Dear AbbyNacle

June 15, 2005    By: Kristen J @ 2:44 pm   Category: Life

You know normally I don’t have to ask for advice from people because most of my family members like to give it to me before I even need it. So, I’m not really sure how to go about it. I guess I’ll just have to ask and hope I don’t mangle this post up too badly!

Hhhhmm, I’ve tried several times to start this off with a question but it has sounded so awkward and unclear that I will just start off with an example. I have a friend who I no longer live near that is going through some painful times in her life. You see, she has a nasty habit of being a “taker” when it comes to being in friendships with people. She is very controlling but tends to cast her friends off when they no longer serve her purposes. Now she has run the gamut of friends in her area and is wondering what happened to all of her best buddies.

“So what,” you ask. Well I guess I wonder if I should fill her in on the reasons that no one really wants to indulge her in her controlling ways anymore. Since I no longer live around her I really don’t have that much to lose and I think she might have a lot to gain from this information. Do I tell her and risk burning the small bridge of friendship we still have, or do I let her figure it out in some other way that doesn’t involve me and let our relationship stand as it is? What is the Christ-like way to handle a situation like this?

I have learned in the past that giving people unsolicited (it’s in my genes!) advice –especially if it is of a negative nature — rarely goes over well. It has tended to do more harm than good as far as the relationship goes. But if it benefits someone in the long run maybe the relationship doesn’t matter so much.

What do you think?


  1. Easy. Follow the Spirit.

    Comment by Rusty — June 15, 2005 @ 3:06 pm

  2. That’s a tough question. I think it all depends on the nature of your friendship. Of course, if you don’t have that much to lose, then you may as well. She might get pissed at you and you lose the friendship, but she’ll probably at least think about what you said (and perhaps eventually be grateful for the info). Of course, if you were to follow Christ’s example then she’d probably get offended but have nothing to say in return. Of course, that requires that you truly understand her motives and her heart.

    Comment by Rusty — June 15, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

  3. Ah, the ol’ “Tough love, or not tough love question”… (aka The ol’ rebuke with sharpness or not question.) I usually go for the rebuke method. We’re supposed to “say nothing but repentance” after all right?

    Of course that might explain why not many people like me…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 4:46 pm

  4. This is a great question. One that I’ve spent a lot of time with.

    What I’ve finally come to, is that most people who are like the person described do not think in the terms that rational people do. It makes perfect sense to us to think, “if they only knew” and I think that in a good 1/20 cases, that’s the problem. They simply are unaware and awareness will shock them into thinking about things.

    But the majority of such people will not react that way. They only see such comments as blame. Most likely the person has fully justified her behavior in her own mind, and even the most sensitively given advice will be seen as blame, a threat and judgmental. Again, this is totally counterintuitive to a rational person, but it’s usually the case.

    But it’s better to do something, isn’t it? And what else can you do if you don’t have regular contact? And what if you do have regular contact, can you then do absolutely nothing?

    The solution? There is no easy one. And any attempt at one would be simplistic. But I am convinced that telling people point blank will almost never work. You have to help people come to the conclusion on their own without being told, or even hinted at.

    How do you do this? Well, books have been written on the subject. But I think some starting points include: asking questions of the person – not leading questions, but open questions. Questions about what the problem is, and why they think it’s a problem. Warm responses. Sharing personal experiences, not too obviously a parable of their particular problem, but personal experiences where you or someone else had to make a choice that was difficult but right. At the very least, always think twice about anything you say, and make sure to think about all the possible ways something could be interpreted by another person.

    Above all else, you have to be the person you’re trying to help the other person become. Any fakeness, any hypocrisy, any pride, will cause the whole thing to come tumbling down very quickly. The proud are awfully good at detecting pride in others – and then going through a series of self-justifications based on what they see in others. You have to absolutely, genuinely humble. Airtight humility – the smallest hole can cause an explosion.

    It’s not easy. Like walking a minefield. But I’m convinced it’s possible to have it both ways – to help others discover what they need to without offending them to a point of destroying the relationship.

    Comment by Eric Russell — June 15, 2005 @ 8:31 pm

  5. I had a daughter that was somewhat that way until she ‘grew-up’ – Praise be to my saintly wife’s patience and perserverance.

    Do you have a relationship with her parents? Could you talk with them first?

    Comment by Daylan Darby — June 15, 2005 @ 9:02 pm

  6. Eric, Thanks for the advice and I think that you are totally right. The point you make about these people not being rational is a very good one. One thing I wonder about with this friend is if she would be able sense or relate to any subtle messages I would try to send to her. She has a tendency to be a little elitist so I worry that she might come away thinking, “I’m sure glad I’m not like the poor, dumb idiot she’s talking about.”
    I do think you’re right though, any point blank information given would just blow up in my face.

    Daylan, I’ve met her parents a few times and they honestly seem like nice people, but they seem to have a bit of dysfunction lingering under the surface too.

    Comment by Kristen J — June 16, 2005 @ 12:06 am

  7. You know in reading the comments and really thinking about this friend I’ve decided that before I say anything to this friend I should really decide what is my true motivation for doing this.

    Do I want to help this friend understand why she is going through this pain because I have genuine charity for her? Or is it driven by vengeance? I worry that it might be more vengeance than charity because she did hurt me a few times during our friendship and when we moved away I wasn’t feeling very warm and fuzzy toward her. I really don’t want to kick her while she’s down, but there is a small part of me that thinks the prospect of doing so would be kind of satisfying.

    I think that if I’m driven more by vengeance than charity than this friend and her pain is something I probably need to make a wide path around.

    Comment by Kristen J — June 16, 2005 @ 12:17 am

  8. Oh I see how ya are now…

    “I want to helllppp her… Mwahhahahaha!”

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2005 @ 12:35 am

  9. You better watch it bub, or I just might helllppp you next!

    Comment by Kristen J — June 16, 2005 @ 12:37 am

  10. I don’t think Jesus approves of people being butts. I think He would let people know they have a problem. I think that’s the Christ-like thing. Too often we assume that being Christ-like is being a door mat. Not so.

    However, in this case, I would use Al-Anon principles. You are powerless over this woman. She can learn her lessons on her own and you incur problems for yourself if you confront her and she will blame you and not accept responsibility for herself. I would turn it over to God, live your life and take care of yourself. If that involves setting boundaries and avoiding interactions with this unhealthy person, that is okay and good for you. It’s okay to take care of you.

    Comment by annegb — June 18, 2005 @ 7:42 am