It only takes one careless word, one hasty action to make a bad situation go to a worse situation. In mentoring and biblical counseling settings, when people come in with problems that range from relationship issues, addiction needs, trauma, family upheaval, and decision-making questions, the first advice I typically give is this: Do no harm. While you focus on getting to the next step, do no harm in the meantime.
1 Peter 5:6-7 states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” When relationships are in trouble, pride, fear, anxiety, and selfishness are often at the front and center. As people seek counsel, either from a pastor, professionally, or from friends, it is important to realize that the damage did not occur overnight, and all will not be mended overnight. The road to repairing and restoring relationships can seem long and intimidating, especially when you’re at the beginning of the process. The 1 Peter scripture reminds us to be humble, that is, to submit to God’s Word and the help he puts in our path. In a state of humbleness (humility), you can agree to do no harm while you work on your issues. What does, “do no harm” look like in a relationship?
While you are not expected to instantly repair everything, making a staunch commitment to avoid doing further harm sets you well on the road to restoration. This is an opportunity to seek Christ’s help, to press into his family, to ask to be covered in prayer, and to embrace the suffering with Godly meekness that will produce Christ-like character, which will strengthen your restoration journey. Your partner will notice the difference. Your actions are not dependent on your partner’s actions. If your partner does not follow this commitment to do no harm and if he/she lashes out or blames or acts selfishly, you still have full authority over your actions and responses, and you can choose to let God lead the way or to give into the same harmful actions which put you in this situation in the first place. It is not easy, but through Jesus, God makes a way for us to choose godliness over ambitions of the flesh.
Breaking Free from Addiction
When you’re trying to break free from addiction after months or years of turning to a drug or lust to fill yourself, a helpful step to take when you initiate the recovery process is to make a commitment to do no harm – just for today, and then again tomorrow. If you’re in between counseling sessions or recovery meetings, agreeing to do no harm means that you’re positioning yourself to be able to move forward in recovery. Doing no harm in a recovery journey can include the following:
We can never move forward if we’re still going backward. While there is much work to be done, agreeing to do no harm is the equivalent of you daily cleaning the slate and building on a fresh start. Proverbs 13:20 gives us great Godly advice by saying, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” In any restoration journey, the company you keep can do good in your life or can cause harm in your life. Evaluate your current company and people with whom you’ve surrounded yourself: Are they wise? Godly? Enduring? Or, are they impulsive, selfish, destructive, and habitually creating chaos? Choose wisely whom you surround yourself with, and this will be a healthy step in doing no harm in your life as you move forward.
Making Decisions, Seeking Unity, and Healing Families
For every other area where restoration needs to occur, doing no harm is a wise step that sets your feet on solid ground. As you face important decisions, weigh whether your actions will be harmful to others or helpful to others. It does not mean that everyone needs to approve of your decisions, and we must follow how God leads us, but take time to pray and consider whether the decision you make falls within the bounds of God’s Word. Anything outside of it will inevitably bring harm, both to you and to people in your life.
Romans 13:10 states, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” We can see from scripture that to intentionally agree to do no harm is an act of love and is an agreement with God.
When it comes to healing families, parents, agree to do no harm to your children while you work through issues. This means to utilize patience, to praise and encourage the good things in your children, and to avoid zoning out when they need your time and care. They might be difficult to handle in this stressful time, but as you seek God’s help and surround yourself with support and wise counsel, doing no harm in your family avoids creating added stress to an already difficult situation.
Doing No Harm Creates Fruit of the Spirit
Doing no harm is an exercise in self-control. It is an exercise in love. It is a surrender to God’s will. This is an attitude that must be adopted, and something that most likely does not come naturally because it means we must, one day at a time, put our flesh to death and choose meekness, patience, gentleness, and kindness. Will it be hard? Yes, absolutely. It may even bring about suffering as you surrender, but that suffering is temporary and is not causing further chaos and destruction in your life. Is it possible to live this way when life seems overwhelming? 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Romans 12:9: “Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”
As you make the commitment to do no harm, please remember that God works all things out for good for those who love him. In Christ, you have everything you need to take one step at a time toward restoration, new hope, peace, and a new season.
Right now, you may feel like you're a ship that has been washed ashore, worn down, without movement, and abandoned. You're not. God often draws us to shore so that he can work on us, taking time to mend us before we completely sink. Had he left us out to sea in a broken vessel, we would go under and have no hope of resurfacing. As he mends your heart, your spirit, and counsels your mind with wisdom and understanding, he will set you back to sail again, because he has a purpose for your life.