I was once asked, “When your friend gets into a relationship, what role do you play in things?” I wasn’t sure how to answer this at first, because I just thought it was obvious that you don’t play a role in your friend’s relationship. It is their life, and it has nothing to do with you. However, I have come to realize that question requires a little more thought.
I have watched various friends make not-so-great decisions regarding who they entertain and even pursue a relationship with, and I have been very cautious about giving my opinion. I am a very blunt and truthful person, but I understand there are some instances where the raw truth is not always the best way to approach your friends. When you emotionally invest in someone, it is hard to see things from a clear perspective. Our emotions tend to cloud our judgment and causes us to make decisions we wouldn’t have otherwise made. People who are not emotionally invested can see that we are clearly heading down the wrong path, but to us everything is going great.
I remember when my close friend called me stupid for entertaining a guy who was clearly no good for me. Was she right? Absolutely. I was making extremely foolish decisions and behaving in a way that was clearly taking me down the wrong path. But her presentation was terrible! As my friend, how could she call me stupid for doing something I felt so passionately about? I never told her anything else about that situation from then on. I closed her off from that part of my life which, not only prevented me from being able to vent, but stunted the growth of our friendship.
More recently I had a friend break her vow to abstinence. I saw it coming. I knew she was getting too comfortable with playing with fire and would eventually get burned. I bit my tongue, because I didn’t want her to feel as if I didn’t think she had self-control. I didn’t want to come off as the arrogant virgin who thought she was better than everyone, so I didn’t say anything. Then one day, she told me she broke her vow of abstinence. She felt terrible, and I wasn’t sure how to console her. Maybe if I told her how I was feeling all along she could have avoided it.
Or maybe….she had to make her own mistakes just as I have had to so many times before. Who knows whether or not me telling her she was getting too comfortable with her sexuality would have changed anything, but it does make you wonder how to balance expressing your feelings to your friends and allowing them to learn from their mistakes.
So, my answer to that question: tread lightly and be on stand by.
You should openly express your feelings if you think your friend is headed down the wrong path, but delivery is everything. Consider their feelings before forming sentences about their life, and only tell them once. If you repeat your opinion, they won’t regard it as wisdom but as a lecture. They will just stop coming to you in order to avoid hearing a “broken record.” Also, sometimes it’s best to keep quiet and just pray for them. Some people (like myself) don’t always want advice. When I desire your opinion I usually ask for it. Otherwise, I just need a listening ear. So, sometimes you just have to be on stand-by until they are ready to hear the truth. Watch for opportunities to have an open, honest conversation, and allow them to live free of your judgement.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11