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A high degree of trust is needed between two people who desire to mature together. Because there is always something wrong in fallen relationships, there must be a willingness to be appropriately vulnerable, open, and honest with each other. These friends must create contexts of grace that permit each other to be free to reveal personal struggles. No two people can interact and engage with each other fully without this kind of perspective and agreement. Relating to each other comes with a risk, which begs these questions:
If we do not do these things, our relationships will experience limitations in proportion to the amount of truth we hide or in how we critique others. Mature reciprocal communication happens when both people are more self-critical while placing the other person’s well-being ahead of each other.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
I have experienced many counseling situations, where in a moment of openness, a spouse begins to share some of their darker struggles. The spouse believed that if their relationship prospered, it was necessary to reveal the hidden things. As hard as it is to share negative truths about yourself, it is equally hard to be mature enough to handle the truth shared. This second problem is why I warn the person hearing the negative truth about someone else.
Stewarding another person’s problems requires maturity. The receiver of the truth must be respectful and grace-filled enough to come alongside the other person for the mutual benefit of the relationship and God’s fame. There is a temptation to use newly learned truths about the other person. In the heat of a moment, the punitive person uses the previous vulnerability in an ungodly way. It’s grenade launching.
Illustrated: Shortly after a couple arrives home from counseling, the residual effect of their lousy marriage continues. Instead of the new bad news revealed during counseling being a breakthrough, it becomes more ammo for the punitive spouse. Launching a grenade at your spouse is never right, no matter what they have done to you. The grenade launcher attempts to hold the other person to a higher standard than Christ holds them.
If we have any righteousness, it is because the Lord gave it to us rather than being generated and sustained from our innate godliness. All holiness comes because of God’s favor. Holding someone to a level of righteousness we can’t maintain is wrong. Rather than penalizing our friends like an opponent in a war, we should cooperate with God by trying to help them overcome what hinders their sanctification. We have three options:
Set your friend free by praying, encouraging, and motivating them toward change. Rather than launching a grenade across the room, give them a hug and an encouraging word to lead them with your humility, honesty, and gospel-empowered hope.
As you think about a friend who does not admit wrong, I want you to ask yourself, “Am I willing to set aside my good desires for them so I can cooperate with the Lord to restore my difficult friend?” It isn’t sincere to expect the other person to be mature if we’re unwilling to be the mature one in the relationship. Asking someone to be or do what we’re not ready to do is not the way of the gospel.
Helpful Words: Matthew 7:3-5, Romans 5:8, Philippians 2:3-4, Galatians 6:1-2.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).