Lately I’ve been haunted by the reality and necessity of confrontation in true friendship.
I put a lot of equity in friendship. I pay it a lot of lip service. I have always been fiercely protective and loyal to handful of friends in my life who are as family to me as family. The problem I’m having these days is this:
I hate conflict. I like for people to like me. I like for people to be happy.
Except none of those things have anything to do with love, really.
I love my daughters. I don’t want to fight with them. I want them to like me. I want for them to be happy.
Yet, if I see them doing something wrong, I correct them almost instinctively. I don’t want Lucy to burn her hand on the stove if I can help it. I don’t want Penny to run out into the road. I love them enough and am secure enough in my relationship with them to care more about their own well-being than their opinion of me or even their own immediate happiness.
I love my husband. I don’t enjoy fighting with him. I want him to like me and my company. I want him to be a happy man. But if he is doing something destructive to himself or to me, I tell him. (Okay, let’s be honest. Sometimes that’s even hard for me in the safe confines of the covenant of marriage, but usually doable because I know he isn’t going anywhere.)
The conviction comes when I watch friends- men & women whom I deeply love- make poor choices or believe lies or run buck wild and I sit quietly and politely in my ringside seat.
I want to be the supportive, easy, encouraging friend. I want to tell you to chase your dreams, find yourself, do it your way, go for it. I want to believe that what you want is what is best for you, simply because it’s what you want. I want to believe it will all work out for the best and that you can’t screw it up too badly.
Except none of those wants have anything to do with love, really.
Real love not only warns you when you are out of your depth, it comes to get you when you are over your head and don’t even know it.
It says “Please stop doing that. You are going to get hurt.”
It says “I love you, but you are making a mistake here.”
It says “Your personal choices aren’t made in a vacuum.”
It says “That’s a bad idea.”
It says “That doesn’t sound like the Lord to me.”
The circumstances are endless. The loving confrontation in any scenario has to come from a place of tenderness and compassion and assuming the best of someone.
To quote singer-songerwriter Derek Webb, “It’s not right or safe to let your conscience down.”
It’s not right or safe to let your friends down because you couldn’t bring yourself to say what they needed to hear.
I Corinthians 13 is always quoted in weddings and marriage books but was never intended to have such a narrow purpose. It applies to our friendships, to our fellowship, as well. And if it’s true that love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things then surely hard conversations and potential risky confrontations are covered under “all.” Surely.
That’s what I’m choosing to believe, anyway. That’s what I’ll stand on and remind myself of before picking up the phone or stepping into the restaurant or opening my door. I’ll choose to trust that the Lord will go before me.
I’ll choose doing what is best for my friends over what is easiest for me, because that’s what love does.