Caring and meaningful relationships will involve opportunities to encourage and counsel others. Consider some practical guidelines for being a caring friend – especially when offering counsel to others.
1. Slow down and truly listen – sometimes we are too quick in offering counsel. Let someone finish explaining his or her situation before jumping in with advice. Ask thoughtful questions to better hear and understand what your friend is sharing. Answers won’t help if we don’t understand the actual problem. Sympathetic and discerning ears are key to caring for others.
- Proverbs 18:13 – “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
- James 1:19 – “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
- Proverbs 18:17 – “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”
- Proverbs 20:5 – “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”
- Proverbs 20:12 – “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.”
- Matthew 7:12 – ““So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
- Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
- (see also – Matthew 9:36;Philippians 2:3-5;Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16)
2. Care about the whole person – avoid the trap of being one-dimensional. Some feel that the best way to help is quoting Bible verses in response to what they hear. The risk here is treating someone as only a spiritual being in need of bible verses and feeling you’ve been a good friend for doing it. Respect that God created us multidimensional beings and our fallenness has damaged and complicated life on all dimensions. Don’t brush off emotional, psychological, and physical problems as only spiritual. Consider the following –
Three dimensions of life
- Physical beings with bodily needs
- Social beings with relationship needs
- Spiritual beings with spiritual needs
Three dimensions of personhood
- Intellect (mind, thoughts, imagination)
- Will (volition, decision-making)
- Emotions (affections, feelings)
3. Consider four keys to influence
- Develop a relationship of trust and respect
- Know the right time and place (avoid giving uninvited advice)
- Know how to say something (suggest, suggest…) Not – “You should…” or “You need to …” But – “I have found helpful… What has helped us…” “Scripture that has helped me think about this is…”
- Be humble and sympathetic (Hebrews 4:15)
4. Follow seven guidelines
- Give your friend a full line of moral credit as a responsible and culpable person (dignity and respect)
- Listen for the whole story (the story behind the story)
- Weigh the effects of each dimension of life and personhood
- Ask if they are weak or willful (Is encouragement or rebuke needed?)
- Expose false or unrealistic ways of thinking
- Provide truth to counter wrong thinking
- Map a path to life as it was meant to be – all dimensions in view.
5. Four callings for life together …
- Bear with one another – Ephesians 4:2 – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”
- Build up one another – Romans 14:19 -“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (building others up)”
- Accept one another – Romans 15:7 – “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
- Admonish one another – Romans 15:14 – “And concerning you, my brothers and sisters, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish (noutheteó) one another” (NASB).
6. Two principles for conflicts
- Confronting in love – Ephesians 4:15 “…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (see also – Matthew 18:15)
- Covering in love – I Peter 4:8 – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Proverbs 10:12 – “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
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