11 Simple Ways to Seek the Good of People You Are Upset With When You Talk to Them About It
Be careful not to approach that person as if he didn’t know anything or as if he hadn’t studied the Scripture himself. When you are speaking to someone about something serious, you might ask them to be patient with you and acknowledge what you see the person is trying to do that is right and that they may even have already been doing or at least thinking about some of what you are about to tell them.
Do not only think about what you are saying – think about who you are saying it to. Ask, what can I do to make knowledge acceptable. Understand that very often when you are dealing with an issue in someone’s life they feel like they haven’t been heard, and if they feel like they haven’t been heard they are going to be very tempted not to hear what is being said to them.
Pray with the person. Obvious? Not always. Often those who are dealing with conflict situations are problem solvers and so when they come to deal with a conflict they want to jump right in there and try to fix the problem. Maybe a quick prayer and then right into the issue. But what about just slowing down with the person you are confronting and getting on your knees together and coming to God together and saying, God we are confused about how to deal with this problem that has come up between us and we know that it would be very easy for us to make things worse and we are coming before you and just crying out to you together to help us love one another? What about extended periods of prayer together?
Ask questions. Seriously. Asking questions. Obvious? Again, not so much. Maybe we should add, asking good questions and listening to the answers. The problem with asking questions is that you might get answers however and the answers you get might be different than your preconceived notion of what is actually happening.Work on being a patient listener. Listening involves a bit of personal suffering because it means you have to keep your mouth closed and many of us really like to hear ourselves talk. But how can we really deal with an issue between two people if we haven’t heard what both those people have to say about it.
Ask the person what you have done wrong. It is so difficult when you are dealing with a conflict with someone else to begin by asking them what it is that you have done wrong. I personally have no problem asking someone who is happy with me what my weaknesses are, but someone who is upset? They probably have a list. And what’s worse, when I am coming to the conflict I sometimes am not nearly as concerned about what is wrong with me as what is wrong with the person I am confronting. This is a problem. What if God were using the conflict not only in the other person’s life but also in my life? What if this was a moment for me to learn? Now, when we ask someone a question like this we have to be careful we really want to know the answer. Asking what your weaknesses are shouldn’t be a manipulative trick to get the other person to ask you what you think their weaknesses are. This is where trusting God comes in and sometimes trusting God is incredibly difficult when you are dealing with a proud person. But remember there is a Holy Spirit and he’s not you. He’s able to work in that other person’s life without you and that should free you up to learn what you need to learn from the conflict situation.
Recognize that when being confronted about their sins, people often become insecure. It’s so rare to be confronted about sin and usually people only do it when they are very angry. This is helpful to remember. You may be a secure person who doesn’t mind confrontation and just loves having someone tell them they are doing something wrong, but realize most people aren’t. They need you not only to love them in your heart but to let them know that you love them. Try this, look at them and say “I want you to know that I really appreciate you and love you.” They can’t see into your heart, they don’t know what’s there if you don’t say it, and they will be tempted to imagine things are there that really aren’t if you don’t. Telling someone else besides your family you love them may feel awkward to you, but get over it. If you feel a responsibility to confront someone, be a big enough boy to tell them you love them at the same time. If you really want to use biblical language, try Paul. “I long for you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Now, that’s intense.
Don’t be a child. Sometimes when we deal with other people, we really are like little children. We want our way and it bugs us the other person is getting in our way and so, it’s not really about Jesus and what He wants, but instead it is about us getting what we want. Now, the problem is as adults and Christians we have learned to use religious language to cover over our selfishness. We can’t say out loud, I just want what I want. So we cover that with “our deep concern for the good of the other person” and “really wanting the Lord’s will in this situation.” Sometimes we do want that, but let’s be honest, sometimes that is not what the whole thing is about. It is our strong will coming out. This is why I think James says if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart don’t boast and lie against the truth. It’s like James is saying, come on man, if this is what is going on in your heart, why don’t you just admit it instead of pretending to be all religious because it just makes things more confusing.
Try to imagine Christ dying on the cross for that person. Here I am standing as it were beside Christ dying on the cross for the person that I can’t stand at that moment. That’s embarrassing for me, it’s sad, and very convicting. How can I not love and care for someone that my Savior cares so much for? You might notice when you read Paul’s letters how many different ways he describes Christians. He doesn’t usually begin, Dear Corinthians, you are a bunch of rotten sinners. They were of course, but they weren’t just that. He usually writes, Beloved or Chosen ones and when you are in a conflict with a Christian it is important for you to remember that they are more than a problem to you, they are loved by God.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. I have found in my life that sometimes I make conflict worse by taking myself way too seriously. What happens when I take myself too seriously is that I overreact and my overreaction doesn’t fix the problem but makes it worse. When someone slanders me or someone attacks me, it is helpful for me to remind myself that I am barely a speck of dust and that the kingdom of God doesn’t begin and end with me and that God is sovereign and able to work in this situation for good and that in a couple of weeks I will probably look at the situation a little differently. Sometimes the real reason we are so serious about the situation is because we really do think too much of our own importance.
Believe that conflicts are not only problems, they are opportunities. One of the ways conflicts with others are opportunities is that the way you respond to the conflict and relate to the other person reveals what you believe about God. Only someone who believes God is in control and God is good and God is wise is able to be truly gentle, not using gentleness as a manipulative trick, but sincerely laying aside one’s own rights and actively seeking the good of the person you are dealing with.
One of the proofs you are actively seeking the good of the person you are dealing with is not only the way you approach him in the conflict situation, but also how you deal with him afterwards. If you feel like you have the responsibility of confronting someone about their sin, if you really care for them, then you will also feel the responsibility for helping them succeed after you have confronted them about their sin.