How to Confront a Friend

Erin Davis 09/06/09 | Twitter: @ErinGraffiti
Category: Relationships ; 19 comments

rams butting headsWe've spent the past two days exploring when to confront a friend. I hope you've come to the conclusion that confrontation isn't something we should rush toward. God's Word gives us clear guidance about when confrontation is wise and how to prepare our own hearts before choosing to confront.

But if confrontation is necessary, how should we proceed? During my research for this post, I was amazed to realize just how much guidance is offered on this issue through God's Word. God clearly knows that relationships can get messy, and He graciously gives us clear instructions for how to confront our Christian brothers and sisters.

Here are five guidelines taken from Scripture to use when confronting someone you love.

Make sure it matters
When it comes to relationships, the stakes are simply too high to use confrontation without caution. That's why I spent so much time outlining the biblical evidence for when to confront. Honestly, I was more interested in subtly pointing you toward discovering when not to confront your friends. Some fights are simply best left unfought.

Second Timothy 2:23 puts it this way: "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."

Did Paul say it clearly enough? If not, famous western author Louis L'Amour said it this way: "Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut." Paul and Louis are making the same point. There are some words, especially those that have the potential to be hurtful or cause arguments, that are best left unspoken.

If you're not sure how to know if a confrontation is worth it, check out point #2.

Pray before you confront
Girls come to me all the time wondering how to handle a difficult situation with a friend. I usually ask, "Have you prayed about it?" They look down, shuffle their feet, and usually say something like, "Yeah ... uh ... a little," or "No, not really."

Praying about a potential conflict may seem like a simple solution to a complex problem. But prayer has power that our words to each other never will.

Let's revisit James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Prayer leads to healing, and God's Word promises that our prayers have power to effect change. Don't head into confrontation without blanketing that conflict in prayer.

Follow the Matthew 18 model
Matthew 18:15–17 says, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

After carefully considering the issue and praying through it, if it remains clear that there is sin in your friend's life worth confronting, follow these steps.
  1. Go to your friend one-on-one, and talk through the issue privately.
  2. If she does not listen, go back with the help of one or two additional Christian friends.
  3. If she does not listen, enlist the help of a church leader. Your pastor or youth pastor are the most logical participants in this step.
  4. If she does not listen, put some distance in the relationship. Did Jesus love pagans and tax collectors? You betcha! (In fact, He still does.) Did He shun them and have nothing to do with them? Nope, but they weren't His BFF's. If you've followed the steps presented in Matthew 18 and your friend continues to hold on to her sin, some space would be wise. But I would encourage you to continue to pray for her to change her life and repent.

That's enough to chew on today. I'll wrap up this conversation in tomorrow's post. Be sure to check back then to see the final two guidelines for how to confront a friend.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Have you ever confronted a friend? Did you do it well or not? In hindsight, what mistakes can you see that you made? What advice would you give other readers who are considering confronting a friend? 

Comments

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate.

    Godslittlecowgirl
    how to do it...
    on Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 5:38 am
    I think one of the most important things we can do as friends is make sure that what ever we are thinking about saying is going to be healthy for the other person/s concerned, and that we are not do this out of a selfish heart.Of course you need to pray about it too.
    Heather
    Re:
    on Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 8:08 am
    If you confront your friend with one or two other people on your side, wouldn't that friend feel like she's being attacked? Put on the spot? I have a friend who is prone to lying. Big time. One of our friends confronted her about her problem in private, but she never stopped lying. So that same friend came to me and asked if I and a third friend would confront her in a group. I didn't take part in that. I didn't want my friend to feel embarrassed or attacked. So my friend (the not lying one) confronted her again, by herself. She still lies...3 years later.
    Courtney B
    Confronting
    on Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 10:20 am
    My friend on my cross country team let me read an essay she wrote about something that changed her life. She wrote about her love of Gymnastics, and the injuries that made her have to quit gymnastics. She said that this made her stop believing in God, because if there was a God, she says that he wouldn't have allowed that to happen. She has a lot of hatred in her for God, and it made me super sad to read that. I am planning on talking to her about it on Wed(when we go back to school) and tell her that Everything happens for a reason. God had a different plan for her life, and if he hadn't, she wouldn't know any of us on the cross country team, she wouldn't have her boyfriend(she met him on the cross country team), and her life just wouldn't be the same. Does this sound ok or do you think that I'm coming on too strong?
    Brandie
    My BFF
    on Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 2:35 pm
    My best friend isn't a christian and I have been trying to share God with her but she is so set in her ways she doesn't listen to what I have to say. I don't want her to have her back turned on God, but I don't know how I can talk to her about anything now. I want to still be her friend but I feel like God is telling me I did all I could do and just to leave it to him, but I don't want to let her go. What do I do then?
    Bethanyrb
    Heather - lying
    on Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm
    I wanted to share a story with you that happened with me. I had a friend that lied a lot. Most of the time he'd say he was kidding but it got to a point where I couldn't believe anything he said, "kidding" or not!

