As a Christian, how do you feel about things like yoga, trick-or-treating on Halloween, reading Harry Potter, drinking, reading your horoscope, spending time with non-Christians, gossiping, participating in Lent, reading 50 Shades of Gray, and watching your favorite band at the local bar?
What about your friends? Do they agree?
The truth is, for as long and as large as the Bible is, it still leaves a lot of room for interpretation in some areas. And the things that you would find objectionable, your friends may not be opposed to at all–even if they are committed Christians just like you.
This doesn’t mean you need to get into an entire heated debate to convince them that you’re right and they’re wrong (after all, it may be *you* that is wrong… or no one at all). But I think it is important to realize that–even among Christians circles–there will still be plenty of chances to get involved in things we really should not be involved in.
So how do you respond when the inevitable happens? Your friends all want to see the latest movie–even though you’ve heard it’s garbage. Your colleagues at work constantly gossip and expect you to join in. Your best friend is on the verge of an affair and wants you to cover for her… How do you react?
As hard as it is, sometimes saying “yes” to God will require you to say “no” to your friends. And here’s how to do just that.
1. Choose Your Friends Wisely
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” — 1 Corinthians 15:33
One of the easiest ways to keep yourself out of trouble is simply to choose your friends wisely. Whether you like it or not, the people you choose to spend time with can and do have a tremendous impact on you and the choices you make.
There’s a famous quote from motivational speaker Jim Rohn that goes: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Whether or not this is always true, it certainly provides a lot to think about.
If you surround yourself with negative people, you’re likely to become one too. If you surround yourself with people who are selfish or greedy, you’re like to become selfish and greedy too. But, if you surround yourself with Godly friends who are intentional about putting God first, you likely will too.
Who are the five people you spend the majority of your time with? If you were to become just like them, would that be a good or a bad thing?
2. Know Your Boundaries
Unfortunately, even if you were to surround yourself with only the holiest of people (which I wouldn’t recommend anyways, because then how could you witness to others?), you likely will find yourself in situations that you don’t necessarily agree with.
Perhaps your friends engage in activities they wouldn’t consider “all that bad” that you’d rather steer clear of. Things like Halloween, yoga, Harry Potter, or the latest R-rated movie. Or perhaps your friends simply have bad habits they haven’t been able to break yet. (No one’s perfect)
In situations like these, it’s up to you to decide ahead of time what you are and are not okay with.
Don’t wait until you’re in the heat of the moment. You’ll be like a deer in headlights, and you’ll likely just go along with everyone to be agreeable.
Decide ahead of time how you will respond.
*Need help setting good boundaries? This post has good information about how to do just that.
3. Remember Your Priorities
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 2 Corinthians 5:9-10
Of course, just because you decide ahead of time how you will respond doesn’t mean that that response will come easily when it’s time to act (or not act, as the case may be).
When you’re in the heat of the moment… When you know what you *should* say or do, but you’re having a difficult time doing it… It’s time to remember your priorities.
After all, going against the grain is rarely fun. We all want to be liked and make others happy. Saying no isn’t easy.
But when you keep an eternal perspective and remember who you REALLY want to please, it does get a lot easier to use the situation as a witnessing opportunity instead of a missed opportunity to have some inappropriate fun.
4. Have an “Out”
Have you taken the time to set your boundaries and establish your priorities but you’re still struggling to say no? If so, it can help to have a good excuse at the ready.
Now, I don’t mean to lie. But you may want to be prepared with a few phrases you can say to get yourself out of the conversation gracefully. For example:
- “I don’t really feel like going out today. I think I’m just going to stay home and relax instead.”
- “As much as I’d love to hang out with you, we’re trying to save money right now, so I’m going to have to pass.”
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m going to have to pass this time. Next time you get together, let me know.”
- “I’m not a big fan of [whatever activity]. What about doing [a different activity] instead?”
- “I’ve been meaning to spend more time with my kids/spouse lately, so I should probably do that instead. Maybe we can get together another time?”
5. Stand Firm
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 10:32-33
If your friends are easy-going and laid-back, one polite “no” or “not this time” may be all it takes to steer the conversation in another direction. Sometimes, however, a polite excuse simply isn’t going to be enough. And when this happens, you’re going to have to stand firm.
Tell your friend (IN LOVE!) why you have no interest in whatever activity your friend wants you to do. You don’t have to be rude and judgmental, but you don’t have to back down either. Simply say no, give as much explanation as you feel comfortable, and leave it at that.
Ultimately, you don’t owe your friends an explanation for why you will or will not participate in any activity, although it is better to give one if you can. Maybe they simply don’t know or simply never thought about the issue the way you have? And perhaps they have some insight you’ve never considered either.
(Which is exactly why I LOVE discussing all of these tricky issues on our Facebook page!)
Whether your friends respect your decision, pester you, laugh at you, ignore you or don’t really care either way, that doesn’t really matter. They can do what they want. You do what you know is right.
Have you ever been in a situation like this before–where your friends wanted you to participate in something you knew you shouldn’t? How did you handle it?