watching the auditions at the beginning of the season.  I know that a lot of people enjoy watching the tone deaf people doing their best impersonation of a alley cat in heat trying desperately to impress the judges, but it just hurts my ears too much.  

What really surprises me, is that almost all of them actually believe that they are incredibly gifted vocalists.  And after Simon has cruelly pointed out the obvious fact that they cannot sing, they almost all say the same thing: “My friends all tell me I’m awesome!”

Their friends are lying to them.  Their friends are not tell them the truth.  Their friends are avoiding confrontation, and letting them continue on in their delusions.  I don’t need friends like that.   I want friends that will tell me the truth, even if it’s hard to hear.

I think one of the toughest things to do in a friendship is tell them when you think they’ve screwed up, or that they’re crossing a line somewhere. To tell our friends the truth no matter what is tough.  It is so uncomfortable, and most of us are afraid that if we say something we’re going to offend them, or that we’re going to wreck our relationship with them.  But what if telling them the truth is the most loving thing we can do?

The bible talks about this all over the place.  There’s this verse in Proverbs that says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (27:17 NLT)  I am positive that God intended us to speak the truth to each other, to help each other be the people that God wants us to be, and that I think we want to be.  He wanted us to step out of our comfort zones and do the thing that is hard for us for the sake of the person we care about.  But how do we do that without seeming like some condemning jerk?

1.  Check your own heart first: I am completely aware of my infinite capacity for stupid and foolish decisions.  I know that I am always one step away from completely destroying my life, so when I see a friend doing something I think will hurt them, I don’t see them as less than me.   I never think to myself, “How could they do that?” because, I know that given the right circumstances I just might do the same thing.

2.  Only say what needs to be said: I am convinced that most people don’t really need to hear much when you’re speaking truth to them.  Deep down inside, most people know the truth, they just don’t want to believe it.  The unfortunate participants on American Idol probably wouldn’t need a detailed description of just how terrible they are if it was coming from someone they trusted.  When I’m heading down the wrong path, I usually already have a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, and just need someone to help reinforce what I already have a sense of.

3.  Give them space and time: I have a lot of friends in my life who will say the truth to me, even if I don’t want to hear it.  I wish I could tell you that I always respond with gratitude and love, but unfortunately that’s not usually the case.  Sometimes I respond with anger, denial and self-righteous arguments.  If you give me some time though, I usually come around, see the truth in their words, and make amends for my behavior.  Sometimes you just have to speak the truth and wait for it to sink in.

4.  Keep your perspective: Confrontation is difficult, especially with people you care about, but it is the most loving thing you can do.  This is a truth you need to keep at the forefront of your mind.  This truth is the thing that helps keep you motivated when you’re tempted to just let it slide.  If you really truly care about your friends, you have to be willing to speak up.

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