    One day I told him that the kidding had turned into lying and I was going to show him some Bible verses about lying. I made a list of references and he looked them all up.

    He stopped lying for a long time and if he ever said anything that I wasn't sure was true or not I'd just ask "do you need more verses?" He'd answer "no, I don't." I didn't ask very often so as to not annoy him. But I wanted him to know he could NOT get away with lying. It's a serious issue.

    However, some people are able to receive victory over sin and not return to it. Others, fall back into it. My friend did this. The interesting thing is: I haven't caught him lying to ME yet. He lies to other friends and relatives, but not to me.

    I'd like to encourage you to pray seriously for your friend who lies. Pray fervently, pray scripturally, pray often.
    God's servant
    Courtney
    on Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 6:32 pm
    Courtney I don't think you are coming on too strong at all. I did notice one thing you might not have in your post. Your friend seems to be absest with gymnastics. Like that was her priority over God . You might add when you confront her that God is a jealous God and he may have stopp gymnastics so He could be #1 in your friends life.
    SmileeGal
    :-) Godly advice please...
    on Monday, September 14, 2009 at 8:35 am
    Hi, thank you so much Erin for posting this, its exactly what I need. I was wondering if anyone could give me a little advice on a subject that is causing me a bit of pain and lots of thought and prayers. Alot of the things Erin has pointed out to do I have already done, such as praying heaps, being gentle and thoughtful etc..

    If anyone has had this happen to them..and can give Godly advice it would be appreciated! I have a best friend, well sort of, we were very very close last year, and earlier this year... but a few things really changed in her life. I was there for her through alot of tears and pain end of last year when alot of stuff with her family fell apart, and just listening and caring when she didn't have anyone else. Then she started going to a highschool instead of homeschool, and alot of the worldly stuff started.

    (I am finished yr 12, and am studying for a career, but I was homeschooled too) We talked about the purity subject alot, and I made a life decision to wait for God's man for me, keep my thoughts, body and life pure and in the meantime focus on God.


    This means for me not even having any guys that are close friends, and not giggling and being silly about boys, which just tempts myself. I thought she was committed to the same.
    I thought my bff wanted to be pure too, but then she started getting really serious with a guy. I saw it happening from the very start, and I warned her about getting involved, and how she was disobeying her mum.

    It hurt me alot, and I shed so many tears, and even though that thing with that boy is all over now, because her mum put a stop to it, she has become distant from me.

    She never asks me questions about myself or my life, and whenever I talk to her I feel either inadequate compared to her cool school friends and busy life, or just annoyed because I am trying so hard to be a good friend but still stay true to my committments of purity, yet she giggles about boys etc.

    Anyway...I'm not sure what to do, I have told her I fully disagree with the whole boy thing, and that God wants her to be pure and all she has to do is flee from the temptation, doesn't mean it won't be there, but it means she won't be lead into sin. She knows my stance on it all, yet she still parades this worldliness in my face. I don't like this influence, I need to be as strong as I can, its not easy keeping my promise, but I have to, for God and myself, the treasures that will come from being patient.


    I am praying so much...but I don't know how to help this.

    She maintains we are the best of friends, that is what is so hard, she doesn't see her HUGE change.
    Any words of Godly advice would be welcome.
    Sorry if this is long, I have been known to talk too much!

    Thank you Erin and everyone else at LYWB, may God bless you all for the wisdom you share and the Godly impact it has on all our lives.

    SmileeGal
    Anonymous
    Re:
    on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm
    I have a friend that likes to talk about other peoples backs all the time, and just yesterday i found out that she was talking about me... wat should i do? I've been praying for her but i just can't seem to get to her. She and i have been friends for a long time, i never really thought how much gossip hurts. I tried confronting her but all she seems to do is nod her head. I know she isn't really listening to me, she dose that when her dad talks to her. Yeah should i give up or keep trying (5 years)
    Erin Davis
    Anonymous
    on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 4:01 pm
    You're right. Gossip certainly is painful, especially if you're the target. My advise is to keep praying. Relationship problems are rarely solved overnight. Keep asking God to change her heart and yours if necessary and trust him for the results.

