We’ve all done it. Everyone of us has avoided the hard conversation we KNOW we should have. Confrontation isn’t easy, and many of us have developed an amazing ability to dodge it, or when we do confront, we often approach it in the wrong way.
I believe there are two primary reasons this is the case.
1. We avoid confrontation because of fear.
We’re afraid of how the other person will respond. We fear what they’ll do. We fear what they will withhold. Ultimately this represents a fear of punishment. We don’t confront because of the price we’ll likely have to pay. Punishment can come in all kinds of forms: tears, anger, withholding affection, rejection, manipulation, guilt, and shame are a few common examples.
2. We confront unsuccessfully because we misunderstand the purpose of confrontation.
We often confront another person because we’re not okay and it’s their fault. Our confrontation is an effort to exercise control over that person so that we’ll be okay. The goal of healthy confrontation is not to control another person. This wrong approach reflects a relational model where someone has to be powerless so the other can be powerful. It’s based upon the lie that it’s actually possible to control others, and to be controlled by them.
What’s the Solution?
1. Receive Perfect Love.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18, ESV)
There are essentially two ways to function within a relationship. We will either function according to love or according to fear. When I avoid confrontation for fear of their reaction it demonstrates my need to deeply receive of God’s perfect love. When God becomes my source of identity and security, my source of love, joy, peace, and righteousness; when I begin to relate to God on the basis of grace with no fear of punishment, I become a very powerful person. How I’m doing isn’t subject to the choices of others beyond my control. From this basis, I’m able to confront someone without any fear of their reaction or any need to control their response.
2. Embrace the true purpose of confrontation: Connection.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15–17, ESV)
Jesus confronted Peter. But he didn’t confront him to control or judge him. He confronted him to repair his connection with Peter. He confronted him to reestablish and strengthen their relationship. He did not confront as an adversary. He confronted as a friend.
When we fearlessly and lovingly approach confrontation with God as our source, with no need to control or judge, and the goal of strengthening connection with the other person, our relationships will begin to grow in health.