April 17, 2014
The Art of Confrontation
Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).
Friend to Friend
The highest goal for every relationship is unity at some level. The apostle Paul was committed to unity and peace, no matter how impossible it might seem. It was a commitment rising out of the love he found in his personal relationship with God. And it is out of this love that he writes a letter to the church at Philippi, a church that he established. His heart and life were there and his closest friends and deepest relationships were with these people. It caused him great pain to discover that there was division among them, and is writing the letter both as an encouragement to confront the ones causing the division and as his own letter of confrontation as well.
In his letter, Paul describes the unity God expects to be exemplified in relationships. “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:2). Impossible! It is impossible to meet these standards in every relationship. To be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and in purpose are the characteristics of deep, abiding relationships forged through layers of time, shared experiences and habitual choices. Exactly! God calls us to never be satisfied with anything less than these standards when it comes to the way we love each other. It is a calling that can only be realized through the power of God at work in our hearts, and requires a complete and total surrender of our personal agenda for every relationship we have.
Before Dan and I were married, I noticed several rough edges that needed to be sanded away and felt like I was just the one who could do it. After all, that’s what wives are for, right?
I decided to lay low for a few months, giving him a chance to make the changes on his own before I stepped in with my well-thought-out plan for his life. The only problem was that my plan did not line up with his plan. He seemed oblivious to the character flaws that were blatantly obvious to me.
After a few months of marital bliss, during which I was fine-tuning my “Fix Dan Plan,” a seed of discontent took root and began to grow.
The strength I had so admired in Dan now looked a whole lot like stubbornness.
His ability to take a complicated issue, dissect it, and boil it down to a three-step-plan now seemed patronizing and sometimes even meddlesome.
What I had once embraced as his devotion to me now seemed like his need to be in control of me.
It was time for the execution of my foolproof plan of transforming my husband into the man God and I thought he should be. It goes without saying that unity was the last thing on my mind or on my list of changes to be made. Looking back, I am certain I fit the bill of a sandpaper person deluxe! The results were painfully disastrous.
Arguments over insignificant issues ensued as we battled each other for control of the relationship. Dan fielded each attack, confused and bewildered by the mysterious change in his wife. Every area of our marriage suffered, and we were both miserable. Thankfully, my husband was committed to me, I was committed to him, and we were both committed God and our marriage.
I will never forget the afternoon he confronted me in love and with amazing patience. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but I do remember the words that broke my heart and saved our marriage. “Honey, I’m not sure what is going on between us. But I do know that I want to love you like you need to be loved,” he gently explained.
And there you have not only the recipe for a successful marriage, but for unity in relationships as well.
I loved Dan like I thought he should be loved, with my requirements and my human expectations, hoping that he would have to do all of the changing while I did all of the controlling. I had a lot to learn about the art of confrontation and how it brings unity, peace, and joy to any relationship where it is invited to work.
Many people love a good fight and often mistake combat for confrontation. The two are not the same thing. Combat slowly corrodes and splinters while confrontation is an art that - when done correctly - improves and strengthens relationships. It is our responsibility to bring Godly confrontation into every relationship. There is a right way and a wrong way to confront. The success of any confrontation depends upon understanding the difference between the two.
Confrontation is a gift we bring to every relationship, and the truth is, if you love, you level. Being willing and able to confront in love is a mark of maturity and stability in the Christian life.
Father, I confess that I often fail when it comes to being a true friend. Teach me how to nurture the relationships in my life through healthy confrontation. May the friendships in my life honor and please You.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
I encourage you to scrutinize your relationships under the light of Godly love and correction. How do they measure up?
Are you quick to be a vessel through which God can pour out His love through an encouraging word?
Have you been silent, refusing to correct a friend or loved one because it was the easiest thing to do?
I have been guilty of taking the easy way out when it comes to cultivating healthy relationships. Join me in a new commitment to honor God in all of our relationships.
More from the Girlfriends
I truly believe God uses our relationships to illustrate characteristics of His nature – characteristics like love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Relationships are hard work and require the power of the Holy Spirit to be what God created them to be. Need help? Mary’s CD, I Need a Friend, offers practical steps for building healthy relationships.
Originally published Thursday, 17 April 2014.