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Ep. 494 Help Me Help My Difficult Relative

Ep. 58 Help Me Help My Difficult Relative

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Shows Main Idea – Do you have a problematic relative or friend you may need to confront? Many of us do have challenging friends and relatives because our mutual fallenness can rub each other the wrong way. Strangers on the train can engage for a quick second and disembark at the next stop, but when you interact with someone year in and out, there will be problems. Let me share ten thoughts I gave a friend struggling to be at peace with a relative.

Show Notes

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Member Question

Hey Rick, We have a relative who is a substance abuser and does not listen to us when we speak into her life. Recently, she has come to us for help. I’m unsure if she is a Christian, though she attends a local church. At best, our relationship has been adversarial through the years.

With the holidays coming, we will be meeting with her again. And she will be asking for a handout, which is the typical pattern. What is your advice for this person? We want to care for her, but she is typically angry with us unless she wants something. Any help with our relative would be appreciated. Thank you! – Supporting Member

Preliminary Thoughts

  • Customize this episode to your unique situation: What I will give you is not a one-size-fits-all process that applies to everyone perfectly.
  • Please filter what I am sharing with you through God’s Word. I’m providing possibilities, but God’s Word is more directive.
  • Talk to a trusted friend who knows you, is competent in God’s Word, and will honestly share their thoughts with you.
  • Listen to your conscience. If your inner voice and God’s Word are pitch-perfect, you cannot sin against your conscience.

Ten Considerations

#1: Prepare Your Heart: Guard your heart against unmet expectations. You are hurt. You must adjust your heart before you confront your relative. What is your affection level for her? Never confront anyone with whom you are unwilling to respect, even if your respect only considers the Imago Dei. You may not have pure love, like, affection, or respect for her, but you must have more of a love-your-enemy attitude than frustration. Perhaps this is not the season to confront. It takes time to replace frustration with an Imago Dei attitude for a difficult person; it’s not an amputate-able issue.

#2: Find Your Starting Point: Is she saved? I’m not asking if she says she is born again but does she manifest the authentic fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Please step back and observe the fruit in her life. What do you see? How would you make your case to Jesus, convincing Him that she is a Christian? You must know where to begin with her, not where she says she is or where you wish she were.

#3 – Know the Dividing Line: Don’t confuse being a relative with how you relate to her. The only dividing line that matters is always those who do God’s will and those who don’t. Being a relative may cloud your judgment, but discerning if she is doing God’s will or not is clearer, regardless of blood kin.

#4 – Look For Clues: Look at the fruit in her life. Is she characterized by anxiety, worry, bitterness, criticalness, gossip, anger, cynicism, substance abuse, time and money waste, no vision or passion for Christ, and hopelessness? Or is she characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? You are not judging her; it’s discerning the kind of person that she is.

#5 – Determine Spiritual Influences: Does she belong to a local church, and what kind is it? How is this church engaging her, helping her? Who speaks into her life? Who is she submitted to? Who are the primary influencers in her life?

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#6 – What Helps Best: Will you practically help her, or are you perpetuating her addiction? Sometimes, you want to help even though you know getting her through a hard spot will not make her a better person. You have three choices here:

  • Don’t help her at all.
  • Help her through the tough spot even though she is using you. This option may maintain the connection, providing a better opportunity in the future to be redemptive, i.e., some premarital counseling situations. The prodigal’s dad helped his son, though the child was using him.
  • Help her because she is genuine and wants to change.

#7 – Pattern or Episode: Distinguish between a pattern of living versus an episode. What characterizes her? Is she always a problem person, or is this a unique, rarely repeated situation that she finds herself in? If it’s a pattern of living, then you’ll probably have to confront her.

#8 – Pray For Her End: Ask the Father to bring her to the end of herself. Like the prodigal son, your best hope is if she face-plants in the hog lot of her life, which could bring her to her senses. Read Luke 15:17.

#9 – Talk With a Friend: Find someone who will confront you about any potential wrong attitudes. This friend must also help you work through any false guilt. You don’t need a rubber-stamping friend who will not look you in the eye and speak about these things.

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#10 – Plan to Confront Her: Based on what you’ve said, you’ll probably have a come-to-Jesus meeting with her. If you do this, here are four things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t confront people you dislike or are not trying hard to love. You won’t be able to love her ideally, but you must be working at it.
  • Understand that eternal consequences are far worse than temporal ones: Don’t let your fear of their reaction inhibit you from cooperating with the Lord about her eternal destination.
  • Make it a three-part confrontation: I love you, I’m confronting you, and I love you.
  • Never hit and run. Be sure to follow up later, affirming your love for her.

Final Pro Tip: When making decisions about confronting someone or creating consequences for bad behavior, you must keep God in your view not fear of future outcomes if she fails what you have stipulated. Sometimes, a person will not lay down consequential outcomes because they are afraid they might have to enact them.

In such cases, the object in the telescope is not the Lord but future worry. Thus, they become squeamish about doing the hard thing because they are mini-messiahs, trying to control the outcome by creating a soft landing for the wayward soul. You make the decision with faith in God, regardless of the outcome.

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