I met my new friend, Henry, about a year ago. Great guy, my age, married with a daughter slightly older than mine — he was literally another me as far as life situations go. My prayer for connection with someone in my exact life state was placed on a silver platter in my church.
In every other way, though, Henry and I are different. OSA guy from a small town, no major struggles with sex or lust, no mental illnesses, still close with his parents and siblings, into the stereotypical man stuff — a seemingly ideal everything. Literally my opposite.
After our first conversation, I wondered if we would ever be able to talk again, considering our differences.
One day, my new friend and I were talking as he expounded upon his dilemma: should he stay working at the church or quit to pursue his small business? His clientele was increasing; it would be plausible to live off his business. He brought it up to me, seeking my advice.
Initially, I was happy to counsel my friend.
But an undercurrent of emotions distracted me. I held my tongue. My best advice waited behind what I really wanted — for him to stay.
But I knew that was a selfish wish. That would seek my best interest, not his.
Why do I want him to stay here? Why am I feeling desperate to keep him here? What about his potential leaving bothers me? Is it emotional codependency? Physical attraction? Actual concern? I‘ve known him less than a year. Should I care this much? Will his absence even make a difference? Can someone have that much influence on my life in such little time?
Henry is a wonderful guy. Extremely caring and highly intelligent. Despite our crazy differences, he stuck around. A few months ago, I came out to him and told him my entire story. He listened and responded lovingly.
Recently, Henry has been helping me as I craft plans for my future ministry career. With my church refocusing my role toward counseling and potential for LGBT outreach, Henry has been invaluable. He has listened, advised, and prayed for me these past few months. We’ve even dedicated to meeting once a week to read the Bible and discuss God’s Word together.
So, he’ll no longer be in the office. What difference does that make? Will his moving out of the city change much?
As Henry finished his spiel, he looked at me. His expectant eyes bore through me.
I wanted to tell my new friend not to go. I wanted to tell him to stay at our church. To stay with me. I wanted to throw my arms around him and thank him for everything — for listening, for caring, for challenging me.
Why can’t I say what I know I need to say?
Everything in me screamed to tell him I am so thankful for him, and I don’t want to lose him as a dear new friend.
Is this love or something more? Did I let myself feel something wrong? What the f*** is going on in my head?
I prayed quickly. Only God could give me the words I needed.
I have to tell him what You want, God. Not what I want.
A half hour later, Henry expressed gratitude for my thoughts. We both knew what he should do. And I wanted to beg him not to do it.
Is he aware how this will affect me? Does he care about that? Will he even want to stay friends after he leaves?
I walked away from our meeting and headed to a coffee shop out of office.
Time and space — that’s what I need. Just some time and space.
As I sat down with my liquid caffeine, I unfolded my thoughts. Henry has meant so much to me because of our differences. He has become a dear new friend despite our having so little in common. And my emotions — those aren’t from something bad or wrong.
They come from the fact that, in that moment, I didn’t want to counsel my new friend. I just wanted to be his friend.
I had to cross that line — the conflict of interest line — between counselor and friend. It’s what separates someone with whom I should share an emotional connection and someone with whom I should share a professional connection.
For a moment, I had to feel both sides: the emotional weight of a dear new friend wanting to leave our common workplace and the objective weight of guiding someone seeking advice.
God, help me bear this. Please help me process this in the healthiest way possible.
Now I know why those lines exist. It’s not just for the safety of those counseled; it’s also for the well-being of those doing the counseling.
Ultimately, Henry will make his own decision. And no matter what, I will always be thankful for his friendship.
To be continued . . .
Have you ever struggled to give advice you didn’t want to give to a friend? Has an old or new friend left you or contemplated leaving for a better opportunity?