On a regular basis, I hear the stories . . .
My husband is having an affair.
My daughter is doing drugs.
My mom is an alcoholic.
My best friend is spreading lies about me.
Sometimes it’s in an email or note, and sometimes it’s face-to-face, but every week people ask me for help. They are desperate over a loved-one who is failing and hurting their relationship, and they are looking for support.
It harms the sinner.
It wounds friends and families.
It damages everyone it touches. Everyone.
I know that “sin” is an ugly word and one not typically embraced in our society. For many, sin has become the other “s” word, and they reject the concept with prejudice.
Nonetheless, sin happens. In our gut, we know what falling short looks and smells like.
So what can we do when someone we love is blowing it and hurting people? How should we handle this reality?
- Deal with your sin first. Jesus said to focus on the log in your eye before you worry about the speck in someone else’s. I’m not suggesting you ignore the failures of others. I am, however, reminding you that personal authenticity requires ownership. You and I must admit to our own failures and work on them before we attempt to address the sins of others. You won’t get any traction dealing with your son’s abuse of alcohol if you’re abusing prescription drugs.
- Determine to unconditionally love. Unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance of someone’s sin. But without a solid foundation of love, we have nothing to build (or repair) a relationship with. People need to know that your love and care for them are not based on their performance. By the way, this is the same love God has for us. Why does this matter so much? Because we humans react to love that has strings attached, but we respond to those who embrace us for who we are regardless of what we’re doing.
- Set boundaries for your protection and theirs. Placing yourself at emotional risk is one thing; risking your life or health is quite another. Occasionally, I hear someone say, “I refuse to be a doormat!” I usually surprise them with my response: “It’s okay to get stepped on (love is costly and sacrificial), but it’s not all right to get blown up.” Sometimes the loving thing to do is to set clear boundaries with an offender. This will protect you and others from long-term damage. It is appropriate to say, “I love you, Daughter, and I will always love you, but I’m not going to allow you to do drugs in my home.”
- Speak the truth in love. Sometimes we erroneously equate truth-speaking with judgment. They are not the same. Judgment happens when I “pass sentence” on someone. Speaking the truth happens when I share something that has the potential to set the offender free. For the record, love without truth isn’t love, and truth without love isn’t Christ-like. From a position of gentleness and humility, it’s okay to challenge the false beliefs or destructive practices of others.
- Pray hard and don’t ever give up. Prayer and diligence not only benefit the offender, but they also benefit you. Prayer helps us find and maintain a godly perspective. Prayer builds our hope. Prayer taps into the power of God that changes us and the people we love. Prayer works. We must never give up on people. We must never throw in the towel and quit on love. When you don’t think you can take one more blow or deal with one more disappointment, pray, and then pray some more.
Years ago when I walked away from God, my wife, my family, and my faith, my amazing wife and my faithful mother did all of the above for me. I’m physically, relationally, and spiritually alive today because they prayed and stayed the course with me.
Hang in there. Even when you’re hurting, God is still working. I can’t promise your journey will be easy, but I can promise you will never be alone. Jesus is close to the brokenhearted.
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