“My best friends from high school are all partying and going insane in college. How am I supposed to respond to them?”
This is a tricky question to answer without more context, so I’m going to tell you my story.
All of us experience this in college. We are either the ones who go crazy or we are the ones who look at our friends and think, “What happened to you? How did you turn into this crazy person?” I’ve been both.
When my friends turned into binge-drinking-party-animals at the beginning of college, I judged them. I was appalled by their behavior–they knew better, were raised better than that–and totally sat up on my pedestal and judged them.
It makes me sad today that that’s how I responded to them. Their sin may have been loud and evident, but mine was just as ugly. It was just hidden in the dark shadows of my heart, instead of out there for the world to see. While I may have “looked” better on the outside, I was in no place to judge them.
Then I decided to fix them. I’m a fixer. I love to solve problems, especially other people’s problems, and let’s just go ahead and say it– people. I love to think I can fix people. [Please note: THIS IS CRAZY TALK. The only person in the business of fixing people is JESUS. Not me or you.] So, then, my Jesus-loving-turned-heathen friends (I mean, that’s what I thought), became my project. I was totally consumed in trying to “save” them from their excessive partying and hooks ups. Please. It makes me cringe (and laugh) to think what a savior-complex I really had. And, let me say, it did come from some good place of motivation. I felt a burden for my friends. I was saddened by the choices they were making and I wanted to help them stop to prevent further consequences. Because, no matter what, friends, there are always consequences.
What I wish someone had told me:
1. It’s not your monkey.
Not too long ago, my mom told me this analogy about a monkey. (It actually comes from a Havard Business Review article that you can read here. My mom’s a pretty smart lady.) The basic analogy is that the big problem your friend is dealing with, well, that’s her monkey. It’s clinging to her back and climbing all over her, and is really a bother. But the next thing you know, whether because she asked you to hold him for a second or because you offered (Savior-alert), now YOU’VE got the monkey on your back. Suddenly the monkey is your problem. He’s climbing all over you, demanding your attention, picking at your hair, whatever. And the only way for you to get it off you, is to pass it off to someone else (preferably the monkey’s owner).
At some point or another, all of my friends have heard me say “nope! not my monkey!” It’s probably one of my top five mantras and I wish I knew it back in college. Yes, your friends may be making stupid decisions, but at the end of the day– it’s not your monkey. You cannot control anyone else’s behavior or actions, but your own. So stop trying. It’s not your monkey.
2. There is a right way to confront.
Just yesterday, I landed on this passage in the Bible. (Matthew 18:15-16)
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
This is a hard one to swallow. We have to remember the context here. Jesus is teaching his disciples and has just been talking about causing others to stumble, about rejoicing in the lost who are found, and then He goes into forgiveness. I think the point of his teaching here is dealing with blatant sin, specifically amongst the church community. BUT I think it shows that on an individual level, it’s important to be the voice of truth in our friends’ lives.
James says it like this:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Looking back, I sure wish someone had called me out when I was the one “going crazy”. Did I survive it? Yes. Did I come back to living in obedience? Yes. Do I have scars and consequences to prove it? Yes. Maybe I’d have a few less scars if someone spoke up.
Bottom line? Do your friends a favor by loving them enough to speak truth into their lives (call them out!), but at the end of the day, it’s not your monkey.