In our previous article we addressed the initial shock you would experience having a friend confess their same sex attractions to you. We also looked at the fact that the reason they disclosed this personal information was because they felt that you were a trusted friend in whom they can confide. "Over time you have been a friend, a listening ear and have obviously demonstrated a deep sense of loyalty as you strive to be like Jesus. These qualities have allowed your friend to consider you to be a safe and secure person, who will not shun them. I say Bravo! So few things in this life can be trusted, yet your friend feels that you are one who can be." So where to now?
Proverbs 20:25 says "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."
The kind of openness and transparency that was first initiated needs to be encouraged. You can be sure that your friend's admission was but a "testing of the waters" to find out how you would respond to this kind of news. There are many things your friend has to say, thoughts to share, fears, stories, insecurities and doubts to tell you about. But these are strange and terrifying waters for your friend to swim in. He or she has lived most of their life hiding these intimate details of their heart. In order for them to continue in openness and transparency, you will have to "draw out" what lies within the "deep waters" of your friend's soul.
You should be honoured! This is a privilage, not a curse
The first place you need to start is with your expression of appreciation and reassurance. You may think "Why would I need to reassure them of my friendship or my loyalty? They already feel I'm trustworthy. They obviously know I'm going to help them. After all, they came to me to begin with and now I'm sitting here reading these articles, aren't I?
Yes, indeed you have proven that you are considerate; you've stayed calm and not freaked out (hopefully), and you're reading articles on this site as you strive to educate yourself. You're doing great, but now comes the part that for guys is the most difficult. Are you ready? You need to verbally express your friendship, admiration, love and commitment. I know, I know, what guy says such things to a buddy? Sure women talk about feelings all the time, right? Well, it's time to get your head out of the sand and remember this is not about you! Your job is to "draw" them out, and in order for you to do that, you will need to invest and respond with as much emotional energy as they have invested in you by telling you their situation. You will have to express at every opportunity that you appreciate the friendship and that it is an honour that they told you about this problem in their life. As you both begin to go down this new path together, this will be something that must be done, and often. For many of you, this may be difficult, at first.
"I'm your friend, I'm cool with this and I want to help"
In your next conversation, which, by the way, needs to be the same day and as soon as possible, you will need to say something like, "Hey, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated you telling me about that stuff, I'm sure it was hard to talk about. If you want to talk more about that, I'm your friend and it's cool with me. I'm here for you. If I have questions is it okay if I ask?"
Questions! You think I'm going to ask questions? What if I ask something dumb, our say something to offend them? They don't want me to ask questions! Wrong! The very fact that they have been open with you is a cry for help, it is a cry for friendship, and it is a sign that they want someone to talk to. Guys, seriously, we need to have real discussions as men, and more importantly as those trying to imitate Jesus Christ. We need to express at every turn our appreciation for the trust given to us and our commitment as a Godly friend. As Christians we know that Satan is always on the prowl. We must, as the scripture says "encourage one another daily." (Hebrews 3:13)
Consider with me for a moment why your friend had taken so long to finally be open about this challenge in their life. Before they became a Christian they lived in a world that said they were second class citizens, that they were abnormal, even worthy of varying kinds of abuse, and then treated that way. Many told their parents, only to be yelled at, or worse, excommunicated from the family. Others faced discrimination on their jobs, many lost "friends." Some, for fear of such retaliation and ignorance, lived silently, too terrified to let anyone know who they really were.
Not everyone understands, even in the church
Then they became Christians! Praise God, but the fears lingered. You don't get over that kind of trepidation and insecurity overnight. Besides, what if the church was not as "safe" as they had hoped? Is it possible that even their new brothers and sisters in Christ would have carried their homophobic attitudes into the Jesus' Church? Is it possible that even in a place of forgiveness, mercy and love, they would still be ridiculed, mocked, joked about, looked down on and rebuffed? Yes! Let's be honest with each other; to a large degree, Christians have done a terrible job dealing with this issue and our churches have rarely been a safe place for these brothers and sisters to be open about their same gender attractions where they can receive Godly love, compassion, mercy and teaching. So silent they have stayed. Until now, until they met you!
You have literally been empowered with the ability to undo years, maybe even decades of hateful, or at the very least ignorant thoughts, fears and actions. God has enabled you to kick start the healing process, but unless you respond with a Godly, loving, kind and caring attitude that "draws" your friend out, you will not get very far. Your friend will leave this door open for only a short time. You've got only a few opportunities to begin the "drawing out" process. If they sense from you that you want to pull away, pull back and would prefer to not have to deal with this issue, the door of openness will close quickly.
In my own experience, I've found that one of the most powerful things
I could do is to first be in awe of God for the fact that He could take a soul that is hurting and bring them to a point that they could be so humble as to share these deep secrets. Once you see that God has been working in their life and you have been inspired by the level of humility it took for them to be this transparent, turn to them and say "Wow, this is amazing!" They will probably be in shock and wonder "what's so amazing about this?" Tell them how inspiring it is to hear you share all of this information, how astounded you are at their level of honesty, openness and courage. Don't be afraid to jump in and ask questions. Your friend WANTS to talk, but be sensitive by asking "Is this a good time for me to ask you a question?" I would also suggest that before you start digging, you reassure them that there isn't anything they could say that would make you think less of them or pull away. Reassure them that you are their friend and that you are there to help and will gladly walk beside them in this journey.
Questions to initially ask are:
"How often do you struggle with these attractions, thoughts or temptations?"
"Is this a daily battle for you?"
"How sexually active were you before you became a Christian?"
"Are you sexually acting out now?"
"When do you first recall having same sex attractions?"
"Are you worried about our friendship?" Feel free to add some levity; "Is that it, I thought you were going to tell me you're dying."
Don't be judgmental; remember that you too are a sinner, in need of God's grace. Respond with a listening ear and words of affirmation, lots of them.
There are other articles on this site that will help you in this are "Why Christians Need to Work on their Bedside Manner" and "The Eight ‘Must Do's'" located in the Church Leaders Help section of this site.
In my next article, I will discuss further the ways to encourage openness and transparency as you continue to "draw" your friend out.