    I certainly don't think you need to trash the friendship, but consider giving it some distance. Rumors almost always die down when the fires aren't stoked. Maybe try spending more time with more trustworthy friends and wait for her to come to you. And...keep praying!

    erin
    Carly
    Confronting "not so" friends....
    on Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 1:05 am
    All through Elementary school (1st-5th) i really struggled with like 5 kids in my class. we would fight back and forth. This boy would call me "maggot" (b/c i am short) and i would always go home crying. I acted up at them too i was a part. But I would try to confront them but i would always make a fool of myself. Only b/c they would insult me and i would snap right back and try to insult then but I would make a fool of myself. So if you are going to confront someone make sure to think of what you are going to say before you do it. Think it over, is this the right thing to say? Have a great night/day. Carly
    Chelsea
    Dont know if this is off subject or on subject but im gonna say :)
    on Monday, September 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm
    I have 2 friends that are being VERY mean to mean....well here: I ment amy though emily and i started to go to know amy she was VERY NICE, Good christian, postive,etc. well Emily started to say ooo ur gonna talk behind my back, ditch me, etc. i said no why would i do that ur one of my best friends just cuz i have a new friend doesnt mean i will forget u.....well Emily Ment Katie though Me...they got to know each other it was FINE with me in fact it was GREAT with me......then i started getting to know Samatha she was soo nice and some one i would want to get to know well i did :)) Katie goes to my school and Samatha. Emily and Amy went to a different school. Well Kaite Became VERY VERY jelious...... i guess me having new friends,etc. so then Katie Drags Emily into this whole being jelious of me having new friends, thinking i am happyer with my new friends, forgot my old friends,etc. i invited Katie over ALOT befor all this happend and i saw Emily 2-3 days a week and txted her every day and know Emily and katie are trying to me jelious of them getting to gether....etc they are trying to get me jelious cuz they txt me everytime they are at each others house. put as there facebook status that they are going to each others house saying they r best friends when they only knew each other for not that long..they are leaving me out...Talking behind my back.... and Katie is tellling emily (i have known emily since 2nd grade) that i am being mean to her when i know im not cuz i ask my mom EVERYTIME what to say to them and its MOST DEFINATLY NOT MEAN but Emily believes that im being mean to katie when im not :( and emily should know im not cuz katie has gotten mad at me befor like this 1000000 times and she has always been on my side! ( hope all ths makes sense) and i need help can u guys give me some advice ????>?>
    Haley
    Re:
    on Friday, October 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm
    Hola everyone,
    I hate confrontations, and usually i try to avoid them... i just confronted my friend though because i thought she needed a wake up call. At summer camp, she gave her heart to God and i was so happy for her!! bu as soon as school hit, were in tenth grade, she just regressed. Cursing, and just not trying too live better. I got sick of it and i just confronted her, but i think shes mad at me. help. :(
    Ashley
    Afraid and Annoyed
    on Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm
    Every time I try to confront my firends, I freak out and I hope they don't get made at me. I have hard time confronting friends. I once got in an argument with my best friend over sin. She told me she didn't care. She was annoyed. I am afraid to confront my friends sometimes because they get annoyed. I know I shouldn't necessarily give up and i don't. I know dropping them as friends might be the answer but I feel like if I be persistent they will come to God.
    Any advice on how to confront friends who don't care and/or believe certain things or think religion is just stupid?
    lauren
    peer pressure
    on Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm
    Why doesent god help me in my english class everyone hates me why help please
    hoodies<3
    Re: Lauren
    on Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm
    Hey Lauren.... can you specify? Are you having peer pressure issues in your English class? Or something else? I would love to try to help...
    In Christ~ <3
    Erin Davis
    Lauren
    on Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm
    Hey, girl. It sounds like you are having a rough time at school. It is hard for me to say too much without having more information. But I want you to know that God does help, even when it doesn't come when or how we would like it to.

    Psalm 9:9 says, "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."

    I want to encourage you to trust His Word more than your feelings.

    I'm in your corner,

    Erin
    Anne
    I need some advice!!!
    on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm
    I used to have a best friend from my toddler years to about fourth grade. Well ..... we just grew slowly and slowy apart even though we're still in the same church and school these past years and also right now. I am a christian and she is too. And right now joining the youth group, as a 14 year old girl, I just don't welcomed into the 8th grade girls group and I felt like my old best friend doesn't even want me to be there. I am trying to figure out a way to overcome ignoring her and not talking to her. I felt like she just hates me. And when my parents and her parents try to get us to talk to each other, it just doesn't work. She is also in my 8th grade group also and she makes a lot of friends there. I need some advice on how to get to talk to her and apologize to her about our friendship.
    Erin Davis
    Anne
    on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:51 am
    Have you read "Lies Young Women Believe?" There is a lot of great advice about friendships in that book.

    When I have need to apologize to someone and am finding it tough to do so, I like to write it out in a letter. Then, wait while the person reads the letter and talk about it when she's done. This helps me communicate my thoughts clearly. You might give it a try.

    Erin
    Anonymous
    Rushing into confrontation...
    on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm
    I wish I would of read this earlier. I just figured out that I'm one of those people who rushes into confrontation and I know now that it's not the best way. I ended a friendship at the wrong time because it made it seem like I chose someone over her and it made it seem like I didn't care. It was a horrible way to end a friendship! So, I really messed up with that, but I will learn and I now know how confront someone. I hope someday I will be able to confront my friend correctly and explain to her what really happened. If there's anything I learned today its not to rush into confrontation.

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