There’s a world of difference between controlling someone out of fear and confronting them out of love.
When we have to deal with someone else’s bad behavior, we have a choice. We can try to control the other person and manipulate them into doing the right thing. Control is hypocrisy because we’re trying, by sinful means, to get them to not sin. How do you think that’s going to work? God won’t bless that. The ends do not justify the means.
Or we can loving confront them, speaking vulnerably from our heart. We can say what needs to be said, as lovingly as possible, but still as directly as needed. Then we trust God to speak to their heart, and we give them the grace to be in process while they work it out with God.
Here’s an example.
Thomas had an issue with his wife, Miranda. She would spend hours venting to him about people in their church. It was affecting his relationships with those people. He was afraid it would make him look bad. He was afraid she’d vent to someone else and her toxic spew would get back to the pastor, or worse, one of the church gossips. He was afraid she’d embarrass the family, and him most of all. He knew he had to do something about it. He had to take control, and out of his fear he tried to.
“Miranda, stop it!” he demanded the next time she started to spew. “I’m not going to listen to this! It’s wrong for you to spew like this about everybody! How can you even claim to be a Christian woman when this is what comes out of your mouth? You need to repent and stop talking like this right now!” Thomas knew he was in the right and his self-righteousness demanded instant change.
How do you think that went over? Miranda was angry with Thomas. She knew the way she spoke about her brothers and sisters at church was wrong. But she was incensed more that Thomas didn’t even try to hear her heart. She wanted to change how she spoke about people, it didn’t make her feel good at all. But she didn’t want to be bullied by his control either. He made it harder than it already was for her to deal with her sin.
Ok, now, stop. Rewind. Replay.
Thomas had an issue with his wife, Miranda. She would spend hours venting to him about people in their church. It was affecting his relationships with those people. He got up half an hour earlier than usual (3:30 AM instead of his usual 4:00 for the commute). He fasted breakfast, giving that 15 minutes to the Lord. So he had an extra 45 minutes each morning to pour out the pain and fear from his own heart to the Lord. He was determined to do this for as long as it took to get God’s strategy for dealing with this, but it only took a few days.
Almost immediately the Lord gave him a concern about what pain was in her heart that she was medicating by talking like this. He knew he had to say something about it. He had to confront her, and out of love he tried to.
“Miranda, wait a minute,” he risked the next time she started to spew. “Can I say something? I want to be there for you; I’m so glad you talk to me. I want to listen. I want to hear your heart. But I know this isn’t your heart for these people. You like these people, they’re our friends, but you talk down about them for hours. It’s starting to affect my relationship with them, because I find myself seeing them through this negative lens. But help me hear your heart. What are you afraid of? What’s wrong?” Thomas then prayed silently and put her in God’s hands. He left her and her response to God’s process, knowing even if she responded negatively now, God wasn’t done speaking to her heart. His love allowed her to be in process.
How do you think that went over? Miranda was angry with Thomas. She knew the way she spoke about her brothers and sisters at church was wrong. And she was angry at him for bringing it up and calling her on it. It hurt. He was inviting her into dangerous vulnerability, which she desperately longed for but was also terrified of. But she knew he was right, that there was something deeper going on in her heart. Now Miranda had a choice. Would she go there, to that vulnerable place, or would she try to control and bully him back into listening to her vent without saying anything to her about it?
This post isn’t about Miranda. It’s about Thomas. The second Thomas above may not have done it perfectly, but he tried. He approached Miranda with loving confrontation, with the strategy he asked the Lord for, not fearful control. He left her response between her and God. He loved her enough, and trusted God enough, to allow her to be in the Holy Spirit’s process.
If something was wrong in your life, which approach would you prefer someone take with you? Personally, I’d prefer loving confrontation. I’ve had enough of fearful control to last a life time.
How about you? Have you been through this process on either side? We’d love to hear your story. And please share if you think this would be valuable to someone else.