How to Support Your Friend without Supporting Her Decisions
What do you do when someone you love is making bad choices? You love your friend and you want to be there for her, but how do you support her without supporting her decision? Here are four simple but powerful things you can do right now to show your friend you love her without saying her behavior is okay.
God purposefully places people in our lives to listen and love us through the hardest, most isolating, impossibly hard seasons. There are times in all of our lives when we need to reach out to our friends and humbly ask for help. And there are times in all of our lives when we are called to lend a compassionate ear and hand to others.
Sometimes this is easy. And sometimes it’s not. What do you do when a dear friend, someone you consider placed in your life by God himself, begins to make (what you believe are) bad decisions? How can you support a friend when you don’t support her choices?
Friendship isn’t automatically doomed when we disagree. Consider the courageous love it takes to remain regardless of circumstance.
If you’re feeling torn between your love and desire to help your friend, and feeling like you’re giving a green light to her decisions, read on. Here are 4 things we can do to support a friend without supporting her decisions.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Prayer is powerful. It is God’s will for us to be prayerful people. Are you praying for your friends? Especially as they make choices you don’t agree with?
I can personally attest to the power of friends’ prayers over my life. There were many friends who tried to put the proverbial car of my life “back onto the road” when it veered into a dark and all-consuming ravine. I shunned well-meaning friends. Slammed the door in some of their faces.
“Whether it’s drinking, gambling, work, or love, people often make bad decisions that are painful to watch for those who love them,” wrote Irene S Levine, Ph.D. for Psychology Today.”
My friends may have lost access to my life, but their prayers eventually pushed me back to Christ. God hears every prayer. He is greater and more powerful than our efforts to outrun Him. I am a product of prayer. When we can’t support a friend’s decision, or perhaps they’ve revoked our ability to speak into their lives, prayer is a powerful weapon God assuredly hears… and answers.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” - James 1:19 NIV
My well-meaning friends were right. Before social media, one could just disappear. Years later, when I logged on for the first time, a message popped up from my best college friend. “Where have you been?” She’d been looking for me all that time, while I wrongly assumed she would judge me for my poor decisions. Thomas Plante is quoted in a Psychology Today article by Meg Selig saying, “many people view advice as an infringement on their personal freedom or an attack on their competence.”
The first time we reconnected, my friend simply listened, and loved me for who I was… at that moment. We’re still best friends. Don’t give up on the runners. When they resurface, listen and love them for who they are.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 NIV
There’s a wave of panic that comes over all of us when we see those whom we love about to make painfully bad decisions. We want to stop the hurt with all of the wisdom we’ve learned from have trudged the path before them. We all fall short, and each have our own strongholds of sin in this life.
The most difficult part of offering support to a friend we don’t agree with is letting go of control and letting them acquire their own wisdom. We can ask questions, and remind them of God’s truth, but mostly, we can empathize with them every step of the way, even if their particular struggle has never been our own.
Scripture reminds us Jesus is not unacquainted with the pain of this life. He is empathetic toward us, and while we turn and run away from Him so often… His reaction is always to stand waiting with open arms for us to turn back around. Jesus was firm in His faith, but never unloving, unaccepting, or unforgiving.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 NIV
When we don’t agree with our friends, we can still love them fully. God loved us so much, He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus not only left the comforts of heaven to abide with us, but choose to sacrifice His innocent life by the cruelest death. Jesus is God’s greatest expression of love for us. There’s nothing we can do to deserve, earn, or lose it. Godly love truly conquers all.
Every day we fall short of the glory of God… yet His love for us never fades. Regardless of what society wants us to believe, we don’t have to agree with each other to love each other. It’s the most important piece of every relationship, to be able to forgive as God forgave us. Love is to pray for the proper perspective, to see each other as God sees us, not as fractured casualties, but fearfully and wonderfully made in His very image.
Love has staying power. It remains, regardless of circumstance. Let’s not be people who give up on seeing all of the good in each other. Christ relentlessly pursues us, and we are called to love the people He places in our lives like that. Even if all we can do is pray. Sin has shattered our world, and wreaks all kinds of havoc on our everyday lives. When we choose to see all of the pain and tragedy around us for what it is, we are better able to see each other as our Father in Heaven does: wonderful, beautiful, chosen, purposed, and loved. We don’t have to support every decision in a friend’s life to love them, fully.
Image Credit: ©Getty-AntonioGuillem
Meg Bucher writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. An author, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, she earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University. Her first book, “Friends with Everyone,” is available on amazon.com. Meg leads and teaches Bible Study in Women and Youth Ministries. Living in Northern Ohio, she’s been wife to Jim for a decade and counting, is mom to two tween daughters, a distance runner, photographer, and avid Cleveland Browns fan.