Who does not love a good fight? The tears, the hurt feelings, the raised voices – is it not just great? (Yes, that was sarcasm.) Most of us either hate fighting or fear it. We want to calmly work through problems and enjoy mutual understanding and respect, but we avoid confronting each other for fear that it will turn into a fight. If there is one sin with which most of us contend, it is pride. When our faults are exposed, we tend to lash out in defensiveness which brings the communication process to a screeching halt.
What I adore about Deborah Smith Pegues’ book, Confronting Without Offending, is her teaching on how to confront people – effectively. Some of us avoid confronting others at all cost because we want to maintain peace. In fact, some people veer away from all conflicts because they believe confrontations are wrong. “I just don’t want to rock the boat.” You could say that I fell into this camp for a while, but I have since learned the importance of confronting issues as they arise. As Deborah says, “Many shy away from it, but confrontation can be a powerful tool for personal growth and relationship enhancement when done the right way.”
Why Am I Confronting this Person?
The first step in approaching a confrontation is to determine the goal of the interaction. “What am I trying to accomplish by tackling this issue?” If your goal is to stick it to someone or retaliate, that is the wrong motivation. Talking to someone at this point will probably make the matter worse as our body language tends to betray us when we are angry.
However, if your motivation is to have someone stop a behavior that is negatively impacting you (e.g., to have the person stop coming by house at dinnertime every night, etc.), begin a behavior that will be helpful for you (e.g., to call you in advance when he or she wants to stop by so you can prepare and tidy up the house. etc.), or make necessary changes to his or her life (e.g., you are concerned that you have not seen someone in church for the past three months, etc.), then your goal is right on track! Consider this power packed quote from Deborah: “Confrontation is godly and is mandated by the Lord; retaliation is ungodly and thus forbidden.”
Do I Have to Confront?
“So do we really have to confront if we don’t want to? I mean, is it really a big deal?” If anyone out there wants an excuse to avoid a conflict, it’s yours truly. I would love to live in continuous peace and harmony, but I would have to be alone all the time to accomplish such a goal. According to Deborah, Scripture commands us to confront (and I’m afraid she is correct, folks!) “when we are offended, when we are the offender, and when a brother or sister engages in sinful, self-destructive, or unwise behavior” (Matthew 18:15; Matthew 5:23-24; Galatians 6:1).
On the other hand, she does not recommend that we confront every negative encounter we face. In fact, she goes on to quote Proverbs 19:11 to illustrate her point, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (NIV). We should not run around the countryside looking for a transgression to challenge. When someone offends us once, and it can be overlooked, it is good to forgive and let it go. However, if someone has a pattern of offending you, or someone offends you in a way you cannot overlook, the situation needs to be dealt with head on.
One day at work, a friend came to my desk and began complaining and talking flippantly about something in her life which others would consider a blessing. She knew I had been struggling with wanting the very “trial” she was complaining about because we had discussed it at length. After she left, I let it go for a while, but I found that it was eating at me on the inside. I knew I needed to confront her and resolve it so it would not affect our friendship. When I talked to her about how her comments made me feel, she was mortified. Her intentions were not to hurt me, but had I kept it bottled up inside I might have turned a misunderstanding into a burned bridge. Anger is not sinful, but I think we can all agree that Scripture condemns resentfulness and bitterness (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Another time, a different work friend made a snide comment about me out loud in the presence of fellow co-workers. It was not horribly derogatory, but I could tell she did not mean it as a compliment. It bothered me, but after discussing it with Eric, I realized that her remarks stemmed from a difficult time she was going through. I knew she loved me and, in this case, I felt it was best to overlook the offense. Years have gone by, we are still friends, and by the grace of God there is no bitterness! ~smile~
When I first picked up Confronting Without Offending, I confess that I did not have high hopes. Though I did not doubt that Deborah knew what she was talking about, I did not expect to enjoy the book. Learning how to confront others did not seem terribly exciting – especially for my harmony-loving self.
But I am here to tell you, I was wrong! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself constantly running from room to room sharing new concepts with Eric. It broke the confrontation process down so I could see why I needed to confront others (and be comfortable with it), it highlighted different ways people approach conflict, and it dealt heavily with personality types as they relate to conflict resolution. Before I knew it, I was at the end of book! I recommend it to anyone and everyone whoever encounters conflict… which is anyone and everyone! ~smile~
What emotions arise within you when you hear the word “confrontation”?