I walked down the hallway past the rooms of 19 other girls. Each of them had a happy greeting scrawled across the white boards beside their doors. I anticipated mine.
“Amber, come see me when you get in.” mine read.
I could feel the light in my eyes darken. Inside my dorm room, I shrugged off my knapsack onto the bed on my side of the room and even though I was no longer carrying the weight of it, my shoulders were just as burdened from the anticipation of a chiding.
It felt like the kids whose parents tell them to go find something to spank them with and then return for their punishment. I knew what this would be about.
The last few months had caught me totally off guard. I was always “the good girl” and for valid reasons. I had been an ideal student-you know-the one who is responsible and is always chosen to be the leader of the small group in English. I was the kid who was never late to school, had no idea what the detention hall looked like, and who never got a dress code violation. The girl who was voted by her peers to receive the “Christian Character Award”. I wasn’t perfect, but I stayed out of trouble and I desired to honor God.
That’s why I was so floored by the continual confrontations I faced when I went off to college. The first year was the best of my life. To this day, I can’t tell you how full my heart was from the love and friendships that I gained during that time.
But then something changed.
My sophomore year, I began to be singled out for dress code violations. Particularly, the length of my skirt. There were indeed rules about this at my conservative Christian college. I understood-my high school was the same. What troubled me so much is that I went to great lengths to avoid the “dress code issues”. I started asking wing-mates to help me measure my skirts. Off I would go on my merry way only to be approached later on-sometimes in the middle of settling in for chapel-and asked to go change.
It was humiliating.
I knew I wasn’t trying to break the rules. Granted, my skirts were often right at the limit. But my heart was in the right place. My MO was never about trying to get away with a violation and I took the precautions of getting second opinions almost every time I wore a skirt above the knee.
I felt looked down upon-something I had not experienced among peers or figures of authority ever before.
Eventually, I simply wanted to leave the school for good. I lost my spark.
I felt misunderstood-as if I had to keep looking over my shoulder. Nothing about the situation felt loving, nor did I feel that they had my good in mind, although I believe they were truly sincere in their desire to do the right thing themselves. What had been a happy and fulfilling place for me as a Christian was becoming one where all I felt was judged and condemned.
The situation would eventually work itself out and I remained to graduate after two more years that redeemed that year of hardship. My overall experience was one of growth and joy where I grew in the Lord by leaps and bounds and solidified both an amazing education, and lasting friendships.
But I learned a few things about confronting people that I never forgot:
1. Confrontation is necessary but underemployed among brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result, when it does happen, we often balk at it and feel broken-hearted and un-restored, or defensive towards whoever is confronting us.
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2
Scripture is clear that we should be correcting, rebuking, and encouraging one another. If you have not done so, or been on the receiving end lately, then this is something you probably need to consider carefully. No one wants to be “that guy” who goes around pointing fingers. The thought of “judging” others lingers in the back of our minds. It keeps us from lovingly approaching our brothers and sisters in Christ to their detriment, and ours. Judging and confronting are not the same thing-and when we approach others as God instructs us to do “with great patience and careful instruction” then we are obedient.
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
Sin is no joke. It needs to be dealt with-that’s certain. We tend to be blind when it comes to our faults, and God instructs us to approach one another for good reason.
2. Confrontation is best done by “your people”. The most significant times in my life where I was, indeed, engaged in wrong thinking, were turned around when someone close to me, who had HISTORY with me, was bold enough to tell me the Truth. If you haven’t loved enough, invested enough, and filled enough into the life of who you are about to confront first, then your confrontation will more than likely alienate more than do good.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Psalm 27:6
Not long ago, I was feeling pretty entitled. I tearfully explained to a friend with 15 years of loving history, that I was questioning why God had allowed certain circumstances in my life. She told me point-blank, full of love, that my thinking was a “religion that I made up for myself”. And she was right. I never forgot it. Her wisdom stopped me in my tracks and turned my thinking 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
When you have a community of sisters who know you and love you, you are more likely to listen to them and take their admonishing to heart. And likewise, when you see a friend who is headed down a wrong path, you will be more likely to be honest with them about the sin in their life when you know, that they know, your heart.
3. When confrontation goes badly, you have two choices. Choice A is that you can become bitter, angry with those who approached you in an unloving manner, and ignore the issue they broached.
Choice B is to listen with an open mind, giving the “confronter” the benefit-of-the-doubt, and to prayerfully consider their words.
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:11
I know that not everyone who confronts you will do it Biblically, and I also know that not every confrontation is valid. The key is to receive it with grace and humility and to come away from the experience with a desire to do what is right on your side. It can hurt to be approached in a way that feels more like an accusation than a sister trying to love you and draw you closer to Christ. But focusing on the hurt, and being unforgiving, will only send you down an even more treacherous path. A path that is sin. You and I have been forgiven much by our loving Savior, and we would do well to forgive others as Christ asks us to do. In this life we will need to “bear with one another in love”.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
Ultimately, anything that God will use to make you more like Christ, and to allow you to identify with Him in His sufferings, is worth it.
4. If you aren’t asking God to confront you, don’t be surprised when others do. The Psalmist is wise. He makes it a habit to go before God, asking Him to ferret out the sin in his life.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24
Personally, I would much rather live a life that is above reproach, seeking the Holy Spirit to convict me of my own sin rather than have someone else point it out to me. If we are in the regular business of spending time with God and asking HIM to lead us “in the way everlasting”, then chances are we will be much more in tune with our own sin and allow God to deal with it before it destroys us or others.
I know full well when God is whispering in my ear, “this is the way, walk in it”. And I know the sorrow that comes from ignoring Him. No one knows you better than the One who made you. Humbly ask God to search your heart and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
After I had time to process my sophomore year, I chose not to get my knickers in a twist over skirts and eventually God used that situation to teach me humility and sincerity when I approach others. More than anything, I'm praying that none of us skim over God's Word when it comes to confrontation. We all need it. I'll probably never be the one to talk to you about your clothes, but you can consider this post a gentle admonition to spur you towards love and good deeds, knowing that sometimes that means talking to your friends about sin issues. And may you both be better for it.
YOUR TURN! Have you ever been through a similar situation? Why do you think the topic of confrontation is so challenging?
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