"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it--I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while--yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us." 2 Corinthians 7:8-10
Sometimes I struggle with the concept of "body life" or community within the church? Most of us enjoy the warm fuzzy parts like encouragement, kindness, or serving each other. However, the harder part we call "speaking truth to one another" or exhortation is harder to for us to appreciate. Let's look at the process and motivation for speaking the truth, what to expect when we speak truth to someone, and what we can expect from ourselves when someone speaks it to us. By "truth," I want to make it clear that I mean speaking the truth of God's word, not just our perceptions or what we think. We all interpret things through our own personalities, our pasts, and our giftedness. That is why getting several perceptions and considering all the information on an event or relationship difficulty will get us closer to the truth. Biblical truth is truth that comes from the Word and never ever changes. However, we can lose sight of it in our sin or in our pain. We can also misunderstand a truth and having someone correct our thinking is speaking truth.
Relationships evoke all sorts of emotions, some of which are extremely uncomfortable. Emotions are God given and nothing of which to be ashamed. However, we are responsible for expressing them appropriately. The emotions we would call negative emotions aren’t really negative. They are uncomfortable, but that serve as a barometer that signals us that something is wrong and they tell us valuable information about our hearts. When godly boundaries are being subtly crossed we may experience things like uneasiness. With more blatant offences we feel stronger emotions like hurt and anger. God wants to use that anger to motivate us to speak the truth in love rather than react defensively and damage the person. We first need to determine where our emotions come from. Is it our own baggage, exhaustion, or hormones or is the other person's behavior triggering the emotional response in us? We are responsible for confronting sinful behavior with an attitude that invites reconciliation or restoration. The motive is always to helping them be the best person they can be. Reflecting Christ to others doesn’t mean ignoring our own needs and hurts. Hurt often means another person's behavior does not line up with scripture. Speaking the truth to people requires great humility because we have to come to Christ and admit our needs and our hurts first and check our own hearts. It is only as He fills us with godly wisdom and heals our hurt feelings that we can see that our hurt is secondary to the fact that a person we are confronting is sinning against God. Our hurt really is only a catalyst for God calling us to minister to the other person by helping them mature in Christ.
A person being confronted often gets defensive and shows hurt or anger at first. If we have prayed and know we are confronting in God's will by showing her how her behavior caused us pain, we don’t have to feel any guilt over their response. It is helpful to be gracious and allow the person to have her initial emotional response. At the same time we can pray that their sorrow, which may begin as selfish sorrow will turn into godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Pray that they will not become revengeful or run from the issues or your relationship. As godly sorrow begins to emerge, the person will usually no longer be hurt by your confrontation, but be sad that they grieved God. That is the time to come along side and offer support and encouragement. When you are focused on loving the person the temptation to stay angry goes away. Lastly, it is important to realize your success is measured by your obedience to God, not in effecting a change in them or confronting them without making them angry with you. It is ok to gently point out defense mechanisms like anger, tears or justifying a wrong action, but God has to change the person’s heart. Remember, to be like Christ is being more that a warm fuzzy friend -- Christ was warm, kind, tenderhearted, but he was also bold and firm.
How we respond to confrontation is an indication of our own maturity. I had friends who cared enough to confront me for an eating disorder and they saved my life. At first I was angry, but today I continue to be thankful that they cared enough to confront. What is your gut reaction to confrontation? Do you try to end the conversation, justify your behavior, get angry or show great hurt by bursting into tears? If a friend has the gumption to confront you, do you have the gumption to listen and examine your life to see if there is truth in what they say? The pain of confrontation is a good pain in that it motivates us to change if we have open hearts. It is okay for any of us to need some time to process during a hard conversation and then meet to respond. There may be times where we have not sinned, but there is a difference in expectations that a calm loving conversation can clear it up. On the occasions we are confronted for something we did not do, but we might be able to minister to the person if we remain calm and loving.
Even though words that lead to godly sorrow often wound at first, we must recognize that they are precious expressions of love? Do you love boldly enough to confront? Do you praise God for friends who confront you? Can you receive and give correction with grace?
Prayer: Father you are awesome to call us to deeper growing relationships that are like iron sharpening iron. Sometimes in our humanness sparks fly in that process. Give us hearts that are humble enough to hear people who are confronting us in a godly way. Also give us hearts that are bold enough to confront and love a person through their initial responses. Fill us with you Holy Spirit and heal our hearts so that we can reflect you to others. Amen.