3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed

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When you’re facing a challenge and are ready to talk about it with a trusted friend, it can help to be clear about the kind of challenge you’re facing. Identifying the type of challenge can also help you be clear about the kind of help you’d like.

A classic dilemma in my life has been when I’m dealing with a disappointment and what I really need is just a listening ear. But if I’m not careful, all of a sudden I will get unsolicited advice from a well-intentioned friend who is in problem-solving mode.

I’ve identified at least three different major categories of challenges that we may face and the types of responses that are most likely to be helpful for each. I will deal with each of these in more detail in future posts, but briefly these are:

  1. Situations beyond our control: This can include anything from a major crisis (like the loss of a loved one) to an everyday emotional blow (like getting overlooked for something we really wanted to do). When things happen that we cannot control, oftentimes our emotions are high. Because we may not even know what all we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it, it is not a time for decisions. When we share about these types of situations, we most need someone who will engage with us in active listening mode.
  2. Sin issues: Unfortunately, sin is real and we’re all guilty of it more often than we like to admit. But sins that we hide have a way of compounding, increasing temptation and causing even more harm. When something we have done or something we have failed to do is holding us captive, we can always talk directly with God about it in prayer. Still, talking about it with a fellow Christian can help us unburden our hearts and minds. When we need to share in this way, it is most helpful to have someone who is willing to fully hear our confession and remind us of God’s love and grace.
  3. Practical dilemmas:If a challenge doesn’t fit the other two types above, it may be something for which advice is appropriate. Sometimes the challenges that we face in life are “nuts and bolts” issues that we cannot seem to resolve on our own. Sometimes we’re too close to a project or task and we need a second opinion. When we share these kinds of concerns what we most need is a friend with experience or expertise in that area who can enter problem-solving mode with us.

The more aware we are of the kind of challenge we’re facing, the better we can get the kind of help we need when we share. Hopefully these descriptions can help you direct how and with whom you share about particular challenges.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

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