If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said…
you must intervene!
If I had a friend going down a bad path, I felt it was my duty as a good friend to stop them and save them from further damage. Some of you are nodding your heads. Yes! This is what it means to be a good friend!
Part of the reason I felt this way, is because I was in one of those “what is she doing with him?” relationships. I dated him for over a year and it wasn’t until after we broke up that all my girlfriends came out of the woodwork to say, “you were majorly settling” or “he’s not even that great of a guy” or “no one could figure out why you were dating him.”
I was shocked. WHAT?! WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS BEFORE?! I wondered if my friends had spoken up, would have saved me a lot of emotional turmoil and pain? Perhaps I would have reconsidered the relationship and broken it off well before it got so messy. Or maybe I wouldn’t have listened to my friends and pushed them away out of resentment. I don’t know what I would have done, but I do remember being sad that no one spoke up until after it was all over.
However, the other part of my “you must intervene!” response was a savior complex. If I’m being brutally honest, I used to think that I could live my friends’ lives better than they could. I believed I could make better decisions than they could. Therefore, it was my job to help them live their lives.
Um hello! Do you hear how narcissistic that is?! It is not your job, as a good friend, to fix your friends’ lives or convince them to make certain decisions. Once I realized this, I swung to the other side of the pendulum.
It doesn’t pay to talk someone into or out of a big decision.
Chuck Swindoll said those words in a sermon a few years ago and I took it to heart. Never again, I committed. I will never again talk someone into or out of a big decision because I think I know better. It’s not worth it.
Well, God put me to the test when one of my best friends got engaged to a man that I knew with every fiber of my being was a bad choice. I was so confused. I knew I wasn’t responsible for her decisions, and couldn’t act as her savior, but I also couldn’t just sit back and watch her make one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
And this is when I decided there is fine line between taking responsibility for your friends’ lives and being a true friend who voices concern when necessary.
It’s always okay to ask questions.
This is where I start. If your friend has made a decision you think is a horrible idea, don’t just sit back and keep your mouth shut. However, you can’t just jump in and yell your opinion from the roof top either. Ask her questions to help her process her decision.
So y’all got back together. Tell me about that decision. Why do you think he’s changed? Do you think someone can truly change in just a few days? How is it going to be different this time? If our roles were reversed, what advice would you give me? How can I support you?
When asking friends questions, all you’re doing is asking. You don’t insert your opinion, unless asked. You ask questions to help her process. She may have great, smooth answers to all your questions. She may stutter on all of them. She may even get frustrated. But you’re just asking. Don’t worry about how she responds. The point is to offer her space to think through her decision. Those questions may lead to her processing more and more on her own. Usually, this will result in her asking, “Well what do you think?” This is when you weigh your words carefully.
I never want to talk a friend in or out of a decision but…
I do wonder if he’s changed. I wonder what it needs to look like from here on out, for you to really see that your relationship is better than it was. I want you to be with a man who is worthy of you, who adores you. I would love for it to be him, but I wonder if it is.
Here you get to voice your concern, but not in a judgmental or “I know better than you” way. You are voicing concern in a “I want what’s best for you” way and I’m here to support you. You’re not convincing her to breakup with him, but you’re also not totally keeping your mouth shut. However…
Sometimes you have to go on record.
Sometimes asking questions isn’t enough. In the case of my best friend heading into a tortured marriage, I started by asking questions. I moved to voicing concern without pressing my opinion. However, as we got closer and closer to the wedding day, I knew I had to tell her I thought she was making a mistake. I didn’t want her to come to me after 3 months of marriage and say “why didn’t you say something?! I was blind, but you could have warned me!” So I did. I told her that I loved her and would stand by her side on her wedding day no matter what, but that I thought she was making a huge mistake and rushing into a marriage that she wasn’t ready for. It didn’t surprise her, but she married him anyway. It broke my heart, but my conscience was clear. I couldn’t make the decision for her or force her to break the engagement, but I could go on record and be bold in asking her to consider her decision. Today, our friendship is still intact and her marriage isn’t. By going on record, I didn’t change how it all went down, but I do think I did what a true friend would do, which is speak the truth in love and stick by her no matter what.
So start by asking questions. See if you can’t help her think through her decision a bit more– she may come to the same conclusion you have on her own. Voice your concern if asked. I’ve learned that sharing your opinion when unsolicited is usually not helpful. But occasionally, we have to go on record. Out of love, we beg our friend to reconsider the path they are on. Ask God for wisdom and discernment in how to approach your friend.“My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.” (Proverbs 2:1–11, NLT)