Confrontation – Speaking the Truth in Love – Part One

Paul writes to the Ephesian Church and tells them that, as believers, we are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Most people I relate to see this as “confrontation.” And, worst still, they see confrontation as negative and difficult. So, let’s look briefly at this whole area of speaking the truth in love.

The question we always need to ask: Do I care enough to confront the right way?

When working with relationships we instinctively know the following:

1> Conflict is unavoidable

Perhaps we ought to add conflict to death and taxes as one of the things we can count on in this life. The only way to avoid conflict is to isolate ourselves from all other people on the planet. So, we need to learn to deal with issue that cause conflict because they are inevitable.

2> Conflict is difficult

No one likes confrontation, so almost everyone avoids it. And those who do like it have their own psychological issues! Why is it difficult to confront? We fear being disliked, misunderstood, or rejected. We fear the unknown. We are not use to sharing our feelings. And we worry that we will just make things worse. Let’s face it: few people have been taught healthy confrontational skills.

But this I know: How we handle conflict determines our success in tough relational situations

So, how do you handle conflict in your relationships? Did you know that conflict always compounds when confrontation is not done quickly and correctly? That’s why your approach matters. Here’s a sampling of harmful strategies that we see people using when they deal with conflict:

      • Win at all costs. It’s like a shootout at the OK Corral. It’s quick, brutal, and destructive.
      • Pretend it doesn’t exist. If you hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil, evil will not exist.
      • Whine about it. Winners aren’t whiners and whiners aren’t winners. Playing the victim doesn’t cure conflict. It just irritates everybody.
      • Keep score. People who keep a record of wrongs can’t ever start over fresh. And nobody can ever get ‘even.’
      • Pull rank. Using position never really resolves conflict. It merely postpones it.
      • White flag it. Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

None of these approaches will give the help a person needs to resolve conflict in a healthy way. 

Conflict resolution isn’t complicated. Intellectually it’s simple. But emotionally it can be difficult. It requires honesty, humility, and dedication to the relationship. Let’s look at the first two points of what is a six-step plan to help you tackle the task of confrontation. 

1> Confront a person only if you care for that person

In rare instances people must confront someone they don’t care about, such as in legal trials or when abuse has occurred. But there are not typical relational conflicts. In nearly all relational situations, it is most productive to go into a confrontation keeping the other person’s interests in mind.

In the past when you attempted to resolve conflict with another person, what has been your goal? Sympathy? Quick relief? Victory at all costs? Next time try to go into it with the goal of making it a win for both parties. And if you attempt to ensure that the other person wins first, then you know you have the most beneficial perspective.

2> Meet together as soon as possible

When conflict arises, we are tempted to avoid it, procrastinate dealing with it, or ask someone else to resolve it for us. But the truth is that anytime you let conflict go – for whatever reason –  it only gets worse. If people are put in a position to start speculating about another person’s motives to figure out what might have really happened, they often think their worst. Putting off confrontation only causes the situation to fester.

So, don’t store up issues. It is never a good idea idea to save up a bunch of stuff and then give a person a history lesson during a confrontation. Instead meet together right away, face-to-face. If that’s absolutely impossible, then consider a conversation by phone. But under no circumstances should you confront a person via e-mail.

Conclusion next time…