True Friends Will Offend You

Something my friends and I have been working on for the last couple of years is a concept we call “brutal honesty,” or things that are easier not to say. Our classic example is when high-school-freshman-me decided to get bangs.

I had them for a year, which is how long it took for hindsight to kick in and me to realize the style does not flatter me. Turns out one of my best friends recognized that truth the first time she saw me with them but didn’t say anything.

“Brutal honesty!” I playfully scolded her many times afterward. “You should have told me! I could have started growing them out a lot sooner.”

While all people were created equal, ideas were not. There are bad ideas. Hurt me with the truth instead of protecting me with a lie and I will do my best to understand you.

“Regarding relationships, I have just one rule: Give me truth, however cold or cruel, or hard it is to hear. I would prefer to have my heart bled and broken if it means I can then move on, than waste a single moment of my time being fooled by a lie intended to preserve my feelings.”

-Beau Taplin

A week after the first formal event of our freshman year of college, the same best friend told me the dress I wore did not flatter me.

Yes, there was an awkward pang of regret that I spent a special evening not looking my best, but hindsight (again) proved she was right. The dress flatters my mother, it flatters my sister, but it does not flatter me.

This balance between my best friend and I goes back to 1 Corinthians 12: We are many parts to one body. I have never been the best at hair and style. This best friend of mine fills in where I lack.

I need you just the same. I need your perspective. I don’t know everything. I need you to fill in where I am weak just as you need me to fill in somewhere where you are weak.

“Every culture has its blind spots. Diversity helps us all to see.”

-Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity

Of course, you have to first have a relational bridge built before you can deliver any hard truth in love. Then, if you truly care about someone, you will tell the hard but necessary truth, just like how “the Lord reproves him whom he loves” (Proverbs 3:12).

Whether it is something silly like hair or style, or pointing out a heart issue like bitterness or self-righteousness, a true friend will let another know how they are falling short because a true friend is more committed to their friend’s character than their friend’s feelings.

The best kind of friend will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. They’ll say good things behind your back and bad things to your face. True friends won’t agree with you to make you happy, they’ll say what needs to be said, no matter if you want to hear it or not.

“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”

-Proverbs 28:23

My best example of this concept happened three days into the hardest season I have yet to experience. I was on the phone with one of the best guy friends a girl could ask for and, in the middle of filling him in on everything that was going on, I stopped to confirm the surprising discovery that he was crying.

Sniffling to regain his composure, this dear friend of mine—clearly empathizing with my sorrow—asked if he could give me his two cents and then proceeded to tell me precisely what he very well knew I did not want to hear, but I needed to hear it.

Unbeknownst to him, his feedback was directly in line with two other sources and—although I did not agree with a word of it—thus showed me that it was indeed God’s will for me to begin walking through a season every nerve in my body was thrashing to avoid.

If my friend had not delivered that hard truth, I might never have begun the painful but necessary process that brought so much good to my character development— and that’s ultimately what it’s about.

The Goal

The goal for every Christian is to grow in Christ-likeness, to conform our character to His. We won’t reach this goal within our lifetime, but—for the sake of the world—we are to spend every day getting as close as we can.

To get better, to grow, to become the best you can be, you first have to acknowledge what’s holding you back. You cannot cure a deadly tumor until you know it’s there, so you need friends and need to be a friend who cares enough to ________.

A life is more important than a way of life. Therefore, a doctor will cut out whatever is killing you –> like how a true friend will deliver a hard but necessary truth –> like how our heavenly Father allows trials for our ultimate good and His glory.

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