What Do I Do? Try “Care-Fronting”
Every month, our incredibly compassionate, knowledgeable Care Guides take 600 -700 calls on our National Addiction and Mental Health Helpline. We guide callers through life’s storms, helping them navigate the complex behavioral healthcare system. We connect them to the best treatment options to address their spiritual, psychological, and biological needs. Half of our calls are from the patients themselves. But the other half are from loved ones, mainly parents or spouses of an individual who is struggling. The loved ones need help to know what to do. They are often caught between extremes like, “Do I walk on eggshells, try to make nicey-nice to minimize the stress, knowing that the situation is just getting worse?” or “Do I confront him and risk a blow up and more stress, but maybe bring it to a head so change can happen?”
Issues that strongly affect life often turn into to life-taking addictions … to a substance, to a certain feeling, or even a pattern of thinking. Those who call our Helpline are trying to avoid the guilt they will feel from “making the wrong choice” if their loved one dies from suicide, overdose, or an accident. Talking with a friend or loved one who has a life-impacting problem can be like talking to a brick wall. But that wall can be broken down … brick by brick.
Does someone you love struggle with a life-interfering mindset, emotion, or behavior? When you try to discuss it, do your words seem to bounce back at you, as though they’ve hit a brick wall? Try this: picture a man behind a brick wall, becoming trapped as he continues to lay brick, building the wall higher and higher. In his mind, each brick is a way to defend himself. But in reality, the wall is trapping him, not defending him. Denial has blinded this loved one to his real condition.
David Augsburger uses the term “care-fronting.” This is a communication technique that combines love and caring with confrontation. Caring confrontation can chip away bit by bit at the wall of delusion that hides reality from your loved ones … the reality of the reason they are spiraling, and the reality that an answer does exist to turn the spiral in the other direction. When you are able to get rid of anger and replace it with caring, confronting your loved one with the truth can actually be the most loving thing you can do directly to them.
A dear friend, Connie, told me how she “care-fronted.” Early in her marriage she was experiencing a marital situation that she knew could become volatile if she confronted her husband. She devised a technique that always worked. She would craft a loving letter, detailing the issue and its effect on her and the marriage, and leave it on the pillow. When he came home from the office, it was his custom to go upstairs to change his clothes. He would see it and read it in private and take it all in. He always thanked her “for the very good letter” and then worked on solutions for the situation.
The bridge through the wall is made of care and is derived from a growing relationship with God first. From there we can shine His love and care onto our struggling loved ones. As God grows in us, His forgiveness of us will melt the hurt we feel from our loved one and allow us to see that loved one through Godly lenses. Then real care and real love can flow from us to them.
Today, make a commitment to confront your loved ones, to speak the truth in love … not in anger or condemnation … in order to help them tear down their walls of defense, brick by brick. Then they will be able to see themselves as they really are … someone made in God’s image, someone God loves so much He sent His son to die for them. God wants to use us to deliver that message, first modeling it, and then saying it. God doesn’t give up on you … don’t give up on others. Whether you Care-front or you avoid is your decision, so choose well.
Dear God, Lord, help me be more honest with myself and with those I care about so much. Help me look beyond their faults to their needs … and then to express the reality of the situation to them … in love. Tune me into Your Holy Spirit’s guidance so that I may speak as Christ would speak. I pray that love for You and them will make me tell the truth. I pray this in the name of the One who crushed my wall so I could be freed, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult. Proverbs 12:16
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