Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. - Arnold H. Glasow
Robert was amazing; a young leader gifted with insight, passion and astonishing charisma. I first met him when he was leading a home Bible study, and though he was barely twenty one years old at the time, he taught with an authority years beyond his age. I hooked up with his ministry team; in eight months I was on staff full time.
Within three years, that home Bible study had grown into a television and radio ministry, with weekly meetings attended by a thousand-plus , and monthly rallies held statewide. The money flowed, our influence grew, and Robert changed. His style, once humble and funny, was now flamboyant and bossy. He began treating his staff worse than most secular bosses would have dared. And the offerings we took in were largely unaccounted for – never a good sign – yet his pleas for money during services grew longer and shriller.
In knew he was wrong. I also knew there’d be the devil to pay if I said anything, as Robert reached a point where he’d sooner behead you than tolerate criticism. So rather than confront, I appeased, refusing to speak up when I saw him lie, abuse and manipulate. I finally slipped out of that organization, quietly and peacefully, no fuss. But it was a false peace, because I’d helped build a ministry, then stood by and said nothing while it morphed into a tragedy. He was my friend. I should have interrupted him.
There’s a place among friends for honest feedback. The Biblical concept of friendship in fact, calls for it:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Open rebuke is better than secret love.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)
Enemies kiss when they should correct, and how easy it is to love secretly, to see something seriously wrong in someone and say nothing, risking no tension but abdicating brotherly responsibility. Now, I’m no man’s babysitter, so I won’t make a buddy’s life harder by nit picking him. There are plenty of flaws my friends cheerfully tolerate in me, and vice versa; we’ve not interest in scrutinizing each other. But if my friend clearly is drifting into the wrong beliefs or the wrong behavior, that’s my cue. Members of the Body, after all, don’t just get along. They nurture each other, building each other up cooperatively under the Head’s guidance, gentle correction being a part of the bargain.
Of course, someone I care about can and may ignore my concerns, in which case I’ve done my part. The goal of a loving confrontation is to inform, not necessarily to persuade, though persuasion’s preferable. But when it’s all over and God asks me, “What kind of friend were you to the people I brought into your life?”, I’d like to say I loved them, served them, and was honest with them no matter the outcome.
Robert died twenty six years ago, ravaged by AIDS contracted through anonymous sexual encounters he began having while still in the pulpit. I doubt any of his former staff members were surprised. But my sadness over Robert stays with me today, and keenly. I saw wrongdoing, and said nothing. And I’m determined not to be guilty of that sort of negligence again.