When a Friend Messes Up
- Be humble. Before we talk to anyone about their sin, we must recognize our own sinfulness—that we are just as capable of doing the same things and worse.
- Offer to help. Be willing to help your friend through their struggle. Don't confront if you're not willing to say, "I want to help you get through this. I want to pray with you and for you, and do whatever I can to help you get on track."
What Happens Next?
When you confront a friend, there are generally three possible reactions:
- Thankfulness and repentance. They could be grateful for your actions and begin to make changes. If so, your friend will be on the road to right living, and your friendship will likely be strengthened.
- Acceptance, but continual struggle. They might agree that you're right and desire change, but they continue to struggle with their sin. You'll still need to offer support—prayer, a listening ear, constant encouragement. And you might point your friend to someone better equipped to help—like a youth leader or a counselor.
- Rejection or denial. They could reject your concerns or refuse to admit there's a problem. If so, your friendship will change. Continue reaching out to your friend, but with caution, leaving enough distance so you aren't pulled into sin as well. For a friend who refuses to change, Matthew 18 advises us to "treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector" (verse 17). That doesn't mean you should stop being a friend. But they certainly shouldn't be allowed to continue in any kind of leadership role.
What Friendship Means
I don't like the way things turned out with Bekah. When she chose to keep drinking and partying, our friendship changed. Before, we had been almost inseparable, but now she started making plans without me. Before, we had talked about everything, but now our conversations were superficial because Bekah didn't want to tell me much about her life.
When we left for different colleges, I wondered what would happen to our friendship. The first year, we kept in touch sporadically. But nothing changed in her life, and we ended up drifting even farther apart.
I still talk to Bekah occasionally, mainly to let her know I still care. I also pray for her, asking God to show her she's settling for so much less than what he has for her.
I sometimes wonder if things would be different if I hadn't said anything to Bekah that day. I wonder if we'd still be good friends. But then I think about what it means to be a friend, and I realize that I couldn't call myself one if I had remained silent.
I hope one day Bekah will see that.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Campus Life magazine.
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