One of the most uncomfortable parts of our lives has to be when we find ourselves needing to have a tough conversation. Whether it is a discussion that has been put off for far too long or a situation that must be dealt with at a moment’s notice, tough conversations are a part of our lives. We may run from them, we may hide, but at the end of the day, sometimes when we least expect it, we are forced to break down and have a tough conversation. When we handle these moments in a Christ-like way, we walk away with a huge sense of relief more times than not. When we allow our pride and our opinions trump our love for our neighbor, we walk away with a broken and sometimes ruined relationship. How do we conduct such a conversation? Maybe more challenging, how do we receive someone else conducting a hard conversation with us? God’s Word gives Christians direction in dealing with such moments.
In Ephesians 4:29 and 4:32, Paul says, “29.) Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 32.) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” This passage does not let us off the hook from the hard discussions in our lives; in fact, it calls us to have them. However, it prescribes how we need to conduct ourselves in these moments. It says that we must speak what is good for necessary edification. When preparing to confront someone, we must premeditate and make sure what we are about to say is GOOD and NECESSARY for that person’s edification or building up. We have to ask ourselves, “Am I trying to help, or am I trying to hurt?” When we find ourselves speaking what is good for their edification, we are imparting grace to them. Grace has been aptly defined often as “Unmerited favor.” Regardless of whether they DESERVE our grace in the heat of the moment, we are required to give it to them. We do this by speaking ONLY that which is beneficial for their souls, lives, and well-being. Ultimately we must be tenderhearted, forgiving, and a Christ-like people. Why? Well, because if we want the same from Christ, we have to give others the same.
Paul would also say in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” We have to be so full of grace in our hearts towards the person we are confronting that our speech is seasoned. What he is saying is we cannot come at them with a spirit of brazen retribution. Instead, we must take time to tailor our words, to shape them into the form and manner we would wish to be spoken to if we were in their shoes. If we do not take the time to season our speech, we will not know how to speak to one another effectively. Proverbs 17:27 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” If we approach others with anything but a calm spirit, we will not behave as God would have us.
In the same way, it is obvious how we should conduct ourselves while confronting others, it is evident how we should receive such confrontation. If we are only willing to GIVE tough conversations and entirely unwilling to RECEIVE the same, then we are an imbalanced and unrealistic person. The fact of the matter is, we are capable of error and failure just the same as our neighbor. Therefore, we have to be ready to receive correction. First, we have to assume the BEST in the person confronting us. It could very well be the case that they have seasoned their speech, they have premeditated this was good and necessary for our building up, and they are attempting to speak to us with grace. If we assume anything else, we are destined to bite back at them unnecessarily. Proverbs 12:1 does not mince words about receiving correction, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 15:32 also speaks to this, “He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.”
Whether we are giving or receiving a tough conversation, God has expectations from us. He expects us to treat others the way we want to be treated, and He expects us to ultimately grow with one another. If we are not having the tough conversations, how can we grow? If we are not receiving the tough conversations, how can we grow? Lately, we have been having such conversations as a church family. Racism, prejudice, doubt, the problem of suffering, homosexuality, and many other things we have been studying and conversing about are not easy issues to tackle. However, just as someone told me this past Sunday night, “These are not easy things to hear, but they are exactly what the Church needs.” I pray that we can remember how to have tough conversations and how to receive the same. Then and only then will we be able to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism