What exactly does being supportive mean?
If you’ve never read the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, check it out at your library or buy a copy. It’s much more interesting than the cartoon versions you’re more familiar with.
The narrator is a friend of Dr. Jekyll’s. Utterson says his usual philosophy is to “let each man go to the devil in his own way.” And so he doesn’t intervene when his friend begins behaving strangely…
Perhaps there are some people who are judgmental and who give unsolicited advice because they are just mean and hateful. But chances are, your friends and family judge and give advice because they honestly think they can help you. They honestly think what they believe and what they advise is the best way to do things.
Sure, they could likely be more gracious about it… be more careful to know your side of things better before speaking their side…
Just the other day I was part of a discussion in which, first, we were clicking our tongues at one behavior, and, second, wishing other people could just be supportive instead of judging. In the first case, of course, we were right and helpful to click our tongues. But in the second case, of course, those other tongue-clickers were wrong.
People talk about Christianity this way a lot — they would like Christians better if we didn’t go around telling people to believe Christianity. They don’t see that we do that out of conviction — out of a belief that Christianity happens to be true, even in its claims of exclusivity. If we ARE right, then of course we would be mean and cold not to tell others about it.
Utterson might have saved his friend’s life if he’d been willing to judge and give advice.
When I did this book with a class of seniors during my student-teaching, we were comparing the story to a drug abuse situation. If your friend is using drugs, is it more loving to let them continue on that crash course, or is it more loving to intervene?
The problem, most of the time, is that we’re more often talking about rather gray areas. It’s obvious — mostly — that we should intervene when we suspect drug abuse, or child abuse, or anything else that extreme and dangerous.
But how to interact around gray areas? Especially the topics on the edges, between child abuse and choice of breakfast food? Take breastfeeding, for example. Clearly, it’s the healthiest route for mothers and babies alike if it works. But is there ever a case when formula is the right choice? I had no physical problems with nursing, but the nature of my postpartum depression and anxiety meant I had to give it up for psychological reasons. I grew up on formula and am a fairly decent and reasonably intelligent person. And how much better today’s formula is!
What about thumb-sucking, pacifiers, blankets and other comfort objects? What about spanking, time-outs, or other forms of discipline? What about Bible study, prayer, Communion, and other spiritual activities? Insert your own edge-of-gray areas here.
I continue to find it challenging to hold my own convictions on such marginally gray areas in a gracious way. If it’s really right, as I believe it is, then shouldn’t I try to persuade others? Or if I believe I should let others make their own choice in the matter apart from my feedback, then does that mean my position is not clearly right?
Like most folks, I tend to jump in with my opinions, judgments, and advice before I know the whole story. I usually think I’m being helpful. And even if I judge something you’re doing, I usually still love and respect you, and feel compassion for the extenuating circumstances. I try, anyway. I suppose the same is true when you jump in with your judgments and advice towards me.
I hope to continue to grow in grace — that I’ll keep learning and practicing how to hold my convictions but speak [what seems to be] the truth with love. How to be slower to speak and quicker to listen. How to pray more and advise less.