What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

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A few years ago I was conflicted on how to handle a sensitive issue with someone in our church. They were behaving in a way that was hurting others. I was torn between confronting them at the risk of straining our relationship, letting it go in the hopes they would change on their own, waiting for someone else to confront them, or praying they would just leave the church so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

One night I decided to talk to Sarah about what to do. I explained the tension I was feeling and asked what she thought I should do.

“If one of your friends whose a pastor was in a similar situation and asked you for advice what would you tell them to do?”

“I’d tell them they need to talk to the person, one-on-one, face-to-face. I would tell them to start out with a few positive things they’ve seen in that person’s life, kindly explain the problem and what they need to do to change things, explain the consequences of what will happen if they don’t, and end by encouraging them that you love them, they can do this, and you’re here to help.”

“Great. Do that.”

What Sarah said made a lot of sense. When I took myself out of the equation I knew exactly what to do. Her advice also have me a great framework on what to do when I’m too close to a situation to make an objective decision:

When you don’t know what to do ask yourself what advice you would give to someone else in a similar situation, then go and do that.

It’s funny how we know what other people should do but are confused about what we should do. And I think that’s completely natural. It’s easy for us to do that because we won’t have to bear the consequences of our advice. But when we know the consequences will fall on us that complicates things.

What this tip does is make you the other person. It takes the consequences out of the equation and allows you to see what the right thing to do is. Once we have a look at the right thing it’s a lot harder to go back on it because, if we did, we’d be a hypocrite to tell someone to do something we’re not willing to do ourselves. And nobody wants to be a hypocrite.

The next time you’re in a situation where you’re torn on what to do ask yourself what you’d tell someone else to do, then go do what you think someone else should do. It won’t always be easy, but after this exercise you will have the clarity and confidence to approach a difficult situation in a tactful and helpful way.

What’s a tough situation you’re going through right now? If a friend was in a similar situation and asked you what you think they should do what would you tell them to do?

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