“If your brother or [sister] sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Matthew 18:15
I was sitting the other day thinking through the past 10 years since I started seminary and began working in full time ministry in the church and religious non-profits; I have to say there were some bitter/sweet moments. One of my most favorite memories was walking on the seminary campus with not a clue. Seriously, I had no clue. I tried my hardest to fit in; I went shopping for acceptable clothing, I tried to use acceptable language but in the end my true identity started bleeding through my perfect façade. I still get a good laugh about that first semester.
However, one of my deepest hurts has been the loss of friendships since I started working in Christian circles. Now this is not a “how the church has hurt me” kind of blog. It’s more of an observation of how some Christian circles seem to “fight” or better yet how they use non-verbal language and passive aggressive behaviors to deal with conflict. I can’t tell you how many times I've seen friendships in the Christian circles end without any warnings.
Now I use the word “fight” because some believe that all kinds of confrontation IS fighting. I beg to differ. Confrontation is simply a meeting between two people in order to gain clarity on misunderstood words shared or acts committed.
The form of communication I see used the most in church circles is: passive aggressive behavior. They use sarcasms, jokes and my favorite talk about it with others rather than the specific person (yeah that’s gossip). I often shake my head in disbelief because the passive aggressive method of resolving conflict is so different from what I know. For God’s sake, I’m from Haiti where a simple conversation about the weather seems to be a heated debate. Others have often asked “are you all mad at each other?” and of course the answer is “No” but it’s how we express ourselves in verbal exchanges. You will never walk away from a conversation with a Haitian and not know how they truly feel.
And then I spent 17 years in New Jersey where you will hear at least once in a conversation “what do you mean by that?” I love it! Again verbal language used to clarify where we stand with each other.
This kind of communication is healthy. It is Godly. The bible did not say to not become angry, I believe God knew a bunch of his children together would mean trouble. That is why he implored to us over and over again to get angry while not sinning, to resolve our conflicts and maintain peace.
So how do we do this? How do we “fight”/confront lovingly and fairly?
Here are some principles to help you fight/confront lovingly and fairly:
- Passive aggressive behavior will not resolve conflicts. You have to verbally communicate to get passed issues. Do not surprise your “friends” by cutting them off without ever communicating your feelings. Go to your brother/sister and share your feelings.
- Explosive communication is not conflict resolution. So you bottle up all of your anger against a person and then you explode. You must address conflict as they arise, one at a time. It is not fair for a person to receive your wrath all at once.
- Rehearse ahead of time. If you are new to resolving your conflicts, practice what you will say to the person before you actually confront them.
- You will be just fine. Many people do not attempt to resolve their conflicts in fear of not being liked and be rejected. If that is you, please deal with the true reason you fear rejection. Attempting to resolve your conflict, for the most part, will not end in your rejection. You will be just fine.
- Communicate. Start with “I” statements. For example, “hey so and so remember when we talked last week, I felt belittled when you said…” or “Can you please clarify what you meant when you said…because I thought I heard…”. You get the picture; you have to use verbal language to communicate.
- Ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness; apologize when needed for offending one another and offer forgiveness as often as you can. **Forgiveness plays a huge role in resolutions, perhaps I’ll address it at a later blog**
- Let it go. When forgiveness and understanding have taken place, let it go. Don’t replay the events. Stop criminalizing the offender. Stop talking about the events that took place. Just let it go. You have said your peace; it is time to let it go.
- Not all confrontations will end in reconciliation Or for both parties come to a consensus. Unfortunately, peace doesn't always equate to reconciliation or in perfect agreement with each other. After you have communicated and understanding has taken place, reconciliation might not happen. And that’s ok! What is not ok: is not communicating at all and walking away with unfinished business. In New Jersey we call that “punking out” or just plain cowardice behavior.
Communicating in love is loving. Fighting in love is loving. Being angry without sinning is loving. Confronting lovingly is loving. Do not end friendships without doing your part? Do not ignore texts, emails, phone calls or defriend on facebook without doing your part.
My question for you is: do you love me enough to fight with me?