Confrontation can be kind

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV

Recently I was bushwhacked by harsh criticism from a loved one. Her words were too strong and untimely, and I reeled from the impact. Some of the issues she brought up are minor. For example, my late arrivals had been bothering her for at least four years, and at last her frustration boiled over. If I had known that by showing up 10 minutes early I would have closed the puzzling distance in our relationship, I would have jumped at the chance to honor her preference. She always seemed so laid-back about plans; I had no clue it bothered her. Why did she hold it in that long? Her answer: she didn’t want to add stress to an already stressful situation. I wish she would have let me decide how much stress I can handle.

To be sure, once I’ve cooled down I will confront her harsh delivery and her tendency to hold grudges. First I need time to pray and consider how I can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I will examine the grains of truth she presented, seek godly counsel on how to approach her, and show her compassion and grace. I understand very well how hard it is to confront, and also how productive healthy confrontation can be.

A people-pleaser and peace-seeker by nature, I grew up paralyzed by fear of conflict. My blood pressure rises when I watch something as benign as an ESPN debate panel discussing coaches’ decisions. Their raised voices and sharp, clashing opinions set me on edge. For most of my life I have suffered silently, uncomplaining, as I allowed people to make choices for me since I didn’t want to face their wrath by speaking up. I really didn’t know how to confront; I usually chose to withdraw instead.

When I married my husband, who has no fear of confrontation, I learned how to confront without cowardice. We work as a good team when we must confront someone. He is stronger on the solution; I am kinder in the administration. As we can’t possibly please all four sets of our parents simultaneously, much less all our siblings, we’ve combined our skills to confront when necessary. Their responses aren’t always positive. However, he has peace knowing that nothing is left unsaid, and I have peace knowing our delivery wasn’t disrespectful. It’s all in the presentation.

In some cases, confrontation has actually improved our relationships. Some loved ones are willing to grow from the confrontation; others aren’t willing to get past it. That’s a real risk we’ve faced as a couple. But I can honestly say I have no regrets—other than I wish I would have confronted sooner!

Speaking the truth in love is surely one of the hardest directives in Christian living. I’ve learned if I sift my words in prayer before I confront, they lose their bitterness. They become a practical way to love my enemy. Sometimes, my enemy turns into a friend—but only through confrontation.

How do you apply this proverb to your conflicts?


10 thoughts on “Confrontation can be kind

  1. Nice post! By default, I don’t like to confront others either. I have learned though that most people respect us more after confronting them, especially when they understand we are just looking out for their interests.

    • Thanks for reading! Yes, in my experience, the acceptance for confrontation depends on the humility and teachability levels in the one who receives. I’m not exactly looking forward to the upcoming confrontation, but I hope it will make me stronger.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. So true, gentleness, and firmness as Saint Dominic my own patron once said ” Tender as a mother, firm as a diamond”.

    I recently had an issue at work about working on Sundays. When I went for the interview I made it clear, no sunday. 6 days, double shifts if needs be, but no sundays. No problem they said we can do that, one day.

    Well, as soon as i started I was scheduled for the following sunday, after my initial trial shift. So then it was really bothering me, and the other day the boss said you’re going to be have to be available some sundays.

    “A people-pleaser and peace-seeker by nature, I grew up paralyzed by fear of conflict”. Me too.

    so instead of asking the Lord for courage to confront the situation, and leave if i had too, i withdrew and in the end it made the problem worse.

    With God’s help, in the future I will no longer consider watering down this type of “commandment”, i say “commandment because it is a joy to rest and have one special day with the Lord. Courage , communication, addressing issues as they arise, in gentleness and love save a lot of aggro and frustration and anxiety and hurt in the Long run!

    Thanks again.

    • I admire your stance on honoring the Sabbath. I did the same with my boss in college, telling her though I’d worked Sundays for a few years, I was convicted to rest on Sabbaths. She was a wonderful Catholic believer, and accepted my request. I do my best to honor the Sabbath every week…maybe it’s time to post about it on my blog. Maybe you could post about that too on yours.

  3. Sorry you had to endure the harsh delivery from your friend. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end- but, I admittedly have been the deliverer too. I have found that I have to address those “nagging”, sometimes slow developing resentments close to their onset. That is assuming I recognize them- that’s strangely not always as easy as one would think! I find that “having to” apologize after the fact leaves a horrible taste in my mouth (kind of like crow!). I know my mouth can get me into trouble so I pray daily for God to help me be slow to speak, quick to listen,slow to anger and slow to wrath (James 1:19-20). i pray something that Joyce Meyer often says- “put a watch on my mouth lest I sin against you”! Words are crazy powerful and presentation is huge. Lots of proverbs on the tongue- need to do a good in-depth study of those. If I can avoid the outburst I can avoid the crow and necessary apology! Thanks for sharing your experience. And I really appreciate the biblical references!

    • I’m glad this resonated with you and thanks for sharing your insights here. I’m thankful you appreciate the biblical references. Here are a few others:
      I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked. Psalm 39:1
      Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
      Psalm 141:2-4
      Hope these help too.

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