Nobody likes a tattletale. Tale-bearing breaks trust in friendship and damages the reputation of both parties. But is it always right to be silent when you see a friend doing something wrong? Here are 7 rules for friends that will clear up the confusion.
1. When they are doing wrong– (or if they are thinking about doing wrong) talk to your friend first. If you can persuade them to change their mind or make amends for their behavior, there is no need to tattle. We all make mistakes. Everyone deserves a chance to right their own wrong.
2. When it is unpleasant – if it is only something YOU don’t like them doing, but it isn’t actually wrong, let them know how you feel without blaming them. Perhaps they will be gracious enough to stop doing whatever it is when you are around if it makes you uncomfortable.
3. When they aren’t doing what you want to do – you can offer a better suggestion or just go along for now and do what you want to do later. However, if it isn’t something you want to participate in at all (a game you don’t like, or a place you don’t want to visit), politely excuse yourself and go do something else after letting them know the reason. “I’d rather not go (or play this right now), but I’ll play with you later when you’re not busy!”
4. When a friend has hurt your feelings accidentally – let them know. Again, do this without blame because they may not have been aware of it. “You may not be aware of this, but it hurt my feelings (made me sad) when you said ____.” This way, they can apologize.
5. When they hurt you on purpose – by gossip, cruel teasing or setting up a trap that caused you to be hurt, draw the line. Let them know you didn’t appreciate what they did and that you can’t allow them to treat you this way. Keep your distance until they sincerely apologize. Allowing someone to deliberately mistreat you does harm to yourself and your soul. If they continue to think this kind of behavior is okay, it will also ruin them. If they don’t repent of their behavior at this point, they were never really a friend.
6. When they are doing something to harm themselves – convince them to stop it immediately, if possible. If the threat of self-harm is serious, quickly go to their parent or a trusted adult that can really help. Let your friend know that you will be doing this. They may be upset and say they won’t be your friend anymore but a true friend doesn’t watch someone else destroy themselves, in peace. Later on, they will realize your intentions. A threat to do harm to themselves is really a cry for help.
7. When they are threatening to bring actual harm to others – Sometimes people are just careless with words and say things like, “I’m going to kill you for that!” But knowing them well, you know if they really do intend to bring harm. Violence isn’t always preplanned. Sometimes it erupts from rage. If you perceive the threat is real or could be real, run to tell others. If they are in the process of planning to bring harm to someone (bringing a weapon or planning a trap) Parents, teachers, or authorities need to be informed. If you see danger coming and don’t warn others, you are partly responsible for the harm that comes to the innocent victims. It’s time to tattle. (Ezekiel 33)
Scripture has many wise words on friendship. Here are a few on choosing and dealing with friends.
Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
Proverbs 12:26 The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself.
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
Proverbs 14:6-7 A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding. Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.
With thanks to my mother in law, Nancy Clark, for the valuable lessons she taught me when I had four-in-a-row and didn’t know how to manage them! Your words of advice have been the saving of my family.