Embracing Confrontation—Do You Dare?
Confrontation. Many of us avoid it like the plague. Just the thought of it can instantly make your heartbeat quicken and palms sweat. To be described as a “confrontational person” is hardly a compliment. Well, I’d like to suggest that confrontation gets a bad rap. I’d even go a step further to say that it is a critical component of conflict resolution and often avoided when it shouldn’t be. When coming from a sincere heart, confrontation can actually be an act of love.
Conflict in relationships is inevitable.
We all want deep, meaningful relationships in our lives, but they don’t fall from the sky—they require effort. Given any length of time and closeness in a relationship, conflict will arise at some point or another. If you have an issue with someone that you can truly dismiss and cover in grace, then that is wonderful and the best-case scenario. But sometimes issues arise in a friendship that require true resolution that can only be accomplished through loving confrontation. As much as you may want to “drop it” and move on, sometimes you just can’t.
As daunting as the task of confrontation may seem, the alternative is often much worse. When hurt feelings are left unaddressed, they can blossom into bitterness and resentment that can destroy relationships. Suppressed eye rolls can turn into passive-aggressive comments or cold-shouldered responses. What I have seen happen—even in Christian circles—is a tendency to avoid confrontation and then justify it as “turning the other cheek” or “taking the high road.” If you have been offended in a way that you are unable to get over on your own, then it is your obligation to confront your brother or sister in Christ, rather than quietly hold their wrongdoing against them (Matt. 18:15).
Do your friends love you enough to gently show you your sin?
In my own life, I have been both the initiator and receiver of confrontation. Does it make me uncomfortable? Absolutely. But the peace that follows is well worth it. To have a friend who loves you enough to gently show you your sin and give you the opportunity to ask for forgiveness is truly a gift (Prov. 27:6). To know you have people in your life who have seen the ugly parts of you, and not only still love you, but care enough to bring it to your attention is a rare and beautiful thing. It is a level of intimacy that only a sincere friend would even attempt. It is an act of love. It is much easier—and self-serving—to quietly “write the person off” and distance yourself. It requires much more work and vulnerability to lovingly confront someone with the end goal of forgiveness and restoration.
It is an act of service to another person to begin that uncomfortable dialogue and be open to the possibility of your own wrongdoing being exposed as well (Gal. 6:1). God often uses relationships, and all of the mess that comes with them, as an everyday means of grace to point us to him. No matter how wonderful the relationships are that we have, one truth is universal among them: they are composed of sinners (Rom. 3:23). We all miss the mark. We can all be blinded by our sin. We shouldn’t be surprised when a friend or loved one does something that offends us. We are a sinful and offensive people. But we are also a people saved by grace who are being conformed more and more to the image of our Savior each day. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we can be instruments of that conforming process as we lovingly confront one another.
Intentional confrontation first requires thoughtful reflection.
The kind of confrontation I’m referring to is not reactionary, but intentional. There is no “flying off the handle”; instead it requires thoughtful reflection. A critical first step is to search your own heart to determine whether your motivation for confrontation is coming from the right place. Is it in the best interest of the other person or just myself? Are there self-serving reasons at the root of my motives, such as the desire to “throw it in their face”? Your ultimate desire must be for forgiveness and restoration. If it isn’t, then you have issues to work out in your own heart first.
Considering your delivery is another element that has a huge influence on whether your interaction will have a favorable outcome. I think most of us can recall a time when the delivery during a confrontation was less than pleasant. It is very easy for a confrontation to seem like an attack. The delivery of your message makes all the difference. When someone is being sincere and coming from a place of humility, it is pretty hard to miss (Phil. 2:3-4).
May God show us grace in our dealings with one another during conflict. May our hearts and minds be pointed to him as we endeavor to love one another in a manner that would glorify him.
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Recommended: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud