Ever felt like you needed to say something to someone you're close to, but it was a really hard conversation to have? I remember an occasion when a fantastic intern in our youth ministry, who was dating a female volunteer in our youth ministry, started showing public displays of affection in very awkward and forward ways in front of all the minors in the youth group. The last thing I wanted was for minors who were dating to think it was okay to sit on each other's laps in romantic ways, yet that was the example our intern and his girlfriend were exhibiting. Talk about a difficult, awkward conversation that needed to be had!
Now, to be fair, we're not meant to be the morality police, like the religious leaders of Jesus' day. Truth be told, in most cases, godly change happens in our lives with time, through the work of the Holy Spirit. But on occasion -- like when John the Baptizer thought it was important to call out Herod Antipas for taking and marrying his own brother's wife (Mark 6:14-29) -- it becomes unloving to turn a blind eye to someone who's displaying damaging, hurtful, or inappropriate patterns in their life.
So, what should you do when it's your turn to have a hard conversation? Here are three key things to consider:
Look at your heart first. Jesus encourages us to "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:5). When we look at our own hearts first, it helps us to be honest about our own faults, and it helps us to come alongside a person we love with humility instead of self-righteousness.
Ask for Wisdom and Tact. Another important step in approaching someone we love is to seek wisdom and tact so that we might be prudent with our words and truly helpful. James reminds us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously..." (James 1:5). Don't forget to ask God for wisdom to discern how and when to come alongside the person you care about.
Be gentle. Few things are worse than a harsh or unkind word, even when the truth is being spoken. Remember Paul's encouragement to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) and to "restore... gently" (Galatians 6:1).
I have to be honest with you. Following these steps does not guarantee a favorable outcome. John the Baptizer ended up being beheaded by Herod Antipas! But if you know someone that needs you to come alongside them, and you truly love and care about them, then following these steps will help you to be as gracious as possible, and that is always good.