“Tell yourself an empowering story about what’s possible for you, and take action over and over again.”
— Mastin Kipp
Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked often of the concept of cheap grace: Forgiveness without requiring change and repentance. That last part — requiring change and repentance — often gets people’s hackles up. In our North American culture, we cringe when a person points out our faults. Who made you the judge? we think to ourselves.
In a day where religious and political viewpoints are reaching fevered extremes, there is great necessity for us to be able to step outside of our frame of reference and understand the values and perspective of others. There’s no doubt about that. It is so crucial to check our privilege, observe our biases, and respect and appreciate the soul and breath in another person.
But I’m also reminded of Proverbs 27:5 that says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Or Jesus who offered ultimate forgiveness and a perfect, clean slate, but also said “Now go and sin no more.” In our efforts to not appear judgmental, is there a chance that our silence and our quiet love is actually supporting someone in habits that are toxic and holding them back from becoming the ultimate version of themselves? At what point should you speak up?
I believe that sometimes, from a place of genuine love and respect, the Spirit and our angels may prompt us to offer guidance to a close friend or family member to help them move into the perfection of their divine calling.
Perhaps you have a friend with unhealthy sexual habits, or who struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, or maybe it’s just day-to-day stuff that’s closing them up to the universe’s abundance. When you see a friend or family member consistently making poor choices, yes, they need you to come alongside them and offer them your understanding and unconditional support. But sometimes, they also need you to be a lightworker — someone who helps build a higher level of awareness and action within their Self. Sometimes, that may mean you point out an area in their life they need to work on.
That’s not being “judgmental.” That’s not being “self-righteous.” That’s being a friend.
Even Oprah, the Universe’s queen of love and good vibes, knows that a kick in the pants is sometimes more necessary than a hug. “You need to cut the bulls***,” she famously snapped at Lindsay Lohan this year.
Granted, it’s always a difficult situation to navigate.
When trying to steer a friend on their path, the most important thing to do first is to step outside yourself and observe where your thoughts are coming from. If you get any sense of satisfaction from the situation, and if you feel elevated when you notice the low points in the life or habits of someone else, STOP. Your thoughts are coming from the ego, and by “helping” someone or critiquing their lifestyle, what you’re actually trying to do is make yourself greater. True love comes without ego attachment. If the ego is evolved, it will meet the resistance of the ego of the person you’re trying to reach, and the only outcome is resentment, fear, guilt or hatred.
It’s also crucial to recognize that no one is perfect. You don’t need to be perfect to help others get closer to their ideal self, and you also shouldn’t be asking others to be perfect. In a recent podcast, Gabrielle Bernstein talked about the idea of perfection and being spiritually attuned. What you want, she says, is the recognition that you’ve come from days of darkness with occasional glimmers of light, to days of light with occasional glimmers of darkness. It’s about the path and the journey and the progress, not some 100%-perfect-and-happy-day. We are traveling on the path together, and we should be helping each other get further on that self journey where every step matters.
And finally, if you find yourself on the receiving end of feedback from a friend as I have many times in my life, know that they’re sharing their thoughts because they recognize that divine spark within you and want to see it flourish. Let your ego step aside, as hopefully they have done on their end, and allow their words to encourage you to pursue life with right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort and right concentration.
Healing cannot be repeated. If the patient is healed, what remains to heal him from? And if the healing is certain, as we have already said it is, what is there to repeat?
— A Course in Miracles