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When is a friend not safe?

angry-woman1Last night at supper my youngest, Annie, was sharing about the sadness that every relationship, even our nearest and dearest, has some static in it because of sin. We just had a wonderful week with family at the cottage, yet in every relationship, there’s a little static. That’s because we are roses, and roses are born with thorns.  On Midday Connection this week we will be talking about discerning the difference between roses and alligators. A more scriptural term than alligator is a fool. Everyone behaves foolishly at times,  everyone has thorns that go with a rose — but not everyone is a fool, not everyone is an alligator. A rose will occasionally hurt you, but an alligator will destroy you. King Saul was an alligator and David shows us how to deal with an alligator. He forgave him, but after Saul demonstrated a pattern of destruction toward him, David kept space between him and Saul.

I recently made the decision that a friend who has been much in my life is not safe. If I stay close, she will do great harm to me or my family. So my goal is to be at peace with her, but to stay a safe distance. As much as I would like to fix this friendship, I cannot. I can pray — but I need to stay at a distance unless I see the fruit of repentance.

I also realize that any time I see the characteristics of a fool in my life I must come before the Lord in true repentance, for the way of a fool is hard and I do not want to become one.

In this post I’d like to introduce some proverbs on the fool and ask you to comment on what they mean and how you might apply them.  Or share other things on what the Lord has shown you about unsafe friends — or how not to be one!

Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

What characteristic of a fool do you see?

Are you quick to quarrel?

What makes a person quick to quarrel?

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  1. Years ago, when I thought I was dealing with a “fool”, I bought Jan Silvious’ book, “Foolproofing Your Life”. Great book, about describing what a “fool” looks like – the characteristics of a fool! I think we all have done “foolish” things, but I think one of the marks of a truly “foolish” person is that there is no reasoning with them. So, to “quarrel” with a fool is useless. They are convinced in their own minds of the “rightness” of their own opionions. Therefore, there is no repentance because they see no need for it. I think we can guard our hearts from being foolish, by recognizing that we may not be always right, by being humble, by listening to others point of view. When we “quarrel” we “demand” that others see it our way.

  2. Dee and all,

    I was reminded last evening in my recovery group about what we do when we are hurt. We think about hurt in two ways – “How others have hurt me” (usually comes to our minds first when we think about the word hurt) and “How I have hurt others.” A thorn on a rose hurts those who touch it. I am reminded of a saying we use in recovery – Hurt people hurt people. When I am hurting, I tend to lash out and hurt those around me – usually those I love the most. This happens in relationships, as Dee stated, due to sin in our lives.

    Last evening our group discussed two types of pain people experience.
    1) John 16:33 – there will be troubles in this world and we know that Jesus will help us through this pain. He promises to never leave us or forsake us.
    2) Genesis 2:25 and 3:10 – shame-based pain – we cannot get through this pain, it consumes us, is inescapable, and is a result of sin in our lives. We all use many vices to try to escape this pain – alcohol, drugs, sex, money, love, etc. but it only numbs the pain for a short while. The only way to overcome this pain is to come to Jesus Christ and allow him to take the pain away from me. How do I do this? – by accepting his grace – His grace sets me free (Gal. 5:1). When I lay my pain, shame, bitterness, resentment, and sin down at the foot of the cross, I am free, no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). I can then experience the abundant life that Jesus so eagerly desires to give to me (John 10:10). What is so amazing then is how Jesus, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, will show me how I have hurt others while I was in the midst of my own shame-based pain. I can then be His ambassador, asking for forgiveness and forgiving those who have hurt me.

    So – I now desire to encourage my fellow sisters in Christ to let go of the shame, lay it at the foot of the cross, hold fast to the grace that only Jesus can give (1 Peter 5:12), and fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

  3. Thank you Carol for such a healing response. I am bothered by the thought of writing people off, yet I do understand the need for boundaries. Dee, the arms length approach is sometimes necessary and I am thankful that you didn’t talk about using scissors to cut them out.

    I want to be very sure that I get all the facts before I label someone as not safe. There have been times in my life when I didn’t understand the unwritten rules. I felt like someone picked me up and plunked me down in the middle of the game board of life and said “Now, play the game”, but I didn’t know the rules. So,I made mistakes that could have been interpreted as me being “unsafe”. I have learned that some people are more gifted in knowing those rules. My husband is a great example, he is intuitive and has a very good social sense. I, on the other hand, have had to work very hard to learn what he seems to just know.

    I have seen people turn from me, without explanation, and left me trying to figure out what happened. It seems pretty easy for some people to write others off without trying to work things out first. There is a long grieving when that happens.

    Having said that, I agree with Mary that one needs to be able to be reasoned with. The reasoning may not be accepted at first but like a seed that is planted it can blossom later. I recall a few very patient women who gave me time and didn’t desert me while I caught up. They are hero-women to me. God with skin on. Grace received that I want to extend to others.

  4. Mary, when I am talking about a “fool”, I am not talking about someone I don’t love. I am nearly 50 years old, and I can say that I can count on my one hand, people I would consider as fools. I don’t see people as “fools” who do foolish things, for we have all done foolish things, nor do I see that as a reason to “seperate” from them – for we all do learn from one another, and some of us are at different levels of growth – so to seperate from them would be unkind. But a fool is different – they are destructive. No matter what you do, and how many times you reach out, it doesn’t seem to penetrate them, and in their wake they are destructive and hurtful. It is not that you are not “kind” to your fool but you seperate your emotions from your fool. I’ve also seen the havoc and destruction a “fool” left to himself can have on a family, especially if that “fool” has or had influence on the family, so a new thought for me, and thank you Dee, and “proverbs” – is that sometimes we need to answer a fool according to his folly, so he is not wise in his own eyes. This also, is not easy.

