I am often approached by young people who begin our conversation with the phrase, “So I have this friend…” Many people want to reach out to others but are afraid of being labeled as “judgy” or a “shamer.” We want to be nice, helpful and convicted as Catholics—and sometimes it’s confusing to figure out how all those can fit together.
Being a disciple doesn’t mean telling others how to live their lives; being a disciple means walking with others on our shared journey to Heaven. Our love should permeate the joyful conversations as well as the difficult ones.
So how do we do this? Here are some pro-tips to get you started on these tough topics:
- Pray for healing for your own understanding of sexuality. As Jason Evert says, “The world doesn’t glorify sex; It fails to see its glory.” In its proper context and at the right time, God wants us to say yes to sex. Do you know it, believe it, and live it?
- Know your personal testimony of purity. “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). How and why has God called you to practice the virtue of chastity? Be prepared to share this witness.
- Words are important, but actions set the stage. Show your friends your extreme love through service and sacrifice. This way, when you tell them you are speaking out of love, they know it’s true because they’ve experienced it first.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. This is the real secret weapon to all difficult dialogue in life. Only God knows when someone is in the mode to receive your message. If your friend is hangry, having a bad day or over-tired, they might not respond well. On the other hand, in different circumstances, you could say the exact same thing and have very different results. If grace is flowing and the Spirit is moving, big things can happen. Don’t force conversations. Pray hard and often that the Holy Spirit will open doors for tough discussions and then tell you when the doors are open. When this happens: game on. He will give you the words if you let Him.
- Have a disposition of love before you even start the conversation. Your friend will likely want to defend their actions and may feel judged. Make it your goal to be a witness of love. Be sure every word that flows out of your mouth points to compassion.
- Know your stuff. Look for resources on whatever topic you are addressing. Whether it is impure relationships, pornography, modesty, homosexuality, transgenderism, birth control or starting over, check out some solid truths on why we believe what we believe.
- If you find yourself stumped, it’s ok to say, “I’m not sure, but I will find the answer for you.” You don’t have to know everything, but you can point others in a direction to find out more.
God’s teaching on sexuality is all about love—even when it’s hard. His teaching on friendship is all about love—even when it is hard. Real friends love each other enough to speak truth. If you saw a group of blind people about to walk off a cliff, you wouldn’t hesitate to shout a warning. It wouldn’t be because you thought you were better than them, but because you had a heart!
The Lord chose you for your friends, not as a critic but as a witness. He wants to use you to love them right where they are and also to draw them closer to Him. If you ask Him to help you love them like He does, expect Him to answer.
Katie Hartfiel is the author of Woman In Love, which coaches young women as they pray for their future spouse. Katie received her Theology degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and three daughters. For more on Katie, her books and her DIY purity retreat visit womaninlove.org.