Wanted: Friends Who Judge

“I don’t want to be judged, I just want to be unconditionally loved”
“No one wants a judge, everyone wants a friend”
“Don’t judge me!”

It is universally accepted that true friends don’t judge. They simply love, accept and support you.

In my early 20’s I was a young single women in the new South Africa. I loved the adventure and possibility of living and working in this nation. I was just beginning to form friendships in a diverse community of people. One weekend at the office, only myself and one other lady were there. We were trying to get ahead on work. New students were arriving that week. We discussed tasks and ideas back and forth. We were as different as night and day and so often would not see eye to eye. As the day wore on, I was getting more and more frustrated at her lack of seeing things my way. Eventually I got so angry I went quiet and ominously brooded around the office, physically present but ignoring her in all other ways. I would show her!

Suddenly, I could hear her chair spin around and her strong voice break the silence. “Lindsey, are you going to talk about this or do you plan to give me the silent treatment all day. I don’t like tantrums.”

I was shocked. She was direct almost to the point of rudeness. I stumbled over my words. Feebly I attempted to sort things out… I don’t really remember how it resolved.

Two months later someone asked me, “Lindsey, who do you hang out with? Who do you consider your friends here in South Africa?” To my surprise, this lady’s name immediately came out of my mouth.

I had other friends who I hung out with more, had more in common with. But this women spoke truth to me. Truth that often offended me. Sometimes it wasn’t truth, it was just her opinion and she would apologise later. Sometimes it came out a bit rude. But, she kept speaking. Of all the people I was around, I knew this one was a friend. She was a friend who was willing to wound me. She was a friend who judged.

But “friend” and “judge” are not supposed to go together. What I think we really mean is that “friend” and “condemn” don’t go together. But, judge?

In a sense, to judge is simply an act of determining right and wrong. It is distinguishing from one thing and another. It is coming to conclusions and testing whether there is truth in it. A judge is a person who is mandated to speak truth no matter what. I want friends who judge.

Today, I think our friendships lack depth because we not only expect but often say outright, “Don’t judge me, I just want you to support and accept me”.

I don’t want my friends to do that. I want them to speak truth to me. I ask them to. With grace, mercy and love… yes, yes, yes. But love cannot be love if it is forbidden from speaking truth. Love cannot be love if truth-speaking is considered an act of aggression and condemnation.

Scripture says it well, “Speak the truth in love” and “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than kisses from an enemy”. Paul says that Christian friendship actually does judge (1 Cor 5:9-13).

This is the type of friends I want and need. I need this when I am careening towards a cliff. I don’t want my friends to say, “Lindsey, I sure love and accept you no matter what!”. I want them to grab that wheel and say, “Lindsey, what you are doing leads to death instead of life. You are driving towards brokenness instead of wholeness.”

And my friends have done this. Sometimes it was well received by me. Other times… well it took me a while to come around. But their willingness to say something that could offend me communicated a deep love. Sometimes their timing wasn’t perfect. Sometimes they way it came out was not perfect. But they spoke truth in love. They said it without condemnation.

Truly, friends do not condemn. Condemnation is when we use truth as a weapon to harm. Condemnation says, if you don’t measure up I won’t love you. That’s not friendship.

Friends should speak truth (judge) because their heart for us is life, wholeness and joy. Truth-speaking says, I love you even with your imperfections, I have them too. We won’t pretend they aren’t there. Often what we call judgement can actually be speaking truth as an act of safety and grace, even if it stings in the moment.

Do you have people who will “speak the truth in love” even if it wounds?
If not how could you invite that in to your life?

Photo Credit: Radcliffe Dacanay

Purse Peanut Butter

When I was growing up there was a TV game show called, “Let’s Make a Deal”. At the end of the show the host would offer cash prizes for the woman who would have the most absurd thing in her purse. He would call out “$50 for the first woman who can find a 3 sippy cups and a bottle of ketchup in her purse!” It was amazing because someone ALWAYS had the items, no matter how outlandish it seemed.

Of course this is just the nature of women’s purses. Women, if it doesn’t take 3 coal miners and an oxygen tank to retrieve your car keys then you are not using your purse to it’s full potential.

I used to ask my Mom, “Why is your purse so heavy?! Empty it out Mom!” Unfortunately, I have to confess, the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

I realised this a few weeks ago when I had gone days weeks with an entire packet of salted peanuts in my purse. Unfortunately, the peanuts were not in the packet. It had burst open and the peanuts were rattling around all over the bottom of my purse, slowly morfing into purse peanut butter.

I have to admit… it raised questions for me. Am I so dirty and unorganised that a purse full of salted peanuts does not even give me pause? Am I slipping into some state of hoarders anonymous?

It’s amazing, though, how easily we accommodate small issues and learn to live with it. So many things in life we learn to accommodate. They are not major. They are not issues of life and death. Just little things that we “live with” because… well, we’ll deal with it later.

Right around the time I dealt with my purse peanut-butter I realised there were several relationship issues rattling around in my head and heart.

It had been bothering me for days  how I spoke about someone to a group of people. I used words which were less than honouring and loving. Now, because of me, people possibly thought less of a fellow friend.

I realised that I had not been as encouraging as I could have been to a co-worker. It just bothered me when I thought about it.

I realised that I had dominated the conversation, in a meeting at work, by speaking too quickly and forcefully. I did not keep my mouth shut and  listen intently enough.

So, after I cleaned out my purse I quickly sat down and wrote three e-mails. I apologised to the people that heard my criticism of a fellow friend. I asked them to forgive me for my words. I wrote an encouragement to the person who hadn’t heard it from me nearly enough. I asked someone to give me honest feedback when I was speaking too much and listening to little.

It took me 10 minutes to do all three. That’s it. How long would I have let those things go on for? I want to grow in quickness to humble myself and deal with those things that I am accommodating.

I want to be better at quickly cleaning out my relational purse before it turns in to peanut butter.

What about you?