Shows Main Idea – Do you have a friend who does not mind telling you what’s wrong with you but he never admits any of his personal mistakes? It is challenging to work through and sustain these kinds of “inequitable” relationships. In this podcast, I walk you through ten ways to respond to the friend who is more willing to admit your faults than his own.
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There is a high degree of trust needed between two people who desire to mature together. Because there is always something wrong in fallen relationships, it is imperative for them to be vulnerable, open, and honest with each other.
They must create contexts of grace that permit each other to be free to reveal personal struggles. Without this kind of understanding, no two people will be able to reconcile fully. Relating to each other comes with a risk, which begs these questions:
- Do you respond in wise, humble, and mature ways to the negative news about someone else?
- When you meet in a “discipleship” situation to resolve differences, are you willing to be as open about what is wrong with you as you are prepared to expose the other person?
If you do not do these things, your relationship will experience limitations in proportion to the amount of truth you keep hidden or in how you critique the other person.
Mature reciprocal communication happens when both people determine to be 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
- Are you a rival friend or a supporting friend?
- Whose interests are you most concerned about in your relationships?
I have experienced many counseling situations, wherein a moment of openness, a spouse begins to share some of his darker struggles. The person believed that if their relationship prospered, it was necessary to reveal the hidden things. It was the right thing to do.
As hard as it is to share the truth about yourself, it is equally hard to be mature enough to handle the truth shared. This second problem is why I give a warning to the person hearing the new 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.
I give this warning because there is a temptation to use newly learned “negative” truth about the other person. In the heat of a moment, the angry person uses the previous vulnerability in an ungodly way. I call this grenade launching.
Grenade Tossing Illustrated – Shortly after a couple arrives home from counseling, the residual effect of their bad marriage continues. Instead of the new “bad” news revealed during counseling being a breakthrough, it becomes more ammo for the immature.
Launching a grenade at your spouse is never right no matter what they have done to you. The grenade launcher is attempting to hold the other person to a higher standard than Christ holds anyone.
If you have any righteousness at all, it is because the Lord gave it to you rather than it being generated and sustained from your innate godliness. All holiness comes because of God’s favor.
It is wrong to hold someone to a level of righteousness that you can’t maintain yourself. Rather than penalizing your friend like an opponent in a war, you should cooperate with God by trying to help him overcome what hinders his sanctification. You have three options:
- You can expect him to be perfect, and then level your disappointment at him after he fails.
- You can dismiss his failures as though sin does not matter, which lets him continue to struggle.
- You can encourage him when he reveals failures and help him change (Galatians 6:1-2).
Set your friend free by praying, encouraging, and motivating him toward change. Rather than launching a grenade across the room, give him a hug and an encouraging word for leading in humility, honesty, and gospel-empowered hope.
Ten Tips When the Missiles Come
If your friend continues to launch grenades at you and is unwilling to own his part in the struggling relationship, here are ten things for you to consider. As you think about these things, I want you to ask yourself this question: Am I willing to set aside my good desires for him so I can cooperate with the Lord in the restoration of my difficult friend?
Apply these Scriptures to yourself:
- Matthew 7:3-5
- Romans 5:8
- Philippians 2:3-4
- Galatians 6:1-2
It is hypocritical to expect the other person to be mature if you’re not willing to be the mature one in the relationship. Asking someone to be or do what you’re not ready to do is not the way of the gospel.
- Self-righteousness – Some people are compelled to elevate themselves above others.
- Self-protection – The person is afraid to admit wrong. Their fear is the heart motive for their external self-righteousness.
- Fear – Maybe they are afraid to tell you the truth. Ask yourself if you are a safe person to receive negative truth from them.
- Judgment – It is not their experience to be open. Perhaps they come from punitive religious cultures: truth-telling equals harsh responses.
- Competition – The other person is competing with you. For whatever reason, they want to keep an advantage over you.
- Hidden Sin – The temptation to cover sin is strong no matter how open you think they should be.
- Guilt/shame Complex – A child reared by an angry dad, for example, will be captivated by shame and guilt. It motivates them to keep their sins hidden.
- Your Maturity – A person’s lack of self-disclosure is your opportunity to reveal the gospel (Romans 5:8).
- Your Self-righteousness – Do you map your experience with God over others? It is a form of self-righteousness to expect them to live out Christ the way you do.
- Your Idols – The person who disappoints you reveal the authentic condition of your heart. Two excellent diagnostic questions are: (1) When I do not get what I want, how do I respond? (2) What does my response reveal about my heart?
Your best call to action is for you to find a friend to help you mature through your immature relationship. Perhaps the Lord has this kind of person in your life to help in your journey to Christlikeness. If you are sinning in response to your immature friend’s sin against you, it is a clue: You are not as mature as you think you are.