This week I had one of those I-really-don't-want-to-do-this-but-the-Spirit-won't-let-me-alone-until-I-do kind of talks with someone. And I happen to be of the type who hates conflict or confrontation of any kind. (Of course, is there anyone who really likes confrontation?) But I've come to realize that we do a disservice to others (and to ourselves) when we don't hold one another accountable to our actions. The Word of God makes it clear that we are to keep an eye on one another and call each other on the carpet when need be. Sometimes the truth hurts - but man, spiritual growth happens when I humble myself and listen to Him through others. I also grow and learn when I allow myself to be the one He speaks through.
Thankfully, God provides where He guides. And as I was contemplating the needed confrontation, it occurred to me that there were several helps the Lord provided in preparation for the talk. I share them here in case the Spirit is currently pricking or pressing your heart to do a little tough loving with a sibling in Christ.
1.) First of all, make sure that it's the Spirit talking and not you. If I feel the need to confront someone, I'm usually better off giving the idea a little time. I've found that if it's truly Spirit-led, the pressing on my heart lasts. If I act too quickly, sometimes the confrontation is a result of my own issues instead of a genuine concern for the welfare of the other party. And when confrontation is self-led, LOOK OUT.
2.) Pray. Pray. Pray. And you best pray for a humble delivery at least as much as you pray for the other person's heart to be receptive and open to change. I've found that fasting the day before the confrontation can be especially helpful. Fasting provides a noticeable clarity of mind when the body is temporarily free of the extra energy needed for digestion. Fasting also provides a built-in reminder to pray. When those hunger pangs strike, it's a natural reminder to remove the focus from the physical need to the spiritual one.
3.) Examine your own heart. This is a biggie. Make very sure that the plank's out of your own eye before you go digging for the speck in someone else's. People can read self-righteousness a mile off - make sure you go into this with a humble attitude and a non-judgmental heart.
4.) Have an agenda. Not a hidden agenda, mind you - but a written one. It helps to jot down items that you wish to mention. And be mindful of how one item flows into the next. Start with smaller, less confrontational issues and move into bigger things as you develop a rapport and a trust with lesser stuff.
5.) And speaking of writing, depending on the situation, a written exhortation may be in order. (But don't use this excuse to get out of a face-to-face if it's really necessary.) I've found that writing everything out verbatim in a letter helps me to focus on the message and allows me to see if my motives are getting mixed up in it. (Something about seeing things in black and white has a way of revealing your own heart - our minds can do a lot more trickery.) A letter also gives the recipient time to process. And it can help to keep pride at bay. If you do write, follow-up is important. Sending a letter doesn't let you off the hook - dropping the message and running isn't helpful. Give the person time to respond - if they don't, inquire as to whether they received your letter and go from there.
6.) Regardless of the delivery method, the goal is this: TENDER HONESTY. Don't mince words, beat around the bush. Say what needs said, speak the truth in love. Honor/value the other person as God does.
7.) Consider future meetings. Sometimes things can't be wrapped up in one sitting. It will help hold you and the person you're confronting accountable for future actions if you determine some action points and meet again at a later time to follow up on those.
8.) Don't be discouraged if the confrontation doesn't go as you wanted or expected. Sometimes the Lord has completely different ideas than our's about what the results should be. And sometimes (as in my case), it takes me some time to process confrontation from another. After chewing on it for awhile, I usually find the "nugget of Truth" in the conversation that I must act upon, even if I didn't like the delivery. And lastly, if you believe that you acted in obedience to the Spirit (and you best make sure that's not an excuse), trust the Lord with the outcome. It's your concern to be obedient to Him on your end. If the recipient isn't on their end, ultimately that's His business - not your's.
9.) Praise God. Confronting another brother or sister in love is often difficult. I always enter the situation with fear and trembling. But I tell you what, obedience to the Lord in this area brings great joy and peace - regardless of the outcome. And what brings even greater joy is when He uses you as a vessel to develop growth and goodness in another's life. You are so good, Lord.