Go Directly to the Person
Often we choose to go to a third party and talk about the issue first. It’s what I call third-party politics. We have been offended, and we want affirmation, help, and even a pat on the back, so we go to someone we think will have our back. But when we do this, amassing a group of people who are on our side, we’ve just created division in the church, and that’s not what we want. Rather than make peace, we’ve just expanded the conflict. I encourage you to make this promise to yourself: I am not going to have a conversation about somebody that I'm not going to have with that person. If I have an issue with somebody, I'm going to go to that person and talk.
When you talk with the person, use “I” statements like “I noticed” and “I felt.” Be sure to let the other person know why this is important to you, how you feel, and what you’d like to happen as you move forward. The clearer you can be, the better.
When Someone Confronts You
When someone approaches you with an issue, it’s important to listen with empathy and not get defensive. We often get defensive right away and fail to hear anything else that’s said. But the truth is that something you did unknowingly offended somebody, so stop and say you’re sorry for offending the person. Embrace the fact that you will offend people unknowingly from time to time, and that’s okay if we’re willing to work through it and learn from it. After you apologize for hurting or offending the person, say, “Help me understand.” Then do what’s necessary to remedy the situation.
Healthy conflict leads to mutual growth and stronger relationships. Jesus invites us into peacemaking, which is challenging—so challenging that many don’t want to engage it. But we can choose differently. Jesus is with us as we step into conflict, and he will never leave us or forsake us. He is creating a new way of relating to one another, and it requires a lot of grace. But we each can choose to go in this new direction. Peacemaking is not for the faint of heart. It's for those who have the courage to step into the opportunities that Jesus makes available.
—Rich Gorman and his wife, Dori, co-pastor NewStory Church in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. This article was adapted from one of Rich’s sermons.
- Which is your tendency: jump into confrontation too quickly, or go to a third-party person?
- Who in your life could serve as a safe person? Why?
- How do you react when someone confronts you? What might you do differently in the future?