Do You Have Friends Who Will Tell You When Your Breath Stinks?
Friendships are very hard to come by, especially real ones. To develop authentic relationships with people who will not only be there for you during your high points in your life but are willing to be honest and upfront with you about your shortcomings and the behavior that you need to change is extremely valuable. True friends are willing to have difficult conversations with you, ranging from something as serious as “I think you are wrong to speak to your wife that way,” to something as simple as “girl, you need a breath mint.” Regardless of the topic of conversation, everyone needs to have solid people in their circle who love them and are willing to point out their blind spots. Anybody who has ever driven a car before knows that we must be aware that when we look into our mirrors, there are blind spots that prevent us from seeing the full picture of what’s going on around us. As much as I consider myself to be a seasoned driver, there have been times when I didn’t take the additional step to look over my shoulder when switching lanes and nearly caused an accident. Just like when we are driving, everyone has blind spots in life. No one is exempt from them. However, as we mature, it’s important that we put safeguards in place that helps us to avoid potential accidents on our journey.
A blind spot is defined as an area where a person's view is obstructed. Blind spots can be misleading, because more times than not, an individual is under the wrong impression that they are able to see the full picture. As a result, they make decisions off of their limited perspective, failing to take into consideration what is hidden in their blind spot. A person can go on for years or sadly their entire life making costly decisions, without any knowledge of the collateral damage that they caused as a result of them not being aware of their blind spots. Depending on the individual, a blind spot can take several different forms but are not easily identifiable to the person who has them. For example, a person’s blind spot can be they are a sucker for dating people who look or act a certain way, so they end up in these toxic relationships with the same type of person over and over again. A blind spot can also be that they have a tendency to be overly critical of others, or they are so career-driven that their loved ones always take a back seat to their professional commitments. In these cases, these people are blind to seeing the unhealthy nature of their behavior, but the people around them are more capable of seeing this cyclical pattern.
Those who call that person a friend, would be doing them a disservice if they fail to point out to them that their behavior is in serious need of reflection and correction. For some people, their blind spots are rooted in their insecurities. These insecurities will often remain dormant in that person’s life for a period of time until something comes along to activate it. For example, you might notice that someone that you work with is completely resistant to accepting constructive criticism or feedback. Some people might chalk it up to that person being arrogant or overly sensitive, but there is more to that person’s behavior than what lies on the surface. What you are witnessing is merely the symptoms of a deeper issue, which may be rooted in the fact that their parents never affirmed them as a child or always expected them to be perfect, so when other people give them constructive feedback, they automatically receive it as if they are being talked down to. Some people might look at this issue as a small hang up, but in reality, the distorted perception that this person has can limit the extent to which God will be able to use them if left unaddressed.
The bible gives us additional instructions in Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 18:15-17 concerning how to approach our brothers and sisters who need someone to point out their blind spots. We are reminded to:
-Be gentle with our words. Although it is important to bring to light a friend's blind spot, if we do not say it to them in love, 9 times out of 10 will not receive it. In cases when a person already knows their friend has an issue receiving criticism, they especially want to pray that God gives them discernment on how to approach the situation. I’m not advising that anyone speaks to their friends with kid gloves, because sometimes a conversation requires a person to be very direct in their tone. However, it’s not always appropriate to just come out and straight up say to a friend “You got issues and you need to get your entire life together” right out of the gate.
-Look for the right timing to have that conversation. When confronting someone about their behavior, the bible instructs us to do it in private. We also need to make sure that we are not “in our feelings” so to speak when having a conversation with someone. If a person is angry with their friend, they should consider waiting until they have calmed down to have the conversation because their friend might perceive that they are only responding that way because they're emotional versus the reality that what they are saying is something that is valid and needs to be taken into serious consideration.
-Do not placate their bad behavior. If this person is a chronic gossiper, is constantly breaking their promises to their children due to their priorities being all out of whack, then a friend should not sit there and continue to listen to their excuses or justifications for their bad behavior. In cases like that, a friend needs to be willing to challenge what they are saying by either asking a thought-provoking question such as, “Have you notice that you always respond like this to certain situations?” In other cases, it might be more appropriate to bring to their attention what you have noticed, by saying something like “I’ve noticed that you always seem to do XYZ, and I’m concerned about that.” This causes that person to pause and look at the situation from a different perspective, so they can become more aware of their blind spots. Although God will have to give that person a revelation that they need to change in that specific area, God can use a friend as a tool to help them along the way.
So I encourage anyone who is reading this article to think about the friends that you have in your life right now. Ask yourself, "I'm I surrounding myself with individuals who call me to be greater than what I was yesterday?" "Do I have the type of people in my life who will tell me that my breath stinks and will pass me a breath mint so I'm not "out here bad" when I'm at a party with friends?" Those are the type of people we all need in our lives, and more importantly, God is calling us to be that type of friend to others as well.
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