Relationships grow through healthy conflict, but growing through conflict has become a lost art. We need to learn to view and engage in necessary conflict as Jesus did, “full of grace and truth.” How do we do it?
Force yourself to sit in the “Awkward Chair”
The awkward chair is what I call the difficult and vulnerable conversations where we confront a painful truth. Rather than ignoring the person or issue, we face it head on. We choose to humble ourselves when someone brings a painful truth to our attention rather than dismissing it. On the flip side, we also choose to bring a painful truth to someone else’s attention rather than avoiding it. The chair isn’t comfortable either way, but we have to sit in it if we want growth.
Value truth more than affirmation
Imagine going to a doctor for a check-up and he or she saying, “You’re in great shape. All your tests came back perfect.” A week later you find out your cholesterol is through the roof and you’re a cupcake away from the grim reaper.
What would you do?
You’d likely go back to the doctor and want to know what happened. Imagine hearing, “I didn’t want you to get offended. I want you to feel good about yourself here.” You’d say, “No thanks! I’d prefer the truth.”
We need to have the same posture to truth with every aspect of our lives. Even if it’s painful —if it’s true, I want to know it.
Approach conflicts “full of grace and truth”
Jesus is our model of using healthy conflict for growth. He clearly viewed it as an integral part of the growth process, but he was never mean-spirited. His goal was always to build up rather than tear down. He avoided shaming tactics, and his approach was always graceful rather than condemning. Jesus loved people so much, that He wanted them to step fully into the men and women they were called to be. That couldn’t happen without conflict full of truth and grace.
Say the last 10%
When you’re in conflict with someone, make sure you get to the heart of the issue rather than circling peripheral ones. “I feel like…” “My perspective is that…” Avoid accusatory questions or tones that go straight at someone’s character, but don’t avoid the core issue.
Surround yourself with wise people who care enough to confront you
Give permission to those who know you best to confront you when necessary. Let them know that you value truth more than affirmation and genuinely want to know if they see sin or potential growth areas in your life.
Don’t confuse growth-oriented conflict with judgment
Your life doesn’t have to be in perfect working order to confront someone with painful truth. If you’re not sitting in judgment of them, prayed for them, examined your heart and are sure your goal is growth, feel released to have the tough conversation. Communicate concern and empathy. Express a level of humility that doesn’t equate your perspective as the definitive word. Invite conversation on your perspective and do everything you can to communicate acceptance of them and your commitment to the relationship.
In Ephesians 4:15, the apostle Paul writes, “…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
May God give you the humility and love to hear and speak difficult truths for the sake of growth!