Every day in my counseling practice, I talk with hurting people. Husbands fail to love their wives. Wives hurt their husbands. Friends disappoint one another. Sometimes, getting along with others is a difficult process.
Yet, Jesus said that we’re to be known by our extravagant love for one another. We are to forbear with one another’s weaknesses because we all stumble in many ways. Jesus commands us to love, even our enemies, and to forgive those who mistreat and hurt us.
But, how do we balance these biblical truths with others that tell us to speak the truth in love, confront sin, and admonish the unruly? It isn’t always clear when we should be patient with another’s weaknesses or confront someone directly. Below are three questions to ask yourself to help determine when speaking up may be appropriate.
1. Does the matter dishonor God?
In the Bible, there is a story about Queen Esther discovering the wicked plan of Haman to exterminate all of the Jews. Esther realized that it was not a time to forbear, but to speak out. Yet, she didn’t do it rashly, but prayerfully and thoughtfully. (Read the OT book of Esther for the full story). She was afraid, but she knew she had to confront. For more verses, look up 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 1 Corinthians 5:11,12, and Romans 2:19-24.
2. Does the matter hurt the other person?
If you want to be a faithful friend, it’s important to speak up when you observe someone caught in a harmful habit. But, bring up the issue gently. For instance, do you have a friend who is flirting with disaster, such as an affair, drugs, or abusing alcohol?
Many of my clients have told me that they wished someone would have lovingly warned them before they fell of the cliff. God’s Word urges us to verbally encourage each other so that we don’t become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For verses, read Hebrews 3:12,13, James 5:19-20 and Galatians 6:1.
3. Does the matter damage your relationship?
When someone repeatedly or grievously sins against you, it’s not the time for forbearance, but for talking. The Bible says in Matthew 5 and l8 that if someone has sinned against you, or if you have something against another person, then you are to go and make peace first. Sometimes, your relationship has been hurt or damaged by something someone has done. You can’t just forbear or forgive. Even if you’ve tried, you can’t let it go. Therefore, it’s important to talk about it before your relationship deteriorates any further. For more insight, see Matthew 5:23, Matthew 18:15, Proverbs 16:28, and Proverbs 17:9.
There is nothing more important to our spiritual growth than to learn to love well. Sometimes love forbears, but other times love confronts. Is there someone in your life right now that is dishonoring God, hurting themselves or damaging your relationship? Confrontation is never easy, but if we can help someone turn from their sin or help restore and reconcile our relationship, then the discomfort we experience in speaking up will be well worth it.