I heard from a dear lady recently who said that she was having trouble getting along with people. She lamented the fact that every time a relationship of hers became one-sided, and she would attempt to confront the person and tell them frankly how they were making her feel mistreated and used, they would react with anger, indignation, or spitefulness. In some cases, they would even cut her off, leaving her feeling even more alone than she already did. She suspected that part of the problem was that people simply didn't like being confronted, even when the confronter did their best to be tactful and diplomatic. She asked for prayer and advice, because she desperately wanted to please the Lord with her relationships, but she wasn't exactly sure how to do that.
I told this dear woman that there are times when we simply cannot "pray away" relationship problems, and God expects us to deal with them directly. The Bible says that Christians are to "speak the truth in love." (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) And this principle applies even when confronting people lovingly causes them to react badly. Very few people like being corrected, or told that their behavior is unacceptable, but the fact is that all of us have a tendency to be selfish and self-centered. Because of that, God requires us to establish wise and healthy boundaries and limits for our lives, so that the people we are in relationship with won't think that they can control us or take advantage of us.
We can live our entire lives trying to avoid confronting people that need to be confronted, but all we are doing is giving these folks permission to oppress us, and to keep us from obeying the Lord and fulfilling the call of God on our lives. Then we will always carry around resentment in our hearts toward these people, and ALL of our relationships will be poisoned. We will end up sacrificing our sanity and our God-given purpose and potential, because we will be focusing on trying to keep these folks happy. And in the long run, it will all be in vain because God will not bless or protect these toxic relationships.
What is the solution to this madness? We must confront those people who the Lord leads us to confront, leaving the consequences of our obedience in God's hands. If you are not used to dealing with people's wrong behavior, then let me warn you that you are going to experience some serious feelings of guilt. But that is actually a positive response in these cases. It means that you are growing and making progress in establishing healthy boundaries for your relationships and your life, and eventually, you will reap the rewards that God has in store for you.
The Bible says: "Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin." (Leviticus 19:17 NLT) This principle applies to all of our relationships - in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our schools, and everywhere else. If we fail to "confront people directly" about their wrongdoing, then we will not only harbor resentment for them in our hearts, but we will suffer the consequences of our disobedience before God. I especially like how the Message Bible puts it: "Don't secretly hate your neighbor. If you have something against him, get it out into the open; otherwise you are an accomplice in his guilt." (Leviticus 19:17 MSG) Many times, doing the hard work of confronting others can result in clearing the air, and clearing the way to deeper and more satisfying relationships. One thing is for certain - if we refuse to deal with those people who the Lord expects us to deal with, we will be choosing to multiply our own misery, and to totally miss out on a chance for that relationship to ever improve.
Scripture promises: "Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue." (Proverbs 28:23 NIV) Even if the people we confront don't initially take our frankness very well, in the long run, they are likely to respect us for it. And even if they don't, we will gain the favor of God, and reap the rewards He promises. Who is it that the Lord is prompting you to deal with today?
Prayer: Lord, fill me with a holy boldness to "confront others directly," instead of nursing a grudge against them in my heart. When I am tempted to shy away from dealing with others the way You want me to, remind me of how I will suffer for it in the long run. When someone reacts badly to my attempts to confront them according to Your will, please comfort me and reassure me that I did the right thing. Help me to continually seek Your will and Your wisdom for all of my relationships. Thank You that as I follow Your lead, I will reap the untold rewards that can only come from You!
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