There are times when the time it takes to engage in what you might see as "necessary" confrontation is sometimes just not worth it, or it seems to come back to reflect badly on you somehow. These are usually the times when you are attempting to say something to someone just not willing to hear anything which might be shared - especially if it is against whatever they are thinking at the moment. In those times, it is almost better to hold your peace than to attempt to engage in any kind of "confrontation" with them. Why? They aren't going to hear you! Their mind is set - their attitude is determined - their choices have been made. No amount of "help" from us is going to change the one who just cannot accept they need "help" in the first place! The cynic sees all "outside" help as really being offered from some kind of selfish motivation - believing no one could be interested in the outcome of another's life unless there was something the "helper" could benefit from as a result. It can be tremendously frustrating to know you have insight which will change something for someone if they will just embrace it, but they are just too set in their ways to see things any differently than the plan they have set into motion in their minds. In those moments, we just need to step back, continue to hold the individual up in prayer before God, but save our words - they won't be heard anyway.
If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face; confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins. So don’t waste your time on a scoffer; all you’ll get for your pains is abuse. But if you correct those who care about life, that’s different—they’ll love you for it! Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it; tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it. Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God, insight into life from knowing a Holy God. It’s through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens, and the years of your life ripen. Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life; mock life and life will mock you. (Proverbs 9:7-12 MSG)
We need to become "skilled" at living - something we gain through developing a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus. The wise seem to delight in what it is you can offer into their lives - so your "breath" is better served assisting them grow closer in their relationship with Jesus than it would be in trying to talk sense into a fool. The difference between the fool and the wise is their willingness to embrace the truth when it is shared. The fool has a hard time seeing any truth outside of their own mindset - as good or as flawed as that mindset may be - they are sticking to it because they know it and are comfortable with it. Don't try to figure out the foolish - they will repeat the same mistakes, engage in the same destructive behaviors, and never once think there is any link between the way they have set their minds and the outcome of their actions. The only one to "connect the dots" for the fool is God himself - he has to change their heart in order to begin to affect their minds. Heart change is a matter best left up to God himself - we just live as positive examples and then pray like crazy for their heart change.
So, where is it we should invest our wisdom? Isn't it clear that our wisdom is best shared with those who will embrace it? Those desiring to see their life deepen are open to embracing the wisdom of truth applied in the life of another. They see the hope of a changed life as something to be embraced, not shunned because they believe there is an ulterior motive behind it. God doesn't give us wisdom to hold up just for ourselves - in fact, he intends for us to share it with those who will benefit from it right along with us! To learn a truth is one thing - to put it into application in our lives and see our lives changed as a result is another. To share both the truth and the potential of change it affords is the call upon each of our lives. God doesn't ask for us to be stingy with the grace we have been given, but to give it away over and over again until all who can benefit from it have had a chance to grab hold and make it their own. Unfortunately, the foolish don't always see the potential in truth embraced, so don't spend all your time trying to "convince" them of the truth. The Holy Spirit has that job - yours is just to live as an example and then to uphold the foolish before God in prayer.
Instruct the wise and they will grow wiser. Teach the righteous and they will learn even more. Maybe this is the power of small groups - the wise and the righteous coming together to receive instruction and teaching. We cannot underestimate the wisdom in what we have learned by practical application of the truth of God in our lives. Each revelation and subsequent victory in our lives is not just a potential place of rejoicing - it is a potential opportunity for another to latch onto something they have been searching for in their own lives. For a long time, I didn't see the importance of small groups, but I do now. I understand the accountability factor, but I also understand the potential growth afforded when real people come together in real settings and just remain "real". At church, we tend to put on our "pretty church faces" and make it look like we have life by the tail. In our homes, it may be quite a different face we display and if we were truthful, we feel like life is biting at our tail! The small group experience is a place where we can let our guard down and get real with others.
Another alternative to the small group experience is the development of a couple of close relationships where you can hold each other accountable. It has to be the kind of relationship where you can be yourself, complete with your fears and failures, without fear. Either small group relationships, or these close friendships can function as accountability relationships. Some may be more comfortable at first with getting truthfully honest with one before they launch into the group experience. Both help us to grow when we make a point of committing to each other, praying for each other, sharing the Word, and then living as examples of grace in the other person's life. We have to find what works for us - they commit to it. The wise find great value in this type of accountability - knowing having this kind of "sounding board" and "feedback loop" is important. Small groups and accountability relationships do more than merely share the Word of God over coffee and snacks - they build family relationships! In a world where family is sometimes not very well valued, or very well "constructed", maybe we underestimate the potential of these relationships. Nothing helps us grow more than to be true to who we are, allowing the life of another touch ours deeply, and then grow in the truth together. Just sayin!