Are You a Real Friend?

Few of us have the kind of friends that the Bible says that we need. That’s because what passes for friendship today is often a cheap imitation of the real thing.

I’d guess that there are all kinds of reasons that meaningful friendship is harder to find in the modern world. There are the usual culprits such as busyness and technology ranging from HD televisions that make everything fun to watch to text messaging.

But I think that there are deeper reasons that are more interesting.

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

According to this verse we often get our friends and enemies confused. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Who would be dumb enough to think that their friend is an enemy and their enemy a friend? Well I guess most (or all) of us at one time or another.

According to the book of Proverbs, a true friend will occasionally wound you. Now think about that for just a moment. A wound hurts. It isn’t pleasant. It might take some time to recover from. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I sure hope that I get wounded today!”

No, we usually wake up hoping that the day goes “our way” which means comfortable, easy, and hassle free. Wounds don’t fit into that picture but kisses sure do.

We love it when people “kiss” us by affirming us and telling us what we want to hear. “You were right to get angry.” “You didn’t deserve to be treated that way.” “You need to look out for yourself.”

But the Bible says that just like wolves can appear in sheep’s clothing so our enemies often dress up like friends and the costume they wear is many “kisses.”

I used to be shocked at how few people are willing to say hard and challenging things to their so-called friends. But I’ve encountered it so much lately that I don’t have the energy to be even a little bit surprised anymore much less shocked.

It seems that we’d rather just let our “friends” head down a harmful path rather than talking to them about what’s happening in their life. We’re afraid that they’ll get offended or take us the wrong way or be defensive. And of course all that’s true. They might do those very things. But a friend takes a risk where an enemy won’t.

Is there a hard conversation that you need to have with someone? Is a friend making bad choices in their relationships, marriage, parenting, finances, church involvement? Are you enough of a friend to buy them lunch and talk to them about it? If you were in their position—heading down the same path they are on—would you want them to talk to you about it?

If you are willing to have one of those difficult conversations, here are a few tips…

1. Find the right time to do it. This isn’t the kind of conversation you have on your cell while driving your kids to their daily activities. To paraphrase Paul Tripp in Age of Opportunity, “Don’t squeeze hundred dollar conversations into dime moments.”

2. Before you go, swallow a heaping dose of humility. Deal with your own heart so that you’re not going into the conversation with a self-righteous attitude. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you are a sinner too you shouldn’t talk to them. We’re all sinners. So if sinners can’t talk to other sinners about their sin, then we are all on our own. And I’m pretty sure that’s not how the Bible teaches us to live.

In fact, your reticence to talk to the person is probably a good sign. It hopefully shows that you are aware of your own sin and struggles, which will prevent you from coming across as “Mr./Mrs. I-Have-It-All-Together.” If you are excited about the conversation and looking forward to the confrontation, that’s probably a good sign you are not ready to have it.

3. Make sure that the person knows that you care about them. You might say something like this. “Sue, this is going to be a bit awkward but I want to talk to you about something that might be important. And I want you to know that the only reason that I’m doing it is because I really care about you. It would be far easier for me to just ignore it but I don’t want to do that because I think of you as one of my true friends.”

4. Don’t assume that you are right in your assessment of the situation. There might be more to the story than you are aware of. Another example: “John, I’m not sure I’m right about this but here’s what I think that I notice…There might be a lot going on that I don’t see so I may be wildly wrong.

5. Don’t expect an immediate answer. You might say, “Don’t feel any pressure to respond right now. All I ask you to do is to think and pray about it. If you think that I’m way off base, just tell me.”

6. Don’t take their first response as their final response. Some people might get angry at first but then when they are alone and have time to process what you said, they might have a different take on the situation.

7. If the person you are talking to gets angry or overly defensive, try to diffuse the situation. You might say, “I can tell that you are upset with me. I’m so sorry because I really didn’t want that to happen. I was just trying to do for you what I’d want you to do for me. I consider you a good friend and I want you to know that I’m always on your side.”

8. Not everything is worth talking to someone about. If we are going to have a conversation about every sin we see or every decision a person makes that we disagree with, then we are going to be talking to people all the time. And that’s not going to go well for us or them. I think that you can apply the Golden Rule to this situation and ask, “If I were in my friend’s situation, would I want him to talk to me about this issue.”

Next week we’ll look at what it’s like to be on the other end of this conversation and discuss how to respond when someone confronts you.

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