What do you do when the good advice you give to a loved one falls on deaf ears? I think one of the signs you’ve entered adulthood is when friends or family don’t listen to your wisdom. Responding to those who don’t listen to biblical guidance, or even the loving input of a friend, is one of the hardest roads to walk in a relationship. It’s so easy to grow angry, apathetic or even bitter. How do we choose love?
I don’t have this figured out; I struggle mightily with it. But here are some biblical concepts that I use as a guide in tough relationship situations, and hopefully they’ll help you, too.
Give the Grace of Patience
Choosing patience when dealing with stubborn hearts is one of the best ways to reflect God’s character. Over and over through the Bible we see God’s patience toward those who aren’t listening. God bends over backwards to give grace for people—including us, today!—and who are we to withhold something God Himself provides?
Patience is a grace. Choosing to be patient is a choice to show “unmerited favor” to those who aren’t listening, hoping that the seeds of truth may one day spring up to fruitful growth.
Ask “Am I Listening to Them?”
Here’s a tough question we have to ask ourselves: Are we good listeners? We can’t expect others to listen well to us when we don’t listen well to them. Perhaps their stubbornness is part of it, but maybe there’s another part—our own inability to hear their story! How convicting. I know I’ve done this.
Take a moment to let them share their experience before giving advice. A simple “That must be really hard” can open the door to a conversation about where to go from here.
Realize a Change of Behavior Requires a Change of Heart
If you’re frustrated by a friend or family member who keeps making bad decisions, remember this: A change of behavior only happens with a change of heart. You can change their behavior by force, but do you really want to? Do you want to change the outward actions without changing their inner being? No! We want a whole heart transformation so their behavior is a reflection of where they are with God.
This requires grace and patience. Spiritual growth is a process; it won’t happen overnight. Pray for your friend, keep speaking truth in love, but remember that this is about slow growth.
Commit Them to God’s Justice
Justice can be simply defined as “doing right by others.” We can’t force people to make good choices. We can’t make them “do right by others.” That’s why we have to commit them to God’s justice, and let Him do the work in their hearts. People don’t listen and change until their hearts are ready to do so. Forcing that any sooner than they’re ready will only result in an outward change without ever affecting the spirit—as we talked about in the previous point.
Forgiveness isn’t always about an offense committed against us. Sometimes it’s something we do toward people who simply frustrate us. Can we forgive them for their poor decisions, even when those decisions only affect them? When you love someone, it’s hard to be objective. You want the best for them, and bad decisions aren’t the best! Letting them make those decisions, and committing them to God during the process, is a walk of faith. Doing so is a step of trust in God—that He is big enough to do work in your friend’s life even when their actions are stubborn and wrong.
Love chooses what is best. Pray for your friend, because the best thing she can have in this world is the power of God at work in her life. Give grace for the growth you cannot see, and choose faith. You may not see the seed growing…but that doesn’t mean it’s not there!