By Sandy Sheppard
It is important for us to unmask, but it is also important that we become people with whom others feel safe to unmask and be real. Here are several suggestions for becoming godly confidants.
Be sensitive to people’s needs.
At a recent conference, a woman I hadn’t seen for a few years sat beside me. I commented that she had lost weight. “Things have been pretty tough lately,” she responded. “My husband left me five weeks ago.”
I promised to pray for her. She thanked me and left to sit with her friends. Later the Spirit nudged my conscience. “Why did you offer to pray for her instead of asking to pray with her?” I vowed I would do so if I had another chance. After lunch I saw her again and asked, “May I pray for you right now?”
Her eyes lit up. “Oh, would you?” she asked.
Her gratitude showed me how I tend to go through life with spiritual blinders on, oblivious to the needs around me. I was grateful that God gave me another chance to be a friend to this woman.
It’s often tempting to divulge knowledge under the guise of “sharing a prayer request.” But if a friend entrusts me with private information so I can pray for her, I should not conclude that she would be happy to have my entire Wednesday study group praying, too.
Proverbs 26:22 says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts:” I might feel important when I pass along “choice morsels,” but my friends have a right to expect confidentiality from me.
We all find ourselves in time crunches. We need to make time for developing honest relationships, even if it requires shifting our priorities and manipulating our overcommitted schedules.
Be a good listener.
Proverbs 18:13 sums up the need to be a good listener: “He who answers before listening -- that is his folly and his shame.” I enjoy a weekly lunch date with my husband, who is a good listener. He has a way of looking into my eyes while I’m talking to him that makes me feel he values what I have to say. He listens without interrupting and waits until I finish talking to respond.
Be a grace giver.
If our friends are afraid to tell us their deepest needs, maybe it is because we’re too quick to judge the “speck of sawdust in [our] brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in [our] own eye” (Matt. 7:3).
I admire Marilyn, who refuses to become involved in gossip or negative talk. “Whenever I hear someone criticizing our new pastor,” she says, “I try to say something good about him.” Marilyn practices grace rather than judgment.