I’m blessed to have friends and family members who share in my love for the Lord and who strive to extend Christ’s love to others. Yet, because we are all sinners, we occasionally fail one another. I don’t always feel pursued by my husband or by certain friends. I might feel misunderstood by my mom or sister, which causes me frustration and discouragement. Other times I’ve witnessed friends make choices that don’t align with Scripture, and I feel led to approach them about their behavior. What do you say to someone when they’ve hurt you? What do you say to someone who is in a pattern of sin? How do you keep a relationship from splintering after a painful conversation?
I have been the initiator of hard conversations as well as the person on the receiving end. Whether you need to confront, rebuke or advise a friend, I encourage you to consider these four strategies:
The book of Proverbs offers valuable insight on Godly characteristics of a friend. Select verses have been chosen from chapters 17, 27, 28 and 29.
Choose to Forgive
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”
Do you struggle to forgive someone after your feelings have been hurt? I know I do! I often dwell on the painful words or awkward conversation for days or even weeks. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve even caught myself going over potential conflict scenarios so that I will know exactly what hurtful words I want to say. Ew! Instead of choosing to forgive or focusing on how a relationship can be restored, we sometimes rehash the event in our minds and hold on to it like a grudge.
If you can find it in your heart to forgive the person who hurt you, do so! People do and say the wrong thing all the time. It’s part of being human! Give the other person the benefit of the doubt — they likely have no idea that what they did or said was hurtful. Guard your heart from dwelling on the pain and ask God to provide you the strength to release your loved one. Holding on to hurt is your choice.
Don’t Vent Your Anger
“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out.”
You can’t take words back once you’ve spoken them. My husband and I have learned the hard way that taking a break from an argument in order to cool down is the best way we can avoid saying things we don’t mean. It is frustrating to be hurt by someone you love or to witness a loved one making bad choices! It feels good to vent to a friend. Yet, through Scripture we learn that people who vent are considered fools. When I go over my hurt feelings or concern with God instead of people, I realize my own sin issues and receive conviction and guidance in terms of how to move forward.
“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.”
Admonishing a loved one can feel awkward! It’s not uncommon for people to keep their feelings inside because they want to avoid confrontation. However, if someone you care about it is making decisions that are harmful to his or her own self or to others, ask for God’s guidance and see if He leads you into starting a conversation. One helpful method is to first praise what the person is doing right, followed by assurance of your love and loyalty. Lastly, gently acknowledge your concern and ask questions that will force the person to really think about their decisions.
For example, I was dating a guy in college who did not share in my love for the Lord. I was becoming increasingly physical with him and started to compromise my morals. Two of my best friends confronted me about my relationship and offered to provide me with accountability. They gently asked, “Is this really who you want to be with? Why are you changing who you are for a guy? We are here for you — will you let us help you?” Sure, I was embarrassed to be called out, but more than anything I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I knew my friends cared about me and wanted the best for me. Their encouragement gave me the push I needed to break off my dating relationship and restore my relationship with the Lord.
Seek to Give Godly Counsel
“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.”
I love to give advice (can you tell?). In fact, I love to give advice so much that I used to put my opinion out there to the world, whether or not I had prayed over my words. Years ago a close friend of mine was struggling in her marriage, and I was livid with her husband for causing her pain. I gave her hours worth of advice that I regret to say I did not pray over. Thankfully, my friend focused more on the guidance she received from the Lord than on the crappy advice I gave her!
I’ve learned to stop and think hard before counseling a friend. I think, what does Scripture say about this? What do the characteristics of God say about what He values? Who in Scripture has had a similar struggle? What might Jesus say to this person if He was here right now?
It takes courage to willingly step into a hard conversation with someone you care about. Arm yourself with Scripture and check your own heart to make sure your intentions are pure. Two things are clear: when it comes to sin or the temptation to sin, God warns us to cut it off, run away or do whatever we need to do to avoid it! When it comes to relationships, God encourages us to be loving, patient, forgiving and gracious.
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend. She recently started her own interior decorating business, Laura Rennie Interiors.