This article originally posted on Crosswalk.com.
What is Confrontation?
Confrontation is defined as the act of confronting someone or something, the clashing of forces or ideas, or a hostile situation between opposing parties. In today’s American culture, we seem to be thriving on confrontation at the surface in the form of gossip and politics, yet 46% of Americans report feeling lonely, left out, and/or disconnected from others.
Many people feel that confrontation is being too outspoken, perhaps “stirring the pot.” I have not done any primary research on this matter, but I feel confident that, if I were to study a random sample of people from any age range and ask them how comfortable they are bringing up tough conversations, we would see a statistic as startling as that loneliness percentage above. Imagine yourself having to bring up a hard topic with your wife. How does that make you feel? What about facing something within yourself?
If you are uncomfortable, you would not be alone. That applies to any tough situation. What we must remember, though, is that confrontation is not simply “stirring the pot.” Just because others may have abused their freedom of speech to belittle or hurt others, should not limit you from speaking up to free your heart. Confrontation can be dealing with a personal battle we might be afraid to face or moving forward in a relationship we hold dear. At its root, confrontation is a sign of love and bravery. Let’s explore God’s word on this topic further.
We are Led by Our Intentions
Being conscious of those intentions can help us shape them to be more fruitful for ourselves and those around us. Galatians 5:22-23 teaches us what our intentions will be if we are led by the spirit, which is, led by fruitfulness. To be fruitful is to have a desire to make a positive difference, to meet a need. It says, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
If we approach confrontation with the intention to speak forgiveness, to heal a hurt, to speak love, to reveal a change of heart through goodness, or to point people to joy, this is exactly the confrontation that is needed in all hearts! Perhaps the feeling you have opposing you from confronting something that will carry you or someone else forward is our enemy manifesting himself in pride and fear.
As it pertains to speaking up about trending political issues, we seem to have a tendency to want to yell into the ocean against the current. I can assure you that if you approach a clashing wave head-on, that wave is going to crash no matter what you do or say to it. In Matthew 7:6, Jesus teaches us “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” This does not mean that people are worthless if they oppose us. Let’s not come away from love. However, do operate efficiently. As the parable of the sower teaches, seed on the widely used path will be eaten by the birds and seed in the thorns will choke the plant. Do share your opinions and take your stance. It is your right. But also protect your heart and ask God where the good soil is. Spend your time there.
Is Confrontation Biblical?
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” When we feel the need to confront something or someone, it is because we feel a passion stirred in ourselves. That is good! That is of the Lord. God is passionate as well. What happens, though, when it comes down to it and we know what we need to do? When we know the only way to get over this thing is to go straight through it? Fear. We cut ourselves off. We become salesmen and talk ourselves out of it. We do this at our own expense. At the expense of peace, of love, of progress in some fashion. It is far more rewarding to fight that fear and press through or else God would not have given us a spirit of power to proceed. We should not hide from confrontation if it means moving forward.
We read in James 5:16 to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” This confession of sin also applies to the confessions of the heart. When we feel stirred up, we have a prime opportunity for this scary word: connection. When we have connection, we are closer to God in our hearts. As a result, we become closer to the people that we let in and grow deeper together in connection.
Ideally, you are sharing with someone who respects you. If we read on, it says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” As we get things off of our chest, we put ourselves, and possibly others depending on the situation, in right standing with one another. If dealing with issues within ourselves, we put ourselves in right standing with God. When we are in right standing, we pray, we forgive, and we move forward. This is where we find that word again, the ever-important connection we all desperately need.
The Two Roles of Conflict Resolution
Confrontation is one of the finest tools we have when it comes to conflict resolution. As Ron DeArmond says in this article, “without it, we welcome division in our lives.” As we begin exercising this confrontation more, we will begin to see a pattern. That pattern is that there are two roles in conflict resolution when dealing with other people. We hold one of two positions: sharing or supporting.
As the one sharing, that is seeking support, our responsibility is making sure that the one we are expecting support from understands our heart’s intention. Effective support comes when our shared intention is conveyed properly with the right person. If our intention is fruitfulness and moving forward, a hard conversation is much easier to work through because the goal is clear, attainable, and desirable.
As the one supporting, it is our responsibility to make sure we give the one sharing a proper opportunity. I remember often early on in my marriage my wife would begin sharing things with me that I felt I had heard before or that I flat out just disagreed with. I began viewing her as whiny or just wanting to complain. I’m sure you can imagine the level of support I was giving to her. As I matured and realized the opportunities I was missing, I wondered why she wasn’t sharing as much and I began to miss it, feeling guilty for what I now understood. You can be a better supporter right now. Give the one sharing your full attention. Allow your heart to be open, free of judgment and opinion. Be prepared to exercise that self-control that God put in your spirit and truly listen. Keep in mind that the person sharing likely fought a battle before even bringing something up and whether their delivery is exemplary or not is not the point. If someone is bringing an issue up with you, that means they trust you and they need something from you. My friends, I pray you don’t miss those wonderful chances when they come.
Conflict Resolution or Conversation?
When you get comfortable resolving issues you might lose your balance of what is conflict resolution vs. what is just casual conversation. This is especially true if you have never faced fears before. It’s exciting! It’s easy to stay in that zone. I say this as a “fixer.” I have this natural tendency to hear, analyze, and make a plan of action.
Understanding the subtle differences of these things is possibly best recognized in a casual marital conversation. Conflict resolution is easy to identify because it is generally needed when something is interrupting both of you in some form. Maybe I’m hurt and because I’m hurt I’m not giving my spouse the attention I normally would have. In turn, they become hurt. We are both impacted, and we need conflict resolution initiated by confrontation.
In casual conversation, we find one person just sharing their day and maybe even complaining some but that does not mean we have to bust out confronting them about something and offending them because we won’t “just listen.” The key difference between the two is that conflict resolution generally involves something needing to come out in the open, while conversation is having a clean slate and just conversing about the things that come up.
Psychology experts suggest the most effective way to cope with anxiety triggers is exposure. If you are afraid of elevators, you will need to get on an elevator. Do it over and over. If you are afraid of riding in a car, you will need to ride in a car. If you are afraid of an emotion or an event that occurred in your life, you will need to face this emotion or event out in the open. If we don’t do this, we threaten ourselves to be opened up to a victim mentality as we make more and more decisions to avoid whatever the thing is we are afraid of.
Am I talking about anxiety or am I talking about confrontation? Well, both. Confrontation with others is much easier to identify, therefore, we feel more comfortable in that. But with ourselves, there may be places in us that are just so painful, so confusing, we dare not go there. If we apply that same fear of confronting others inwardly, this is where we find ourselves anxious, depressed, and feeling out of control. I urge you to face it. Just do it. Harness support through prayer and through those you trust the most. Share what you are going through. Expose it to the light. It will become less scary each time and you will find yourself more satisfied and confident.
As a society, we are lonely, we are distressed, and we are fearful. We want to claim the role of “peacekeepers” yet we leave ourselves off the priority list. Using the fruits of the spirit as a guide for our intentions, we find the balance of healthy confrontation that protects our own hearts, as well as the hearts of others. We find the balance of who we should avoid confronting through Jesus’ teaching. Confrontation is a powerful tool of resolving conflicts with ourselves and those around us. It can lead you to a place of higher understanding, connection, confidence and respect, but you must engage in it. Connect to the opportunity of what could go right more than you connect to the fear of what could go wrong. Share well and support well. You are loved.