A friend went to dinner recently and overheard three women. The women ranged in size—one was very large, another was large and one was an average-sized female. The average sized female started to order her meal and asked the waitress to bring a box because she knew that she was not going to eat all of her food. The other two women gave the woman a tongue lashing about her health and decision to eat less. My friend, a physician, said that all of their advice was inaccurate.
I’ve experienced this as well. I’ve had individuals tell me about things I should do about so many things they had not mastered themselves. I remember being scolded about my schedule and taking care of myself. The person only had limited information about what they saw on social media but had no idea of my actual day to day life. They didn’t know anything about my personal life and how I spent my time but based on their limited knowledge made a sweeping generalization.
I was somewhat baffled because this person was often hospitalized for unregulated high blood pressure. In both of these examples, people gave advice that they were not willing to take themselves. There is nothing wrong with being supportive and caring for those we love. Yet there is a fine line between responding out of compassion and out of judgement. It boils down to our intention and motivation. It can be deceptive to mask it in concern when it is really more about the need to be right and seen as superior.
In sharing what we think about others, we must also be willing to take criticism as well. A friend remarked about a mutual acquaintance not having a support system that spoke truth. I replied that the issue is that the person loves to give advice to others but is unable to listen and be accountable for their own actions. In essence, it’s easy to tell others what to do and not follow suit ourselves.
Scripture reminds us that we need to be careful about judging others: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye,” Matthew 7:1-6.
We all need people in our lives that are supportive, caring, and will tell us about ourselves with love. It’s not helpful to be surrounded by a group of people who say ‘yes’ to everything you do, just as it’s not helpful to be around people who find fault in everything you do. We all need people in our lives who have our best interests in mind. We all need friends who want to see us soar—that our success is their success.
The Bible offers guidance on the friends we should seek for our lives: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity,” Proverbs 17:17. I feel sorry for the lady who was trying to be healthy.
Instead of being made to feel as if she was wrong for trying to live differently, her friends could have supported her decision even if they didn’t want to participate. Studies show that there are different types of friends we need to achieve optimal life satisfaction: close friends, lifelong friends, friends of convenience, work friends, and same chapter of life friends. It’s important to know who gets access to your life. Sometimes we give people access who do not deserve to be so close. Some friends are for a specific reason and some are for just a season. Know the difference.
(Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the vice president of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit <drfroswa.com>.)