Confrontation and giving advice. When we know our friends may be struggling with a problem, sin, or even an addiction, it’s never easy to offer helpful correction or give input. In fact, it is like trying to gift wrap a huge, awkwardly-shaped gift that our friend may not even appreciate at the time. You know they will benefit from it, but how do you make it presentable so they will gladly accept it? Even with examples laid out before us in Scripture, it is still difficult at times to know exactly what to do and say to get our friends or family to listen and really hear truth.
In the end, we know we can’t force a gift on anyone. No matter how valuable the gift of advice or confrontation, no matter how perfectly wrapped or perfectly timed, it still has to be received. We know that, according to Scripture, wise people accept this gift of advice and confrontation. We can see that even some marginally wise folks will accept it, although more care must be taken in the giving of it. We also know that the Bible says that a mark of a foolish person is that he will not accept advice (Proverbs 23:9).
A few preliminary thoughts first.
Silence means approval (Proverbs 17:15-17). Remember that you, as a friend or family member, must attempt to give this gift. You can’t stay silent and just hope things get better. You can’t be the buddy or friend and not be a godly friend.
Remember that advice and confrontation bring results (Proverbs 28:23). It may not be the immediate results you want; but if they accept, you have “gained a brother” (Matthew 18:15) and strengthened the relationship. If the result is rejection, you can begin to follow the advice God gives on dealing with those who are foolish.
So how do we wrap this gift of advice, wisdom, and / or confrontation?
There are some great “wrapping” instructions in the story of the prophet Nathan confronting David after his sin with Bathsheba. This story can be found in 1 Samuel 12:1-15.
1. Wrap your advice in a friendship of encouragement. If you are not careful about picking the battle you choose with your friends who are struggling, you’ll find yourself nagging instead of advising. What’s the difference? Nagging occurs when you find yourself constantly irritated with your friend and badgering them almost every time you’re with them. Advising happens when you pick your battles, letting some (maybe many) issues go while focusing on the biggest issues or the ones the Holy Spirit prompts you about first. Spend your time and energy trying to find the things you can praise in your friend’s life on a regular basis. He’ll be more open to the purposeful, planned confrontation if it is wrapped in a day-to-day flow of encouragement.
2. Wrap your advice in brotherly love and not harsh judgment. In other words, wrap it in humility, mercy, and grace, remembering your own journey, struggles, and failures along the way. Remember God’s mercy to you. Soft words turn away anger. Meditate on Proverbs 15:1. Learn to ask questions and not make accusations. Study 1 Corinthians 13 before confronting. Love hopes, love endures, is patient, kind, thinks the best whenever possible, and so on. If you are looking forward to pointing the finger and confronting, or if you are angry and frustrated, then wait.
3. Wrap your advice in facts. Nathan knew the facts when he confronted David. Don’t rely on hearsay, possibly false assumptions, or speculations. Trust your friend enough to believe the best and think no evil until the facts are evident. This doesn’t mean that you believe lies and don’t investigate, but make sure he knows you’ve given him the benefit of the doubt. Again, ask questions of your friend first before you simply make accusations. Even if you know the facts, give him the option to share them with you first. Remember, Proverbs says that there are often two sides to a story, and a wise person gets all the facts.
4. Give your gift with a wise sense of timing. The occasion must be God’s prompting, not your own angry outburst. Wait and pray for the right time. Here are a few thoughts: Talk privately; this type of gift is not best received in front of other family or friends. Honor his agenda if possible; if you are interrupting a ball game on TV or planned time with other friends, your gift of advice or confrontation takes a hit. Consider scheduling a time with them: “Hey, I have some things to talk with you about. When is a good time for you later today?” Along with this goes bathing the whole situation in prayer. Part of timing is giving the Holy Spirit time to work in your friend’s heart ahead of time, as well as yours (Proverbs18:13).
5. Wrap your gift with a healthy dose of Biblical Truth and Love.
“I’m tired of the way you’ve been treating your wife! I just about popped you the other day when you yelled at her at the restaurant. That better never happen again when I’m around. God will deal with people like you. I promise you!”
Instead, try something like:
“I’m concerned for you because the Bible says you should honor your wife; it gives promises for God’s grace in doing so. The Bible says in Ephesians that guys should love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. How do you think you’ve been doing in that area lately? I know it is an area that I’ve had to be careful in myself.”
Biblically, the key to solving strife (relational conflict) is humility and truth. This is well stated in Ephesians 4:15 as truth wrapped in love. Wrapping truth in love provokes thoughts of our heart motivations, because when we act in humility and love, we take attacking and offending out of the picture. We can then join with them in the discussion of truth. Biblical truth becomes the light in the situation and does the work of revealing the heart. With this approach, as a friend, you let the power of God’s Word, “sharper than any two edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) do its work. You are then more freed up to love and help them as they learn how to implement truth in their actions.
6. Wrap advice and confrontation with the wide red ribbon of forgiveness. Be ready to forgive before you confront if the offense was against you. After the confrontation and advising, forgive. Don’t keep bringing up the problem. Move on. If the offense was against someone else or against God alone, assure a repentant friend of God’s love and forgiveness as well. Make sure that during the confrontation, you don’t bring up past forgiven sins unless they are very pertinent to the current situation. If the advice is rejected, you as a friend can still keep a spirit of sweetness and readiness to forgive when your friend is brought to a place of repentance by God’s work in his life. This helps guard your own heart from getting vengeful and bitter and your conversations from being harsh and sarcastic.
7. Wrap the gift of confrontation or advice as well as the presentation of the gift in lots of love. Samuel affirmed love (II Samuel 12:25). Remember we referred to 1 Corinthians 13 earlier? Study this passage over and over when dealing with struggling friends or family. Love goes deeper than feelings and beyond feelings. You may not feel like loving him in any sort of way right now, but you can still act in love towards him according to the principles in 1 Corinthians 13. Assure your friend that you love him no matter what he does. You may not approve, you may have to even separate from him for a while, but let him never doubt your or God’s love for him.