Confrontation is never easy, never fun, never wanted. But sometimes in life we have to confront the sins we experience from others. I have always tried to confront in a loving way. For instance if a friend of mine has thoughtlessly said something that wounds or offends me, I will tell them in a quiet and loving way that they have hurt my feelings. I might explain why it hurt or I might ask them not to speak to me in such a tone or manner. I have learned from the book of Proverbs found in the Bible, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger, Proverbs 15:1 (New International Version, NIV). I have found this to be a remarkable verse to memorize and to apply in life. Confrontation that is cold, distant, perhaps even loud and rude isn’t how I wish to be treated when I have offended someone and I would imagine that you don’t either! However there are some situations where an unavoidable confrontation is required. What exactly is the best way to confront another person?
There are books on how to confront others which might be helpful to some. There are television programs on how to confront or stage an intervention, which is really just a form of confrontation. But when I need to confront someone who has truly hurt me I wanted to know what the Bible says because God’s Word is my guide for life, and so I dove into the scriptures for information on how and when to confront another person. I like steps to follow, that is how I think and how I process so here are my suggestions based upon what I have found in Scripture and life that work.
- Step 1: Pray. It may be such a simple suggestion, but have you taken your hurt to the Lord for clarification? I just lay it all out before God and tell Him what happened and how it has made me feel and if I am scared, I talk to God all about it. By the end of my prayer I know whether my grievance is something that needs a confrontation.
- Step 2: Ask for some time to be alone with the individual you want to confront. This is straight from the Bible. If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over, Matthew 18:15 (NIV). The goal is not to embarrass but to talk.
- Step 3: Write down what needs to be said during the confrontation. It helps to keep on task and not chase after blame. Sometimes I have found it easier to ask the person to read a personal letter I have written while I sit and wait for them to finish because I can become too emotional during the confrontation and emotions are distracting.
- Step 4: Give the person you are confronting some time to formulate an answer. Long and awkward pauses are okay. You may have been thinking about this for a while, but remember that the person you are confronting may be hearing of it for the first time so give them time to reply.
- Step 5: Avoid arguing as to who is right and who is wrong. Justification can be over-rated sometimes. I don’t like to argue personally, and some people in my life know that I back down quite easily. I try not to let them take advantage of my lack of desire to argue but at the same time not be bullied. A well thought out logical comment can often diffuse an argument.
- Step 6: Put a time limit on the conversation. If nothing you wanted from the conversation is accomplished within that time frame then end the conversation graciously. Just realize that some battles are won slowly or not at all and know that you have tried your best.
If the situation is of a serious nature, such as a pending divorce, I recommend that if the first six steps don’t work, then think about having someone go with you and there are several ways to approach this. God’s word gives more instruction.
But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses, Matthew 18:16 (NIV).
A friend or a family member is a reasonable choice to go with you, or you can use a professional such as a pastor or counselor or even a lawyer. Pray about who you want to open your private and personal business to and trust God to supply the right people to help you. In the process of the divorce I allowed my lawyer to continue the confrontation with legal means. In theory it would have been nice to know all the truth but practically speaking I didn’t really want to know it all. Having a professional do the digging through documents and so forth gave me some peace. Truth often hurts and I am thankful this part of my journey is behind me but I am forever thankful that God placed a good and honest lawyer in my path when I needed one.
It helps to realize that some battles are not won. It is wise to realize when a confrontation is not going to be successful. Some people don’t want to change no matter how you may feel. When confronting a relative that will not hear your concerns or change their attitudes you may have to make some hard decisions. Friends can be ignored when confrontation doesn’t work but sometimes family members can’t be avoided. In my own experience I find that patience and love are faithful tools to keep at hand. Sometimes the person just needs some time to grow up or come to their senses and being patient and loving with them is good. Other times, though, letting them go and not encouraging a relationship any longer is the most loving thing you can do for them and the rest of the family. Pray and ask God to guide you in which path to take. I have found God to be so faithful in guiding me where I was uncertain about what was the next right thing to do.
One final note from my personal experience I would like to share. Be careful when choosing a place to meet with the person you want to confront. I will never forget sitting in a restaurant with my teenage daughter when a couple was seated near us. We were the only patrons on this particular afternoon at the restaurant. The woman and man looked pleasant enough when they sat down, but we could not help but overhear their entire conversation. The woman was telling the man she wanted a divorce and wanted to have sole custody of the children. He was a very conflicted and tortured man as he begged her through tears to reconsider. She was not going to reconsider. I felt so sad for the man to be given such news in a restaurant when this conversation would have been better in the privacy of an office or a home. I also thought how cold the woman was, but to be fair, I didn’t know all the facts. Maybe she was told to meet him in a public place for safety reasons or something. It is just something I will never forget.
Confrontation is not easy, never fun, and not wanted…not by the hearer or the one doing the confronting, but sometimes it becomes necessary. I hope that you never have to confront or be confronted, but if you are placed in either position, remember Proverbs 15:1 is some good advice.
Until next time……..Katherine