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Courageous Conversations 1

Courageous Friendship Conversations

What Does It Mean to Be a Courageous Friend?

Friendship is one of God's greatest gifts and a true friend impacts our lives in incredible ways. As we grow in our friendships, there are many places along the way where we make choices -- the degree of self-disclosure, honest communication, acceptance, forgiveness, and time spent. At times friendship may even require that we confront which takes courage.

Engaging in a difficult conversation with people we care about can feel challenging, even impossible! Information provided here is a suggested method that can guide your conversation. As a foundation, here are two important points worth remembering.

  • God is committed to helping us in our relationships. Scripture is crystal clear -- God is for you. He is committed to helping you grow healthy relationships in your life.
  • No person is perfect at confrontation. As friendship is a process, so is learning how to say the tough thing.
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A 7-Step Guide to Courageous Friendship Conversations

I Pray (Ephesians 6:18)

As you consider your friendship and before you initiate a tough conversation with a brother or sister, first spend time in prayer examining your own heart and life. Acknowledge your need for God's guidance. Use the following questions to guide your time in prayer and self-reflection:

  1. Is my attitude toward my friend and his/her situation marked by the following characteristics: acceptance, humility, love, respect, graciousness, gentleness, patience, sympathy/empathy, kindness, and compassion?
  2. How will these characteristics guide my actions with my friend?
  3. How might I have contributed to this issue and need to change and/or ask for forgiveness?

Sample Prayer: "Jesus, I value this friendship and need Your help to share how I feel and think. Please help me to understand how my choices, my perspective, and my attitude are involved in this situation. Please allow this conversation be both real and helpful."

I Care (1 Peter 1:22)

Let prayer continue to guide your words and actions with your friend. Choose a time to talk when you are calm and rational, not angry or upset. Reminding your friend that you care for him/her is extremely important. A defensive response will be less likey if your friend sees that you are caring, concerned, and on his/her side.

  • I value our friendship, and I'm upset because I see you doing things that are dangerous.
  • I care about this community, and what you're doing goes against what we have agreed to.
  • I love you, and I don't want you to hurt yourself.

I See (Galatians 6:1a)

Share with your friend exactly what he/she has done that concerns you. Understand that you have one perspective and be open to the possibility that you are misinterpreting what you hear and see. As much as is possible, present facts, not impressions. Ask open-ended, clarifying questions where necessary.

  • I see you isolating yourself and not eating.
  • I overheard the hurtful things you said about me.
  • I saw you cheat on the exam last week.
  • I saw you come in late several times in the last two weeks, and I smelled alcohol on your breath.

I Feel (Ephesians 4:2)

Share with your friend how you feel about the ways you see him/her acting. Remove blame from the interaction.

  • I get scared when...
  • I feel frustrated when...

I Listen (James 1:19)

Be willing to listen carefully to what your friend says. A variety of responses can be expected. Many people will say nothing. They will not be prepared for this or will not be ready to talk to you. Some may become angry. Others may thank you and say they'll make changes. Still others may share with you a problem that goes well beyond your ability to help. As you listen, remember to stay open to the Holy Spirit.

I Want (Colossians 3:16a; Hebrews 10:24)

Share with your friend what you hope for him/her to do.

  • I want you to talk to someone about the problems you have been having.
  • I want you to be honest with your professor/friend.
  • I want you to get the help you need.

I Will (Romans 12:10)

Share with your friend what you are able and willing to do to help. Know your limits. For serious problems, you do not want to become a substitute for professional care.

  • I am willing to meet with you regularly as an accountability partner.
  • I will go with you to arrange an appointment with a counselor.
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Follow Up

Continue to pray. If your friend refuses to listen, follow the Matthew 18:15-17 model:

"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)

Talk to him/her next with one or two peers present. If your friend still does not listen, consultation with a student life dean, residence life staff member, campus pastor, or faculty member is recommended.

Such loving acts of confrontation are at times difficult, but when performed in the right spirit (Gal. 6:1) they serve to build godly character for both the individuals involved and the community as a whole.

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The Prayer of a Courageous Friend

"Lord, I place myself and my friend in Your hands. For myself, I ask for wisdom in interacting with him/her and that You lead us to appropriate help and resources if needed. Help me to be caring, honest, and patient. I ask that You help us to face the problem squarely and without shame. Please give us hope when change seems impossible. Thank You. Amen"

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For Help and More Information

Student Life Office

Student Life deans are trained to help students lovingly confront a friend as well as intervene when necessary.

Kerrwood Hall - Room 209, (805) 565-6028

Counseling Services

Counseling Services provides free, confidential counseling to students dealing with a variety of relationship issues, including friendships.

Counseling Center - Lower Campus, (805) 565-6164

Campus Pastor's Office

Campus Pastor's Office staff is available to provide spiritual support and mentoring.

Kerr Student Center (KSC), (805) 565-6170

  • Blue, Ken and John White. Church Discipline That Heals: Putting Costly Love Into Action. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1992.
  • Griffin, Tom and Roger Svendsen. "What to Say, What to Do When Someone's Alcohol or Other Drug Use Concerns You." Minnesota Institute of Public Health, 2002.
  • Lampman, Lisa Barnes, ed. Helping a Neighbor in Crisis. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1997.