  5. Hi
    Proverbs26:4 made me think that you should not engage in defending yourself to the fool because you get caught up in “the game” & end up sinning too but at times as in the next verse in Godly wisdom you need to speak with authority & correction cause they can’t just keep behaving the way they do without consequence.
    Appericated Mary P’s insights of what a fool is like.

  6. Proverbs 20:3 It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
    # Proverbs 26:4
    Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
    # Proverbs 26:5
    Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

    When I look at these three proverbs together, they tell me that a fool likes to start a quarrel. If you quarrel back you become a fool yourself. However, if you don’t respond then the fool makes the assumption that you agree with her and she becomes righteous in her folly. So, the trick is to respond to the quarrel in a way that puts an end to the conversation. I have found that responding to something that is obviously leading to a quarrel with, “How interesting! I’ll have to think about that for awhile,” then change the subject or walk away, works pretty well.

  7. I love this discussion Dee, I think it’s a great discussion. Who of us can’t learn more about how to deal with the “thorns” and “alligators” in our lives? Who of us hasn’t been a “thorn” or an “alligator” at some point in our life?

    I think it is true that we need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom in our lives. I think it is true, we need to look at our own hearts and their hearts.

    Janet H. – I liked your response on how to answer a fool. Just recently, I had a similar experience where someone said something to me which I totally didn’t agree with, and instead of “quarreling” right back, I believe the Lord gave me wisdom, to answer – “time will tell.” I think it was a perfect response at the moment, because it did not make the other person defensive, nor did it validate their point of view. If I would have defended my position, then the other person would proably have defended theirs. This way for a moment, I think it made him think.

    Things are not always “black” and “white”, but there are some things we need to hold onto. Truth, doesn’t change no matter how much we love someone. But it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people, to change people. Most of the time, my prayer for myself, is that the Lord would help me not to be an obstacle but an instrument. Knowing me full well, that’s quite a job!

    1. As a recovering addict, I’ve referred to this verse (Prov 26:11) often when discussing how I keep returning to my vice or the usual way of dealing with trouble over and over again, hoping that, this time, things will turn out differently. I’m a fool to believe that I will feel better and all will be well when I keep going back to my usual escape (vomit). In my 12-step support group, we refer to this as insanity and it relates to Step 1 – “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable” and Step 2 – “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

      Peter makes reference to this proverb in 2 Peter 2:22 and adds a second illustration – “Of them [false teachers] the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'”

      As a fool (who is not sane) I’ve been shown a new way in Jesus Christ, yet I still try to do things my way and keep ending up back where I started from – in my own vomit and mud (the original mess I was in). As wise person, I will come to the realization that my old way got me no where and Jesus’ way is the only way that will work – so I put my trust in Him.

      I’m gaining in this, but I still find myself back in the mess on occasion! Praise God for His Grace!

  8. Having watched my dog eat his vomit – not to mention the excrements of many cats – I am reminded that when I have diarrhea of the mouth I often have to eat my words. They are not a tasty dish. In fact they are usually folly.

    When I trained for the Alpha Course we were taught that nothing turns an exploring would-be seeker away faster than to have scripture or doctrine that he knows nothing about thrown at his every comment. We were taught to respond, “How interesting” and move on. With time and continued gradual introduction to the language of scripture and prayer, the Holy Spirit would guide the new person into the Way and the unknowing would find truth. Now that I work in the politics of downtown revitalization I find that “How interesting” has saved the day many a time! I’ve watched many dogs return to their vomit.

    Fools and their folly often appear when we assume that everything is either right or wrong. I explored that as I was writing my book and it became Hagar’s turn to speak. She is the other side of Sarah’s story. These two women began as master and slave, moved to friends, slipped into competitive jealousy, and parted ways. Which played the fool? Depends on which side of the story you look at. Life seems to be that way. Both were right and both were wrong. Poor Abraham! What’s a man to do when he’s married to two quarreling women? As Dee said, sometimes you respond and sometimes you don’t. As for Abraham, he simply trusted God and listened for God Almighty’s voice to lead him where he was supposed to go. Good advice for us all.

  9. Knowing full well that I have been a real thorn to friends in the past, I’ve also from experience and God’s wisdom been able to put up boundaries before the alligators. My struggle and question is that while these relationships no longer drain me, what is my responsibility(if any beyond prayer and being available)to other women in our church being drained or embraced by porcupines? I know it is not my place to be God or think for others, but another friend who was recently burned asked why I hadn’t warned her about an individual who can act very much like an alligator. That just doesn’t seem possible to do without being very judgemental or gossiping. I have other friends in the same situation, but am uncertain. To give some further reference the individual causing harm does so by undermining trust and casting dubious motives on people in leadership(which leaders being human can annoy or offend just by being themselves without adding to it). Stories are greatly exaggerated or intentions very misconstrued. This hasn’t happened in my presence, but I’ve had several opportunities to offer correction to other women on some details in a couple of instances that directly involved me. I don’t want to gossip but it’s tearing me up to see other women loose trust and fellowship because one person keeps poking. Please help or even just pray with me. Thank you!