The Gentle Hand
Through tears and trembling lips, a friend confided in me about an addiction she’s been trying to fight alone for some time now.
Her big revelation didn’t surprise me. I had known for over a year that she was dealing with it.
When I told her that, she asked me why I hadn’t said anything, hadn’t asked her about it. The truth is, I didn’t want to hurt her. The truth is, I didn’t want to be the bad guy. I didn’t think her addiction was that big of a deal, but I also knew she must feel terrible shame to not tell me about it. I prayed for her and wished she would just come out with it, but I kept silent. Confrontation was too hard. I didn’t want to risk making her angry or causing her further shame.
My heart broke for her as she sat across from me, nervously wiping away tears. She was so afraid I would be angry with her, judge her, condemn her. She lived for at least a year with that finger of shame pointing at her.
As I think of that pain she faced alone, I realize I am culpable in her year-long battle. I didn’t know about the problem before and am not even sure how long she’s dealt with it. But I have known for over a year. And she has fought it alone. I told myself I was showing her respect by not saying anything, but was I just a coward?
What would have happened if the first time I noticed the problem, I had asked her about it? It would have been an innocent question at that time. I didn’t ask her because I felt stunned and sure I was wrong. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by asking something that might sound like an accusation. The next time I noticed it, I could have asked her about it and mentioned the other time. Instead, I didn’t say anything and I noticed it repeatedly. I hurt for her because I know her well. I know her well enough to know she hated herself for it and yet felt that she deserved a little pleasure in life. I know her because I know myself. Our addictions are different, but I have battled my own.
Perhaps I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t ready to face my own addictions yet? I did the cowardly thing. I kept silent while she suffered. If I’d had the courage to ask her about it a year ago, it’s possible that she would have suffered much less because I could’ve helped her face it then. It’s possible that my silence, my cowardice, allowed my dear friend to suffer, to feel isolated and ashamed, far longer than if I had spoken up immediately. It’s even possible that I battled my own problems longer because we weren’t walking out the challenges together.
Sometimes it’s hard to deal with things right away, but it’s important in the long run. This situation has been another lesson for me, another in a long line of similar lessons. If we are willing to do the hard thing, face the hurt, and move through it, we find freedom in our relationships. Free to love fully, to trust one another implicitly, and to confidently move forward. We can know that our dear friends will put a gentle hand on our arm to halt us if they see us heading for trouble. There is such security and safety in that freedom.
Confrontation is hard, but sometimes it’s the most loving thing we can do.