Three Steps for Preserving Peace When Your Feelings Get Hurt
They inevitably do, don’t they? We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2) and quite often we and people we care about in the body of Christ get hurt in the process.
Anticipating this challenge for His church, Jesus prescribed just what to do when offenses threaten unity between brothers and sisters.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15).
In the rest of the context (Matt. 18:16-20), the Lord explains how to proceed if your brother fails to listen, but that’s another post or two for another time.
In this post I want to camp out on the all-important starting place for stopping discord in its tracks as spelled out in v. 15. I see three simple steps in this one verse.
First, go to the person. If your brother sins against you, go. Take initiative. If you can’t overlook the offense (Prov. 19:11), assume responsibility for your feelings and reach out.
Too often we stuff or brood over hurt feelings to our own emotional detriment and the detriment of relationships. Paul fleshed out the law of love in such cases this way: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).
Two, speak with the person. Tell him his fault. Sit down (face-to-face is best) and get honest about what has happened–or what you think has happened.
More times than not offenses boil down to misunderstandings. Never underestimate the possibility for communication to break down.
I try to always lead with questions at the outset of a peacemaking confrontation. They will sound something like this: “You know that situation/conversation/email/etc. a while back? What was going on there? I might be missing something–can you help me understand?”
Just before I stepped down from my church last summer, a misunderstanding with one of our elders reinforced for me the wisdom of this kind of approach. I took offense at him hijacking the leadership of my last Sunday AM prayer meeting with our intercessory team.
Turns out he didn’t hijack anything. After I cooled off and remembered the importance of practicing what I preach, I went to him after the service in just the manner described above.
He explained that he had done what he thought that week’s office email requested of him. It made perfect sense! I laughed and we went away reconciled. But I could have made a nightmare mess of our relationship had I failed to engage him for clarification or confronted him in anger.
Three, care for the person. Between you and him alone. Guard confidentiality. Refuse gossip. Blabbing about your pain from another’s words or actions may likely slander them and sow discord among brothers–an abomination among the things God hates (Prov. 6:16-19).
Deidra Riggs, in her book One: Unity in a Divided World, calls confrontation a gift God extends to us:
God desires oneness and unity for us. When we hold grudges and add people to our unappealing short lists, we invite division and disunity. One way to stop discord in its tracks is to bring it out into the open, set it down on the table between you and the other person, and talk about it face-to-face. … We can take courses, read books, and listen to podcasts, which give us specific techniques for dealing with confrontation, but I’ve found the very best instruction right in the pages of God’s word” (14).
Well said, sister, and thanks for the insight and exhortation.