It was a familiar knock, a nervous knock, a confrontational knock. “Come in!” I said, reclining in my desk chair in my room. One of my housemates walked in, obviously frustrated, and keeping his gaze from mine.
“What’s up, man?” I inquired, already having an idea of what he was going to say. I was our house overseer (a position established by our landlord), and issues were brought to me, most of which I was happy to help with. However…
“Could you ask Luke (name changed) to work on his attitude around me? He always…”
I proceeded to listen as my housemate vulnerably shared how another of our housemates affected him. After engaging with a few clarifying questions, I felt as though I understood his side of the story. I only had one more question.
“Have you talked to him about it?”
As pastors, teachers, or mentors, we cannot always be with people in every step or fix every single issue for them—though there can be the temptation. That was Jesus’ job, and He made quick work of it on the Cross. We have the honor and responsibility to empower people to take ownership of their difficulties and to partner with Jesus to navigate them.
As humans, one of the most common “problems” that come up are… other humans. The best solution I’ve found to these relational hurdles is direct, brave, and kind communication. Avoiding this kind of communication often stems from fearful mindsets—these mindsets may come from their parents’ parenting style or even traumatic experiences. Regardless of the cause, without the ability to communicate in a firm yet Godly manner, it will be incredibly hard for anyone to thrive in any scenario.
But back to the story… By asking my housemate the question, I was doing several things. Firstly, I was holding him accountable to work on the problem and not assume the other housemate’s attitude and heart posture. Secondly, I was empowering him to work on his dilemma and showing my belief in his ability to navigate the issue. Finally, I was refusing to take responsibility for what he had going on. This might seem heartless, but it is the best way to assist, and mentor someone in this situation. I am always willing to help, but if I constantly “fix” the problem for him, then I become like a mother who washes her 26-year-old’s laundry—AKA an enabler—and that is never pleasant or even truly helpful.
Of course, as for every rule, there are exceptions. If you are dealing with someone who does not have the emotional capacity due to trauma or an untrained ability to handle brave confrontation, then it is okay to assist them through the process of confronting the issues in their lives. Just like, it’s okay to help a three-year-old pour their milk. When they are six-months-old, you feed them yourself. By the age of three, they are old enough to be a part of the process. But if my 12-year-old asked me to get them milk, I would remind them they are perfectly able to pour the milk themselves. Everyone is at different stages in their emotional and relational journey, and if they are in the early stages, it is important to be there to support them.
I have sat in many brave communication meetings, and I usually ask clarifying questions to help either party understand each other. Often, I find the issue is a simple misunderstanding. If you decide to help navigate the conversation, then be sure to follow up with whoever was needing the assistance. This opens a time to coach, teach, comfort, and love them. Taking this time will solidify trust between you and can be the difference between a growth opportunity and an inconsequential event.
Practically, for me, asking someone through brave communication is more of a mental practice than anything external. I am constantly asking myself, “Is this person capable of handling this situation by themselves. If so, how can I partner with them so they feel loved while not enabling them?” This can take practice but it empowers the people you mentor to be powerful themselves.
The practical step after the mental practice often takes courage. This usually comes in the form of a question. Using a question, I will challenge them to bravely address the issue. “Have you talked to them about it?” “What are you going to do about it?” “How did your actions affect the situation?” are just a few examples of questions which will empower the person and dissolve any victim mentalities. Often these questions can create a bit of confrontation, which is where the courage comes to play. It is not always easy holding someone to a powerful standard, but it is the best way to love them, yourself and anyone else involved.
Empowering people to healthily and kindly deal with hurdles in life is one of the most important gifts we can give them. Without it, they are left to the whims of the world constantly looking for someone else to take care of their issues. But when they are empowered, they are given permission to believe what God has deposited in them is enough to influence culture and change the world
Oh, and in case you’re curious, my housemate had a great conversation with Luke.If you want to learn more in depth about empowering people and holding them to a high standard I highly recommend Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.
Nicolas is a Third Year student with Steve and Ruth Moore. He is passionate about the Word and dancing, and has amazing insight in communications and relationships. We are excited to share his wisdom with you all!