March 19, 2010 

The Gift of Confrontation 

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth 
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Proverbs 27:6 NAS).

Friend To Friend 
Sandpaper people are no strangers to confrontation. However, that confrontation usually comes from an unclean heart and an angry spirit.  In fact, inept confrontations can easily become just another notch in a sandpaper person's belt, giving them one more reason to be who they are - difficult people.

Confrontation is a gift we bring to every relationship - especially difficult relationships. When love and gentleness deliver correction, it is much more likely to be received and acted on.  We can be caring and confronting at the same time.  In fact, confrontation is a spiritual exercise and an act of spiritual obedience that changes lives and builds healthy relationships. 

Before Dan and I were married, I noticed several "rough edges" in his character that needed to be sanded away and felt like I was just the one for the job.  After all, that's what wives are for - right?  I decided to lay low for a few months, lulling him into a false sense of security while giving him a chance to make the changes on his own before I stepped in with my brilliant plan for his life.  The only problem was that my plan did not line up with Dan's plan. In fact, he seemed oblivious to the character flaws that were blatantly obvious to me. 

After a few months of marital bliss, during which I was secretly fine-tuning my "Fix Dan Plan", a seed of discontent took root and began to grow in my heart. The strength I had so admired in Dan now resembled stubbornness.  His ability to take a complicated issue, dissect it and boil it down to a practical 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 control me. It was time for the execution of my now well-thought-out and sure-to-succeed 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 at that point in Dan's life!  But like most difficult people, I would not be deterred.  The results were painfully disastrous.

Arguments over insignificant issues ensued as we battled for control of the relationship. Dan fielded each attack, confused and bewildered by the mysterious and not-so-wonderful change in his wife. Every area of our marriage suffered and we were both miserable. Thankfully, my young but wise husband was committed to me, I was committed to him and we were both committed to God's plan for our marriage.  I will never forget the afternoon Dan confronted me in love and with amazing patience.  I don't remember much of the conversation but I remember the words that broke my heart but saved our marriage, "Honey, I'm not sure what is going on between us.  But I do know I want to love you like you need to be loved."  And there you have the recipe for a successful marriage and healthy relationships. 

I loved Dan like I thought he should be loved instead of how he needed to be loved, with my requirements and my 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, how it brings unity, peace and joy to any relationship where it is invited to work.  There is a right way and a wrong way to confront. The success of any confrontation depends upon understanding the difference between the two.  

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

·     Be willing to take your part of the blame.  No conflict is ever totally one-sided.  Taking your share of the blame often diffuses anger and steers the confrontation in the right direction. 

·     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. Express your feelings with words - not volume or accusation.  

·     Make clear, direct statements.  When facing confrontation, I will often write down what I plan to say; then read it aloud and sometimes in front of the mirror. I can then go back and eliminate unnecessary comments, inflammatory words or vengeful statements disguised as correction. In any confrontation, it is important to stick to the facts, refusing to become either hysterical or historical.  

·     Avoid using the words "never" and "always" because they tend to stir up emotions and fan emotional fires.  These words are obviously untrue and accomplish little in a confrontation, destroying any credibility of the person doing the confronting.  

·Learn to 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.  

Be solution centered. It is so easy to go for the "let's get this over" conversation instead of the "let's get to the heart of this problem" discussion. Make the decision beforehand to stay at the table of confrontation until a solution is found and restoration is achieved.

We were created to live in harmony. God calls us to wage peace in every relationship - the easy ones as well as the relationships that are difficult. Part of winning the battle is learning how to confront sandpaper people in the right way - God's way. Confrontation that is done in love changes lives, impacts relationships and honors God

Let's Pray 
Father, I want to be a good friend. I want to please You through the relationships in my life. Give me the wisdom and strength to be honest with those I love but give me a gentle spirit as well. Guard my heart against pride and help me to see the things in my own life that need correcting. I pray that what I say and do pleases and honors You.

In Jesus' name, 
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn 
Read Ecclesiastes 4:12. What does this verse say to you about the importance of friendship?

One of the most beautiful portraits of friendship is the relationship between Ruth and Naomi. Read Ruth 1:1-22. Was confrontation important in the friendship between these two women?  How?

Examine the friendships you have in your life. Are you willing to bring the gift of confrontation to each one?

More From The Girlfriends 
Do not succumb to the line of thinking that combat and confrontation are the same thing. Combat slowly corrodes and splinters while confrontation is an art that, when done correctly, improves and strengthens relationships. Let's wage peace!

Need help in your spiritual growth?  Check out my weekly online study, Light for the Journey. Or download one of my E-Book Bible Studies such as Anger Management 911, God's Answer to Stress, Getting a Grip on Fear, I Need a Friendmore.

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