The other night my girls started having problems with the boys behind our house. They were calling my girls’ names and creating a generally uncomfortable environment.
My wife approached me to solve the problem. She sent me one street over to talk to the boys’ parents.
As I made the trek to the offenders house, my heart reminded me that I don’t do confrontation well. My history is not that great, and it’s not an area where I seem to be successful. By the time I reached their front door my heart was pounding out of my chest, I was praying feverishly, and my palms were sweating like Microsoft at a Mac convention.
Their mom answered the door. I introduced myself and tried to be polite while challenging her with her children’s gross misbehaviors. In the process I fumbled over my words, and generally felt like a fool. Yea. I’m sensing victory.
Her response was predictable: cold and detached. She shrugged her shoulders with an “I’m-not-sure-I-believe-you” apology and re-entered her house. I walked back to the car having accomplished my goal but feeling very much defeated.
I hate confrontation.
I’m no confrontational expert. But as I’ve reflected on my experience let me offer three insights that might help you the next time you must confront.
1. Confrontation is best handled in relationship. I’d never met this neighbor before. I’m bothered that this is how our relationship began. Since we had no history, there was no trust. She doesn’t know I don’t complain often. As far as she can tell I’m the meddlesome creepy guy from the house behind her. This is why meeting your neighbors is important. It’s also why establishing solid relationship with the people around you is important. There may come a moment when you need to confront, and the relationship gives you a platform on which to stand.
2. Confrontation is best handled in a team. Matthew 18:15-19 gives some specific instructions on how to confront people. Two people is the standard. This protects you and them. But a team also gives your words authority and emphasis. It also tends to create confidence in you. Unfortunately, I went solo on my confrontational run and lacked confidence and security. Bad move.
3. Confrontation is best handled without the self-talk. In most confrontational situations, we try to have the conversation we’re about to have in our head before the situation actually takes place. We want to anticipate what they’re going to say so we can craft a shut-down reply.
The problem is that the conversation rarely goes the way we thought it would. We then find ourselves trying to have the real-time conversation while we are thinking about the self-talk that didn’t go as planned. Over and over, the Lord promises to give words to people in scripture. Think Moses.
I understand that usually those scriptures are referencing people who’ve been arrested for their faith and are having to make a defense; but let’s face it, in a confrontational situation, our faith is in jeopardy. If we respond with instinct we spit and holler and cause a scene and generally create disrepute for the faith. We, instead, want to respond with Christ-likeness. And in order to be Christ-like, I need to have His words.
Trust Him to provide those words when you need them. Stop generating the conversation in your head before you actually have it.
I’m sure I’ll have to confront again. Maybe I should read my own post before I make another attempt.
What have you found works best in confrontation?