Stubbornness cuts us off from others, and from God

How can you help someone who doesn’t want your help, and won’t even admit they have a problem? My cousin is like this. His life is falling apart because he can’t get along with people but he refuses to face it. What can I do? — R.H.

Have you ever thought about how stubborn we often are — and how much it hurts us? Stubbornness makes us do things we shouldn’t do, and cuts us off from others (even those who want to help us) — simply because we insist on our own way and won’t admit we might be wrong.

But stubbornness also cuts us off from God, because it makes us refuse to seek His will or listen to His Word. Instead, we insist on going our own way — regardless of the consequences. I often think of the people of Jeremiah’s day, who stubbornly refused to listen to his warnings and told him, “It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart” (Jeremiah 18:12).

Is there anything you can do to help your cousin? The most important thing you can do is to pray for him. You can’t break through his stubbornness — but God can. Pray that he’ll be willing to face his problems and listen to the advice of people who care about him. Pray most of all that he will realize his need for God’s forgiveness, and humbly submit his life to Jesus.

Stubbornness has its roots in pride — and because of this, it’s ultimately a spiritual problem. Make sure of your own commitment to Christ, and then ask Him to help you show His love to your cousin. The Bible says, “Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

I stupidly passed on some gossip about a good friend of mine, never dreaming it would get back to her. But it did, and now our friendship is over. I apologized, but she won’t accept it. Should I just forget her and go on? — Mrs. J.McK.

No, you shouldn’t “just forget her and go on.” You hurt your friend very deeply by this thoughtless act, and you should do everything you can to let her know you regret it and want to renew your friendship. It may take time (and in fact, it may never happen) — but as long as there is any possibility of being reconciled to her, you should persist.

The main reason I wanted to reprint your question, however, is because it is a vivid illustration of the dangers of gossip. Gossip often is simply untrue - and when it is, the person who passes it along is guilty of lying. But even when it might be true (or partly true), you don’t know whether or not it’s true – and it’s still designed to hurt someone or tear them down. The Bible warns, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

But gossiping is also wrong because of the motive behind it. When we gossip, we aren’t trying to help anyone — far from it. Instead, we’re usually trying to call attention to ourselves — showing others that we’re “in the know” and important. But this is wrong — both in God’s eyes and in the eyes of others.

Ask Christ to forgive you — and most of all, ask Him to rule your life, including your tongue. The Bible says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).

The Rev. Billy Graham, whose column appears in Faith & Values every Saturday, can be contacted at “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201.