Try doing that at a time when confrontation is considered a bad thing (“don’t judge”), you’re not allowed to say someone else is wrong, and the 11th Commandment (“Thou shalt be nice“) is the law of the land. Add all that to an already non-confrontational culture, and you’ve got a challenge ahead of you.
I appreciate how balanced and observant Paul David Tripp is. He talks about confrontation, and why we don’t like it. He asks, “why is confrontation so scary?” Sure, we like to hide and don’t like to be under inspection, but that’s not all. Confrontation is often done in an unbiblical way. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of confrontation gone bad will appreciate this recognition.
Yes, we dread confrontation because we don’t like to look at our sin, but we also dread confrontation because of the troublesome and unbiblical way we’ve seen it handled. There are legitimate reasons for our dread of rebuke.
Let me suggest several ways in which our agenda for confrontation gets confused with the Lords.
—Paul David Tripp, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles pg. 136
I’ll merely provide the heads from his list (pg. 136-138), along with my own reflection on them:
1. Confrontation often confuses personal irritation and anger with biblical perspectives and purposes.
On one level, confrontation is inconvenient. Confrontation usually happens when someone has gotten hurt or offended, so the personal anger and frustration can easily be all that the confrontation is about. “You have irritated me.” The biblical priorities get set aside, perhaps unconsciously, and it just becomes a smack down on this person who has sinned against someone else. It’s easy to let the hurt and anger cloud the situation.
2. Poor data gathering can lead to incorrect assumptions about the facts, which derails confrontation.
THIS. This, right here. There’s a reason Scripture commands 2-3 witnesses, with proper finding of the facts before discipline is executed (in both Testaments, actually). Yet how many times does someone go into confrontation, guns blazing with accusation, only to find out he had the facts wrong? “Shoot first, ask questions later” is not the way to do it. “Just the facts, ma’am.”
3. Confrontation is often marred by a judgment of motives.
There’s nothing like impugned motives to ruin a perfectly good confrontation. What you may have had right is not overshadowed by your false accusation. It was going so well, until you went and pretended to know why.
4. Inflammatory language, condemning words, and emotional tones often stain confrontation.
Tone it down. But, I have the suspicion that we are tempted to use inflammatory language and strong tones to strengthen our (otherwise weak) case, and make it seem more certain than it is. Like a politician. Strong emotions don’t build a case. In fact, we are to be gentle even as we are firm, according to Scripture.
5. Confrontations are often adversarial rather than moments of loving concern for the person who needs your rebuke.
It’s a “versus” situation rather than a “with” situation. It’s easy to view the person as the enemy who needs to be dealt with. It’s also easy for the confronter to be detached, feeling superior. Especially if the one confronting already has a “I’ve got it together” attitude, and majors on moralism. The grace of God goes out the window. No coming alongside the offender in grace, at that point.
6. In confrontation, Scripture is often used more as a club than as a mirror of self-awareness and a guide to change.
Punitive, as opposed to restorative. Indeed, it’s easy for us to decide ahead of time that the person won’t change, so we quit believing in the power of the Word. So naturally we don’t use it to that end. Just as a paddle to spank whoever needs it. The point is not to threaten judgement, but lead to confession (pg. 138).
7. Confrontation often confuses human expectations with God’s will.
Shoot, how many times has the purpose of confrontation been to correct someone for violating personal preferences? Such as: You’re not “towing the party line.” You disagree with me on matters of conscience. Therefore, you need to be corrected. Like that mandatory re-education they do. How about Scripture, please, instead of the laws of men. Whenever,and wherever that is the case, God’s will has been supplanted. Confrontation is not to realign people with yourself (making clones), but to bring them back to alignment with God’s Word.
8. Confrontation often takes place in the context of a broken relationship.
Most confrontation starts off on the wrong foot. If there’s been hurt and offense between two parties, it’s likely they’re already coming to the table with a negative attitude. And it really doesn’t help when the one doing the confronting actually says these things out loud, and goes on and on about how wounded and irritated he is, and how much you’ve hurt these other people, and you’re just so terrible. When that’s what confrontation is, why wouldn’t you dread it?
9. Confrontation often demands that change be an immediate event rather than a process.
This is me, right here. Let’s get it done! But, that’s unrealistic. Nobody does an immediate reversal. Scripture simply doesn’t promise it. Sanctification is a process. The Spirit’s work takes time. It’s easy to grow impatient, once you forget that you yourself require much patience. To enter confrontation with this immediate expectation puts unbiblical pressure on the person. We need to remember that we can’t change them, and change is gradual.