Q: How do I help my friend do what’s right? She is dating a guy behind her parents’ backs, and I know he isn’t a good influence on her. She asks me for advice, but then doesn’t agree with what I tell her anyway. How can I make her understand?
If I ever find Aladdin’s famous lamp (the one with the big, blue genie), I’m pretty sure I’ll end up using all three of my wishes making other people do what I know they should do! Lol! It’s SO HARD to watch someone we care about make decisions we know are going to bring a whole-heck-of-a-lot-of heartache later on, isn’t it?
No magic lamps or wishes here, but I do have a few tips for what you can (and can’t) do to help:
- Offer wise advice when you’re able to. Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume.” You don’t have to be preachy, or hit anyone over the head with a beefy Bible. Usually advice is best received when it is paired with twenty times as much listening and “being there” as actual advice!
- Pray. God listens. Even if you don’t see the results you’re hoping for, keep on praying.
- Separate yourself from the other person. Internalizing someone else’s bad choices—taking them on as our own—is so dangerous emotionally. As much as we want to be there for the other person, we still need healthy separation from their “stuff.” We’ll help them best when we have a clear head by keeping a little emotional distance from their choices.
- Enlist help if necessary. If your friend is in danger—or is putting someone else in danger—you need to tell someone, even if it is a “violation of trust.” Yes, she might be pretty ticked at you, but “wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). Hopefully she will eventually see that you were doing the most loving thing you could.
- Recognize that they have free will. I think this might be the hardest one to do. At the end of the day, God has given each of us the freedom to make our own choices. We don’t get to do it for each other, as much as we’d sometimes like to! But that takes some of the pressure off, too. Because that person is responsible for their choices, not you. Make sure you’re not acting or feeling like the buck stops with you.
- Remember that they have a personal story with God, just like you do. Each of us has an individual life story. Sometimes the twists, turns and deepest heartaches in those pages are what make the final redemption so meaningful. You never know what the last page of their life will say, or how these crazy hard times will actually make the finished story all the more beautiful.
- Keep loving. First Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” No matter how bleak it looks, no matter how many times you thought they were going to pull it together but then didn’t, never stop loving, hoping and believing that the best is yet to come.
When someone you care about is acting like she put her brain on ice, these tips are hard to live out—I know! But I hope they will give you something to hold onto today. And remember:
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17)
Even though it might feel like your good advice or caring effort is completely lost on your friend, no “sharpening” is ever wasted.
In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. (Proverbs 28:23)
You never know what God might use to bring her around. And how cool would it be to be part of that?