Girlfriends in God - August 23, 2011

August 23, 2011
Care Enough to Confront
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6, NIV).

Friend To Friend
One of the basic needs of every healthy relationship is the art of confrontation. To confront someone is to meet them head-on in the quest for compromise. Confrontation is an emotional tackle for the purpose of resolving conflict while promoting peace. Just as God separates us from our sin, He calls us to do the same with sandpaper people. We must disconnect who they are from what they do, loving the sinner but hating the sin, looking beyond their weaknesses in search of their strengths.

Most people I know hate confrontation and will do anything to avoid it, but in doing so, give the impression that they are content with the status quo. It is important for us to understand that silence is agreement. Confrontation is a gift we bring to every healthy relationship as well as the unhealthy relationships with which we struggle. Confrontation is a spiritual surgery that tends to be painful. But without it, the cancer of contention and discord will remain unfettered, free to grow and spread its deadly relationship poison. 

When we have one nerve left and our sandpaper person is romping on it, we tend to confront in anger, from pain and frustration, with little control. The explosion can be heard for miles around.  Healthy confrontation does not involve a weapon of any kind – verbal or non-verbal. We speak honestly but gently. Confrontation that is wrapped in gentle love is powerful!        

When my husband became a pastor, we both struggled with maintaining a balanced schedule.  It was easy for Dan to work six or seven nights a week. The church was exploding in growth and a crisis was always on the agenda. Being the precious and loving wife that I am, I confronted Dan – not in love and not with gentleness. It did not work. I decided to back off and let God work.

One afternoon, while preparing dinner, Dan called to say that one of the church members had just been admitted to the hospital with chest pains. Dan was planning to drop by the hospital, which meant that he would be late – again. He promised to make his hospital visit short and be home as soon as he could. When Danna strolled through the kitchen, checking out the dinner menu, she asked when her dad was coming home. I explained the situation but assured her that Dan would be home as soon as he could. She seemed satisfied with my explanation and headed for the family room. As I set the table, I overheard Danna calling the church office. Then I heard her childlike but powerful words of confrontation, “Dad, please come home. I don’t like it when you have to work late. I know that man in the hospital needs you, but there are lots of doctors there. I only have one daddy and it makes me sad when you are not here. I need to see you with my eyes.” Dan called one of our deacons who jumped at the chance to visit someone in the hospital and Dan came home.         

Every relationship in life improves with confrontation done the right way. In fact, the harder the truth, the more love we must use in sharing it, especially when it comes to sharing truth with sandpaper people. Here are some simple tips for effective confrontation done the right way:

1.    Always begin confrontation with affirmation. Encouraging words set the stage and prepare the heart to hear words of correction. 

2.    Be willing to take your part of the blame. I have lived long enough to know that no conflict is ever totally one-sided. Taking your share of the blame often diffuses anger.

3.    Express hurt...not hostility. It is important to keep emotions under control during confrontation. Volume negates listening. Raised voices and angry words slam the door shut on any possible good that can come from confrontation. Sandpaper people rarely realize the depth of the pain they inflict.

4.    Make clear, direct statements. When facing confrontation, I will often write down what I plan to say; then read it aloud. I can then go back and eliminate unnecessary comments, inflammatory words or vengeful statements. Stick to the facts. 

5.    Avoid using words like “never” and “always.” These words are untrue and accomplish little in a confrontation. For some reason, they tend to stir up emotions and fan emotional fires. 

6.    Listen. One of my favorite tactics in confrontations is to use the time the other person is speaking to formulate my next point. As a result, I don’t listen because I assume I already know what will be said. Difficult conversations require total attention. Listening validates people and invites them into your life. Refusing to listen is arrogant and self-centered.

7.    Be solution centered. Make the decision beforehand to stay at the table of confrontation until a solution is found and some measure of restoration is achieved. It is so easy to go for the “let’s get this over with” conversation instead of getting to the heart of the problem.        

The sandpaper people in your life are likely to be confronted on a regular basis. But because that confrontation usually comes from an unclean heart and an angry spirit, it can easily become just another notch in that sandpaper person’s belt, giving them one more reason to be who they are – difficult. When love and gentleness deliver correction, it is much more likely to be received and acted upon. We can be caring and confronting at the same time. Most sandpaper people are controllers and manipulators, intimidating their way into other people’s lives, because it is the only way they know to get in. Confrontation is a spiritual exercise and an act of obedience to God that changes lives and builds healthy relationships. 

Let’s Pray
Father, please forgive me when I confront someone in anger or with a bitter heart. I really do want my relationships to reflect Your love. Teach me how to control the words I say and the attitude with which I say them. Forgive me for the pride that fuels a spirit of revenge when I should be seeking healing and restoration. Be glorified in all of my relationships, Lord.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn      
Read Matthew 7:2-6. Compare “sawdust” with “plank.” In your journal, describe the requirement Matthew explains in this passage of Scripture.

Gentleness is not weakness. It is controlled strength. Apply this truth to the art of confrontation. Why is gentle confrontation so important?

Review the seven elements of confrontation listed in today’s devotion. Which one of these elements do you need to work on first? Why?

More From The Girlfriends
One of the most powerful illustrations of God’s love and forgiveness is found in the lives of Hosea and Gomer. Learn about their story in Mary’s MP3 download, Love That Never Fails.

Looking for a Bible Study that is both practical and powerful? Check out Mary’s E-Book Bible Studies. Each one includes a study guide that you can download for your personal use or for a small group study. 

Be sure to check out Mary’s weekly Online Bible Study: Stress Management 101. Enroll now and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebookor through email.

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Originally published Tuesday, 23 August 2011.