How can we help friends or relatives who are on the wrong track? How can we influence them to change?
Most of us try changing others by telling them what is wrong with them. Regardless of how well meaning we are, our suggestions are met with closed minds and closed ears and we often alienate the friend or relative we are trying to help.
Basically, we are better talkers than listeners. Proverbs 18:2 says that this attitude makes us fools. “A fool does not delight in understanding but only in revealing his own mind.”
Speak Life to Them
It’s our tongue that really get us in trouble. It can spew insults and abuse causing hurts that can last a lifetime. If the power of life and death are in the tongue as stated in Proverbs 18:21, let us speak life!
Kind words, gentle words, encouraging words are uplifting. They strengthen us and build us up. Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
If we use kindness and gentleness instead of criticism, we will be much more successful in getting people to change. God asks us to “Love one another.” Ephesians 4:32 says “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
We must find things to do and say which will build that person up and not tear him down. Most people know when they are wrong. They may even be trying to change. By criticizing them, we hurt them and cause them to resist. Instead of hastening the change, we will more likely cause them to regress.
The person we are trying to help is fighting a spiritual battle. To help them we must use spiritual weapons against the oppression, such as praying in the Spirit (tongues).
To help, there are a number of steps we can take.
James 4:10 says “Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.” When we are telling people that we know where they went wrong, that our way is better, we are talking down to them. A better way is to accept them as they are and where they are. Treat them with love and respect and pray for them. James 4:12 says “Who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Learn to Listen
James 1:19. “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” The self-righteous attitude makes us talk and not listen. When we listen we may hear of the other person’s real need – the one that makes him deficient in a particular area: the lonely childhood that led to drinking or the abandonment as a child that led to an unhappy marriage. With this information, you can find scriptures that will help the root cause of the problem, not just its symptoms.
Learn to Love
God’s type of love, throws a mantle over the other person’s faults… “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). Love doesn’t reveal them, point them out to others, or highlight them. It forgives them and covers them. We overlook our loved ones’ shortcomings, forgiving them again and again, as the Bible asks us to do. To enlarge our “family,” we must extend this forgiveness to others.
Tell Your Testimony
Your testimony may inspire the person to seek his own solution through God. Ask guidance from the Holy Spirit as you pray for the person. Forget your opinion. Seek God’s opinion and His Word.
We are often most critical of the persons who have the problems that we have just conquered. (Matthew: 7:4) “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold the log is in your own eye?” Letting the person talk and then praying with them, lets them see their problems more clearly.
Look for positive changes and then praise and encourage the person, build them up.
Pray for Ways to Help
God will give you revelation on the person’s problem and ideas of how to help.
Colossians 3:12-14 summarizes the above material very nicely. “And so as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other… just as the Lord forgave you….
And beyond these things, put on love which is the perfect bond of unity.”
DLH – December 8, 1986