Some time ago, my husband and I had a conversation with a man (I’ll call him Jim) whose wife had left him several years prior. She hadn’t acted honorably in the matter and Jim had been completely blindsided. As he shared some of the story with us, he recalled a conversation he’d had with a friend shortly after the divorce.
Jim expressed to his friend how unsuspecting he had been and how stunned and bewildered he was to learn that things had gone so wrong.
His friend responded with, “Well…actually…I sorta saw it coming.” Said friend then proceeded to list a few of the areas where Jim’s interpersonal skills were most lacking.
Upon hearing this, Jim thought, “You knew I was behaving in ways that were destructive to my most sacred relationships—and you sat on that information?!”
How sad —and how well said.
We need accountability. We simply aren’t always that honest or perceptive on our own. We’ve got to be willing to both give and receive loving correction.
But this is hard—from either angle.
The concept that I’m not perfect is fine with me. I get it. I can happily and humbly talk of past failures and how I’ve overcome them. But, oh the walls that go up if someone presumes to confront or challenge the way my current self is living or thinking. That’s personal. That’s uncomfortable. That’s vulnerable. And worst of all—it might not be flattering!
It’s so hard to hear, and even harder to really consider that I may be doing something ugly, unwise, or destructive.
But if I am, isn’t it worth the discomfort of being open enough to weigh the possibility?
Some of my greatest growth, some of my greatest rescues from destructive and crippling behaviors have been the result of honest and loving correction from people I trust. People who love me enough that they are willing to fight for me (and if necessary, with me a little)—in order to help me be more for my God and more for the people in my life.
The reason I’m not that lady who compulsively gossips, habitually manipulates, or embraces fear as a lifestyle is not that I never go down those roads. Believe me—I court those things more often than I care to say. But those things do not define my relationships because there are people who love me enough to be honest and intervene—and sometimes I swallow my pride and listen.
As hard as it is to invite and take advantage of constructive criticism, it also requires a great deal of courage to be the one offering it. What if they don’t receive it and the relationship is damaged? What if I just make them angry or really hurt their feelings? What if I seem like a jerk? What if I’m wrong?
Those are all valid questions. Wisdom is required if we are going to hold one another accountable to right living. However, love never watched a friend, a spouse, a brother, or a sister walk into a nest of vipers without warning them—for the sake of avoiding confrontation. And no one who saw that their friend was about to drink deadly poison would refrain from telling them in order to avoid appearing judgmental.
If we have the ability to serve those around us by challenging and encouraging them to grow, to improve their relationships, to embrace their identity as children of God, to offer more of themselves to him, to serve their fellow man better, or to avoid dangerous and destructive behaviors, don’t we have the responsibility to do so? What objections could possibly outweigh such a great and weighty opportunity?
We weren’t meant to do this following God thing solo. I need to recognize that I need you—and that you need me. And then I need to live like that’s true.
Hebrews 3:13 (NASB)
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.