Faith · Justice · Life

3 Keys to Dealing with Confrontation

Do you ever feel like God is yelling at you to get your attention? As a mom, I know that yelling isn’t my first response and usually comes after many attempts to get a child’s attention. This past week, I feel like God has been yelling at me – or more accurately to me.

“Confrontation. Confrontation. Confrontation.”

I see this word everywhere – in print, in the context of situations in my life and in the midst Twitter conversations.

I have always had a hard time with confrontation. It brings on a total fight or flight response in me, sometimes with a retreat into my quiet safe space and other times causing me to fight like a lion protecting its young.  It’s why I loved Brene Brown’s mantra “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground” when I first heard it. Isn’t it true that when faced with conflict our first instinct is to protect ourselves? We either shield ourselves from the conflict or take a fighting stance. But as I grow older, I realize how harmful this response is to us and others.

On twitter this week, #thingschristianwomenhear, #notwinsome, conversations about platform, and conversations about racial injustice keep popping up in my feed. Things move so quickly and we can broadcast our thoughts across the world with the touch of a button making it all too easy for these conversations to move quickly into a place of conflict.

I’ve also been confronting an issue at my daughter’s school this week. As the conversation continued, I felt my bear claws wanting to come out. When I stepped back and evaluated, I realized that I perceived the response to my concern as defensive and even argumentative which just made me want to go on the offense. Would I be justified in doing so? Is there a better way?

At the women’s fellowship at my church, we are going through the DVD series “Twelve Women of the Bible.” I am facilitating next month, and when I opened the book to look at the woman and topic, I saw the picture below.

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I told you God was trying to get my attention!

If you open your Bible to 1 Samuel 25, you will see Abigail described as “beautiful and intelligent” and her husband Nabal as “surly and mean in his dealings.” Beautiful and intelligent sounds like someone I’d want to learn from!

By insulting David’s servants and refusing to show them favor, Nabal created a larger conflict between himself and David. The servants came and asked Abigail to intervene. As I look at her response, I see three keys to dealing with confrontation that I can learn from her:

  1. Don’t let things fester. Abigail acted quickly. Too often, I get stuck in analysis paralysis when faced with conflict. Instead of dealing with the matter, I allow it to fester and become bigger. If I can learn like Abigail to act quickly, I might be able to address conflicts before they become too big.
  2. Avoid involving people who are combative. When Abigail went to deal with the conflict, she did not tell her husband. This seems a bit deceptive until you think about it from Abigail’s perspective. She knows her husband is surly and mean. She knows that he created the conflict in the first place. She knows that if she told him, he would be likely to “puff up” and make the conflict bigger. If, like Abigail, I can remember not to include combative people when I’m dealing with confrontation, I’ll save myself a lot of trouble.
  3. Be humble and have bold expectations. Instead of puffing herself up, Abigail came to David with a humble posture. She asked him to let her speak, apologized for her husband’s action, and clarified that she knew nothing of the men David had sent. She even came prepared with a peace offering for him. But she didn’t stop there. Instead of shrinking, Abigail asked David to remember her when the Lord brought him success. If I can learn to both take a posture of humility and bring bold expectations, I can more effectively handle conflict and create lasting relationships.

I think the tension between the humility and the boldness is where we often conflict in our conversations about confrontation, and specifically in matters of injustice. I believe there are some who naturally tend to shrink in the face of conflict and others who naturally tend to puff up. I think we owe it to ourselves and others to reflect on this when we enter areas of conflict and confrontation. There may be times when “standing our sacred ground” may look like “puffing up” to some and like “shrinking” to others. Most importantly, we need to be honest to ourselves and to God. It matters only if we are true to ourselves not whether we are #winsome or #notwinsome.

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