I’ve been thinking a lot about confrontation and forgiveness and love and asking myself “what would Jesus do?” like it’s the 90s all over again? 80s? (No clue)
I think it’s safe to say I’m non confrontational…I’d MUCH rather ignore stuff (even if it hurts me in the end) than address it and understand it and eventually be free of whatever the “stuff” is.
Here’s an example/visual to accompany the image at the end of this post.
Let’s say I’ve got a thorn in my side. It’s been there forever and I’ve grown up with it there, and people ask me about it and I always tell them “it’s been there since I can remember - it’s part of who I am”. At some point along the way I realized if I walk on my tiptoes and lean to the left I can’t even feel it in there. People say “you should take that out - you’d be able to walk normally” and “leaving that in your side and walking like that is going to effect how your spine grows - that’s really unhealthy, you should take it out” and my response stays the same. Let’s say if I pull it out, it’s going to tear up a few internal organs or something. It wouldn’t kill me, but there’d be blood and pain.
Remember this - I’ll come back to it.
Confrontation is a complex issue. I’ve been contemplating a few aspects of it - the first is the risk factor.
There’s always a chance your confrontation can lead to loss and hurt and damage and destruction. You have to decide if it's worth it.
The second aspect is the cause and effect involved.
There’s a very important difference between (as a friend put it) “What the hell is wrong with you?! Why would you do that?!” or "Why are you acting like this?" or "Why did you do this to me?" And “Help me understand” or "here's my perspective on this". The person on the other side of the confrontation has to understand your heart. Your heart has to be in the right place. Confrontation can be a turning point for the better or for the worse (whether you wrap it up with nice words and a pretty bow or not).
The only significant confrontation I can think of in my life came from a dear friend. I knew her heart for me, she didn’t confront me to condemn me - she confronted me to convict me and enlighten me. I admitted I was wrong, clueless, hurtful, and I immediately changed my behavior. Looking back on this, and having the opportunity to talk to my friend about it, she explained that she had to make the choice that my friendship was worth the risk. It was scary for her, it took effort from her, but it was a good confrontation because of how it was presented AND how it was received. Because both people acted out of love.
But I’m 23 years old and I can honestly say this is the only confrontation I’ve had (at least that I remember?) that ended well. Any and all other confrontation has ended horribly, hence my non-confrontational nature. (And the thorn in my side and the tiptoeing and the leaning to the left.)
A friend said that in order to confront someone about something they’ve done that effected you negatively, you have to forgive them first.
...Easier said than done!
What if there isn’t enough time in the world to forgive your wrongdoer of all their… wrongdoing…???
What if you’ve always considered forgiveness as the second step in the process, and the confrontation the first (EVEN IF your expectation is for the confrontation to be received poorly)??
All that’s left is forgiveness. In advance.
After contemplating this on my own for a while, I turned to the Bible.
Jesus confronted people. He did so justly, righteously, lovingly and honestly. But he didn’t necessarily wait until they were “ready”.
This is one of countless reasons we have Jesus. Why we need Jesus. Without Jesus how would we ever manage to forgive in advance?
What if you’re someone who’s never seen forgiveness modeled in your life, and you’re navigating uncharted territory?
I believe if we consult Jesus on all our potential confrontations, he will lead us down a path resulting in healing, restoration, love, and renewed relationships. I believe he will speak through us and do so justly, eloquently, lovingly and righteously. Because that’s who he is.
Back to the thorn thing -
If I tiptoe up to Jesus all hunched over and ask him to help me forgive the person who put the thorn in my side, he’s going to suggest we take the thorn out first. He’s going to suggest we address the wound and get it all healed up before we address the person who put it there.
Luckily, he can remove the thorns and help us forgive the person who put it there, too! (It’s an all-in-one…or three.. package. Get it. 'Cause the Trinity...)
He can take the thorns, make roses out of the cracked and bloody pieces, he can fill the place they once occupied with light and beauty, and restore what was lost. Once he has healed us of our weakened and damaged state, we can hear him clearly, and begin to love and forgive as he does. Added bonus: We'll be better/stronger for this.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
In the context of this verse, confrontation sounds like something to rejoice over. But if someone walked up to me and tried to yank out my thorn and ridiculed me for walking funny and letting it fester in my side, I would be left feeling ashamed, stupid, and wounded….But they would be standing there expecting a thank you, thinking they did me a huge favor.
Like this post, this process is lengthy.
The point of this post and the message behind the image below is that we shouldn’t go around yanking out people’s thorns willy-nilly. We risk making them feel like idiots, especially if we turn around and ask for a big hug and a "thank you!!" in return.
We should ask why the thorn is still there. We should build trust and honor each other in our confrontations and stand together in our battles against dysfunction and anger. We should help the person yank it out when they're ready.
I’m historically pretty bad at coming up with effective metaphors for things. This one came to me only half-developed, and in the process of writing this post and making this image, I had to really think about how I was going to tie it all together. It started to kind of fall apart towards the end there... It was a really cool experience - and a moving reminder of why I create.
While I was typing up this novel I realized something else about my metaphor - we should leave some things for Jesus to heal in people. Sometimes it isn’t our place to walk up and yank out the thorn. Sometimes the person needs Jesus to do it.
We should definitely be ready and willing to help in any way he chooses, though.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV)
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." - Matthew 7:1-6 (ESV)