I love my friends.  A lot.  They mean the world to me.  And I also live in the tension of wanting my community to get along.  I am the kind of person that wants everybody to get along.   I have the kind of faith that doesn’t want to exclude people.   It bothers me when someone hurts another person.  It frustrates me when someone doesn’t like a church, group or another person …or me.

If you agree with any of the above statement now I’m going to move you into the WE category. We also live in the tension of not wanting to offend others around us.  When we hear about our friends having sex with their partners, getting drunk on the weekends or simply seeing our friends moving in a direction that isn’t healthy, we are now faced with the decision to either let them “keep going” or have the hard conversations.  And when we do, the response of some of our friends is this:  

“Who are you to judge me?”

A caring decision from a loving friend to have the conversation about this past weekend’s behavior now becomes an episode of Judge Judy and you are the harsh judge declaring a sentence and a fine for their conduct…when all along you were just wanting to be a good friend because you truly cared for them.  

Obviously there are friends that don’t care for you, don’t have your best interests at heart or love you and you can dismiss them. But I’m talking about those who are in your community that you have a general respect for them and a general trust with them and you sincerely enjoy being around them.   These friends in your community took a sincere moment, stepped out nervously and brought something to your attention that they saw as harmful, hurtful and damaging to you and your response is … “don’t judge me.”

The reality is they weren’t judging you—they were caring about you.  

I’ve had to have these conversations before and when I do, it’s tough.   When I have had to have these tough conversations with my friends, my heart is to never to offend them or hurt them. They’re my friends! That’s the last thing on my mind! 

But I do want to talk to them and help them. Because I love them and want the best for them.  That friend in trouble must have forgotten how hard it was to get the courage and the strength to have the conversation to even approach this and when I do, their response is to accuse me of judge and juror.  

I’m here to say to those of you who have said to your true friends to “stop judging me” you were wrong.  They weren’t showing you judgment but showing you graciousness. 

What is graciousness?  

Graciousness is having a forgiving attitude and a compassionate posture while walking in wisdom with those who beliefs, attitudes and opinions differ from yours.

Of course the Bible says it best:

“Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”  Colossians 4:5-6 NLT

 Your friends were not being judgmental towards you but they were being gracious towards you.  What does it mean to be gracious?

Have a forgiving attitude.

A gracious person doesn’t see your wrongs but sees you righting your wrongs.  They see a future for you that are for your good and betterment.   A forgiving attitude means they are forgiving and looking past the behaviors, issues and actions that are warranting the conversation you’re having. They’re not seeing the issues but they are seeing you.  I’m not saying you have to walk around saying, “I forgive you” to every friend who is on the wrong track.  What I am saying is when your attitude is, “I won’t hold it against you when you have a different belief than I” you want to continue to go relationally farther with that person despite their beliefs or their behaviors.

A judgmental friend has an unforgiving attitude. They can’t look past your issues and will hold that against you. When they see you, they see your issues and they see your sin and choose to not see you apart for your issue.  But a gracious friend sees what God sees: a future you that has you healed, whole and thriving.  Even though they know that what you are doing is wrong they choose to not hold your sin against you but forgive you and the issue instantly because they love you. They don’t let it offend them but they choose to be like Jesus and continue to love you despite the sin.  

They recognize that what you’re doing is wrong but cannot let you stay that way.  Who doesn’t want a friend like that?  Friends who practice graciousness aren’t holding it against you but … maybe you are holding something against them or even yourself.  Stop judging your friends and yourself and start forgiving.  Even though you have different views you can still have a conversation and stop letting your issues get in the way of your friendship. 

Have a compassionate posture.

A gracious person has a posture of compassion. A gracious person postures themselves by having a humble yet confident voice to share the truth of Scripture with love and respect.  Their motive is goodwill and kindness because it’s the kindness of Jesus in a follower of Christ that actually compels someone to reconsider their stance and opinion and move to a posture of repentance (Romans 2:4).

A judgmental person doesn’t have sympathy because their motive is proving they are right and desiring to tout being the expert in your spiritual matters. Like a spiritual umpire calling out your strikes and declaring you disqualified from running your race with God.  A compassionate posture reflects sympathy for your misunderstood thoughts on life or their situation.  Not only do they hear and observe your misguided thinking but also a gracious person has a strong desire to help your current situation.    They know, as a loving follower of Jesus and as a true friend, the words of Christ will always move you towards freedom from faulty thinking more than a good-intentioned opinion from the biased crowd.  

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Walk in wisdom.

A gracious person walks in wisdom.  A judgmental person walks around as an expert.  They walk around giving you advice.  A gracious person desires to give you wisdom.  Jesus is your wisdom; “God has united you with Christ Jesus.  For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself.” (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Graciousness has the eyes to see beyond the crowd’s opinion and the wisdom to move you forward into your designed future that God has prepared for you (Proverbs 3:5-6).

How Jesus deals with differing opinions is how we should deal with opinions that are different from us.  Your gracious friend is going to be Jesus to you in the moment. 

The ethic of graciousness is found in treating others like Jesus treated others without compromising the truth of Scripture.   

And if they are talking to you about what you are doing that is different from what you believe, don’t throw up the judgment word, but hear them out because what you hear as judgment might just be the wisdom you need that God is sending you through your friend to help you.

This posture of graciousness not only stops a judgmental thought in its tracks but I think it overpowers it. Forgiveness, compassion and kindness are words that unify and not divide.  I’d like to think of graciousness as being irresistible to anyone because of its very nature of being kind about a cultural position or friend’s situation.  But it’s not just showing kindness it’s also being wise.  It’s knowledge of what is true and right with insight and sound judgment.  

I’ve been recently talking about this with my friend Lindsay Willis, leadership developer and entrepreneur, and she said this recently:  

“As this next generation of young Christian leadership, we get the love of God right and we get the story right but we don’t know how to speak truth.”

That’s what I hope graciousness does — to help you speak truth. If you are in a situation and you have a friend that is confronting you about it, maybe don’t play the “stop judging me card” and instead play the “thanks for loving me card” and watch your future and friendships be stronger than ever before. 

Alan Pastian works is a Pastor at River Valley Church in Minneapolis, MN, where he lives with his wife, Heidi, and is father to Anja and Magnus, he thinks coffee and community are inseparable, he believes a picture speaks a thousand words, he celebrates films as modern-day parables and is committed to collecting experiences more than collecting things.