Relationships bring both joy and challenge. One challenge that many of us dread is confrontation. Confrontation typically involves a clashing of ideas, or a conflict between individuals where a misunderstanding or frustration leads to tension in the relationship. Maybe you have been on the receiving end of confrontation. Based on how you were confronted, you may have responded in a negative or positive way.
As a college professor, I teach a course titled Diversity and Multicultural Issues, preparing future counselors to work with clients from diverse backgrounds. The first two weeks, students share their own stories. They start by listening and learning about their classmates. However, before they begin, I present guidelines for compassionate, courageous conversations, and building a community of respect and care. Navigating difficult conversations begins by learning to listen, showing concern, and responding with care and compassion.
This leads us to your question: How can we confront without being judgmental? How can I show love at the same time? Here are a few guidelines. First, we can show compassion before and even during confrontation. Compassion can be defined as that human disposition that fuels acts of kindness and mercy. Jesus modeled both compassion and healthy confrontation for us.
In Psalms 78:38 (ESV) we read, “Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.” Matthew 9:36 (ESV) notes, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” And Matthew 14:14 (ESV) states, “When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
We can respect the other person by being honest. God has uniquely designed us in His image (Psalm 139). As image bearers of God, we show respect to others and are honest in our relationships in order to build each other up for the kingdom of Christ. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
Finally, as Christ followers, we can be respectful in both agreement and disagreement. While confrontation may result in disagreement, we can use our words carefully to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and concern. In everything we say or do, we are told: “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). It is God who ultimately does the healing in our lives and relationships. But we can grow by following godly principles when we need to confront others.
For some, confrontation brings up feelings of fear or anger. Reflect on the ways you learned about confrontation. What did you observe from your family? How did you learn to handle conflict? If you are struggling to confront in a godly way or hurting from your past, consider seeking out help from a pastor, mentor, or professional counselor to help you learn how to build healthy communication skills in relationships.