(Part 2 of 4)
Confrontation. It’s an uncomfortable word, but a necessary one.
It is only through confrontation that we can arrive at reconciliation. When you face a problem with someone, what is your first reaction? Is it to brush it off and pretend that nothing happened? Or is it to face it right on and address it?
For many years I took the first approach. I was too wrapped up in pleasing everyone and wanted everyone to like me. So when a problem arose and something bothered me, I told myself to be the “bigger” person and just let it go. In hindsight, I can see that was not the best approach. I was definitely fooling myself when I thought that being the bigger person meant ignoring the problem. When I would “let things go” on the surface, I was actually burying it so deep down that it unconsciously festered in an unhealthy way. So if I lost my cool one day it would all come bursting out in an ugly way.
My friends, if I could give you one small piece of advice, I’d say… If someone does something that bothers you, don’t bury your feelings, but speak up with love.
“Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25-27)
And just because you approach someone with love and speak truthfully it doesn’t mean that what you have to say will always be received positively. Even with the best intentions and great communication, some will choose to not accept your viewpoint. In the case of friendships or relationships, you have to ask yourself, is this friendship/relationship worth working on? If the answer is yes, then roll up your sleeves because it’s going to require some serious work (depending on how big the issue is). If the answer is no, then you do your best to make sure there are no hard feelings, and might have to let this friendship fizzle out. Do this all without disrespect, without resentment, and without sinful anger like it says in Psalm 4:4, “Be angry, and do not sin.”
It might even require involving a third party to resolve the issue. This is where a father of confession, a wise servant, or someone you trust can come in handy. The Gospel says the following, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’” (Matthew 18:15-16). It is your duty as a Christian to try to resolve the issue, but don’t always expect it to be smooth sailing.
I have a friendship that is near and dear to my heart. The way we always resolved issues was surely not the best. If someone said or did something that upset the other person unknowingly, we would never bring it up. What ended up happening over the years looked something like this: I messed up. It bothered my friend. She didn’t say anything about it, because she loved me and didn’t want to risk ruining our friendship. But I had no idea it bothered her, so I kept doing it. Until one day it all exploded. It got pretty ugly, to the point where I wanted to avoid events we were both invited to. It took us months (or actually more like years) to figure out how to mend this friendship that we both valued. It was nothing other than the grace of God that gave us healing and allowed us to move forward. Forgiveness is a beautiful gift that we sometimes take for granted.
Confrontation isn’t easy for me, it gives me that knot in my stomach feeling, makes my voice shaky, and my heart beat a little too fast. I could tell confrontation wasn’t easy for her either, that’s why we both played the avoidance game for so long. We could have never come to where we are today if we didn’t pull the trigger on that tough initial conversation (and many more that followed). Confrontation and reconciliation shaped our friendship to become a beautiful, resilient, sacrificial, and healthy one. That’s not to say that Satan won’t try to mess with it again, I’m sure he will. But by the grace of God our loving hearts can resolve any difficulties that might arise.
Oftentimes, it is only through these tough, yet earnest and well intentioned, conversations that we can help one another become better people. King Solomon writes, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). The sharpening of a tool is not painless or resistance free. The very nature of the process requires friction between the hard surfaces. The end result is clear - a sharpened countenance. The key here is to learn how to sharpen and be sharpened, how to confront in an empathetic and loving manner.
If you are familiar with the first hour of the Agpeya (Book of Hours), you know that the following is read from the Pauline Epistle:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:1-5)
That’s the kind of Spirit we should all live by. A Spirit that is led by humility and gentleness that is always striving for peace. This is the only way to really grow. Growth isn’t always easy like I previously mentioned. I pray we can all experience this peace, even if it means enduring the uncomfortableness of confrontation in order to arrive at reconciliation and forgiveness.
This is the first part of a four part series about personal growth.
Part 1 - Personal Growth
Part 3 - Growing Through Trials (coming 10/9/20)
Part 4 - Growing Through Grief (coming 10/16/20)