Today I’m going to begin by taking a little survey, and I want you to be honest:
Raise your hand if you watch The Hills. (Go ahead and raise it–I can’t see you)
Apparently The Hills is one of the top rated shows on television right now, and although I don’t watch it anymore, I used to very faithfully. It’s pretty addictive.
And for those of you who are in the dark, The Hills is a reality show that follows the lives of several young women in their early 20’s living in Los Angeles. Each of the girls featured on the show has subsequently become a celebrity in her own right, being featured in commercials and invited to A-list events. It’s quite a phenomenon.
The key storyline of this show surrounds the friendship between Lauren, the main character, and her best friend Heidi. The two were inseparable roommates doing life together. That is, until a boy entered the scene.
Heidi began dating a guy named Spencer, and Lauren did not approve. Lauren felt that Spencer didn’t respect Heidi and that he would hurt her, so she took a stand. As a result, their friendship disintegrated. Now, they are bitter enemies.
Now the reason this plot line came to my mind is that this weekend I was flipping through channels when I came to a “Deleted Scenes” show about The Hills. I watched for a few moments, and caught one scene in which Lauren confronts another friend, Audrina, about a guy that she’s dating. This guy is bad news as well, but Audrina doesn’t want to hear it. She’s gonna do what she’s gonna do, and she warns Lauren about “caring too much.” Sometimes that care can push people away.
As the camera cuts to Lauren, her face provides a not-so-subtle reminder that it was this same “caring too much” that pushed Heidi away.
Oh the drama!
Now as much as I hate to say it, The Hills provides us with a very important life lesson. It addresses a dilemma that we’ve all faced at some point or another–What do you do when your roommate, best friend or family member is dating someone you don’t like?
In the Christian world, this problem typically surfaces when a friend of ours starts dating a non-Christian, or has started dating someone under dishonorable circumstances. But how are we to respond?
There is a tendency in Christians to “call someone out,” but unless you have a history of this kind of interaction working, it rarely goes over well. On the contrary, it will usually result in defensiveness, and end up getting you nowhere.
So how do we get people to listen? It is here that James’ words in chapter 1 verse 9 are wonderful directives–“be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Don’t make snap judgments–you only reveal your naiveté about the temptations of sin. And don’t condemn the person they’re dating–that’s merely a back-door insult about their personal dating standards.
Instead listen, and find out why they chose this particular path. See if you can get to the root of the issue, and gently point out the misperceptions they may have about the situation. Sin is deceitful, so sometimes we need someone to help us see the pitfalls we may have missed ourselves.
If this doesn’t work, you should gradually become more firm. And at some point, you need to be point-blank honest with them.
However, honesty will not always result in a change, and that is the problem that Lauren ran into on The Hills. At some point, your friends are going to do what they are going to do, and you have to let them. That is one of the most frustrating life lessons I’ve ever had to learn–letting someone fall. Sometimes, this is the best thing you can do for someone, because some people only learn the hard way.
In these situations, your role is simple–stand back, pray for them, and be there for them when the relationship ultimately fails. Never say “I told you so.” Just love them.
This is especially hard for us control freaks. We’ll say that we’ve surrendered something into God’s hands, but we won’t act like it. We’ll keep bringing the issue up, beating a dead horse, and alienating our friends in the process.
And that is the greatest danger here–when you continually rebuke a friend who isn’t responding, you’re not only strengthening their obstinacy as you put them in the position of defending themselves, but you drive a wedge between your friendship. You double your losses.
So if you find yourself in this situation, or any situation in which a friend or loved one is caught on a path of sin or bad judgment, be honest with them. But then, give them over to God. It is not your responsibility to make people pursue Christ. You can encourage them and challenge them, but at some point a person is going to make their own decisions. How you love them in the fallout of those decisions will have the far greatest power to transform them.
*Final note–if your friend is in a relationship that is abusive, or if they are struggling with substance abuse or eating disorders or some other behavior that is blatantly self-destructive, the rules are slightly different. In some extreme circumstance, people need protection from themselves and you must do your best to help them find clinical help. In instances of suicidal actions, it’s appropriate and necessary to intervene with force. Also, in the event of persistent, unrepentant sin, church discipline is an important step to consider, so talk to one of your pastors about it.