I speak without fully listening. I interrupt frequently. I dominate conversations. People are intimidated by me. I am hypercritical. How do I know these things? My friends and family told me.
While none of the above messages was pleasant to hear, they have all been essential to my personal growth. They helped me identify my faults, understand the responses of others and grow as a person. If my friends had not cared enough to speak up, if they had simply “loved me for who I was” I would not be the person I am today.
It seems to me that although friends such as these are invaluable they are a vanishing breed. Most people seek out friends who validate and affirm, not friends who challenge and exhort, and our society is suffering as a result.
Not every feeling we have is healthy and not every desire should be fulfilled. It is our friends and family who can lovingly correct is when we wander, who can remind us that “being true to ourselves” is nowhere near as important as being true to our God.
Part of the reason such exhortations are increasingly rare is due to an incorrect understanding of judgment. If there is one scripture even atheists can quote it is “Judge not, lest you also be judged.” Jesus’ was teaching that we should not condemn others and reminding us that we would all be judged one day. What is overlooked in applying His words is that he also taught his followers to follow God’s law and that sin should be addressed. Avoiding condemnation is good, ignoring and accepting sin is not.
Distaste for judgment has become dominant and moral relativism has become the norm. As a result increasingly strange behaviors are becoming common place. Infidelity and sexual deviancy are so common as to be expected and embraced. No one speaks out anymore, no one stands for goodness. If anyone dares make a stand they are labeled as a hateful bigot.
The truth is that all human beings are broken and dysfunctional in one way or another and all of us have feelings and desires that are selfish and harmful. If we do not have people in our lives who love us enough to point out where we need to change and grow, we will do neither.
Let us pray that God will bless us with friends who care enough to correct us and that we will be true friends to those we love.
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