I hate confrontations... Something I think I have in common with most other Indians. If you want to stress me out, just come up to me and say with a serious face: "Hi, can we talk?"
It is SO much easier to find a zillion excuses why I don't need to talk directly to someone about a stressful situation or a problem I am having with them.
But here's the thing. When I don't confront, typically one or more of these things happen-
1. I grow resentful of that person.
2. I write them off.
3. I don't give them a chance to change.
4. I spend a lot of time venting about them and the situation to others.
5. The situation doesn't change or gets worse.
6. I start actively avoiding the person.
Passive aggressive behaviour across cultures
Okay, I did do one thing differently. I prayed regularly for him. And as I prayed, I eventually heard God speaking to me.
I guess I was hoping He would say something like, "Shake the dust off your feet."
Instead He said:
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one." Matt 18: 15
"Ha ha, Lord, I know You don't really mean that. For me. In this situation. But great concept for other people. In other situations."
But it came up again. And again. To the point where I felt that if I DIDN'T go, I would be directly disobeying Him. So with fear and trembling, and a lot of encouragement from my close Christian friends, I prepared. I prayed a lot. I wrote down clearly what I wanted to communicate. I revved myself up. And finally I went to meet him.
How did I do it? I tried to remember some basic guidelines I had learned earlier:
1. Go with the right attitude: Don't look at the other person as a bad person, but believe that they are your brother or sister, capable of good, just with sins, weaknesses, wounds and blind spots. Believe the best, hope for something good.
2. Affirm the relationship: Start the conversation sharing that you value the other person, the relationship that you have, and the good you have experienced in and from them.
3. Don't accuse, but share your experience: Don't say 'You were rude and mean', instead 'I was hurt when you said...'
4. Be charitable: 'I know you probably didn't mean it' or 'You probably didn't realize that your tone was so sharp.'
5. Give them a way forward: 'I hope that we can have a better relationship moving forward. Next time, could you -'
6. Listen: Allow them to share their perspective and feedback, in case there was something you were missing. Be quick to take responsibility for any way that you messed up. 'You're right, I probably should have come to you earlier with this. Please forgive me.'
7. Don't expect an apology: You can't control how other people respond. Ideally, they would take responsibility for their actions and ask for forgiveness, but we live in an imperfect world, and most people are not used to being directly confronted. You may experience defensiveness, anger, blame, or just indifference. That's okay. You did your part. Trust that God will do His. You can forgive them whether or not they are sorry.
That day I faced one of my worst fears, confronting a person in authority. But I was able to speak calmly and clearly and kindly. I bet that was the first time that priest had ever had a lay person have that kind of conversation with him. And to give him credit, he sat and heard me out. It didn't end perfectly. He didn't acknowledge that he was wrong, but told me that I had misunderstood him and that was just his way. But we ended on an amicable note. I'm sure the Lord planted some seeds in that conversation, even if it was just modelling how to have a respectful confrontation. I grew a little more confident, and the priest seemed to do better after the conversation.
There is so much good fruit that comes from holy confrontations:
1. Restored friendships and relationships
2. Honesty and clarity: Suspicion and mistrust thrive in the darkness. When we talk about things, they are brought into God's light.
3. Freedom from resentment and unforgiveness
4. A clear conscience: 'If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.' Romans 12:18
5. Unity and a good witness
I feel very strongly that Christians in India need to learn how to confront each other well. Relationships within families, and within parishes and communities and ministries are suffering because of our unhealthy culture of avoiding direct confrontation. We have not had good models of this, so it is a new and scary concept. But the only way to learn is to start somewhere and learn from our mistakes.
Is there anyone God is nudging you to confront?