Monday, October 5, 2015

31Days - Conflict

There are some days I walk out of a counseling session thinking "I so did not see that coming." Today was one of those days. I need to do a lot more thinking about this morning's session. But I did walk out fairly confident that I knew what the next blog in the 31 Days of Fear (and Truth) series needed to address. And looking at the list I had brainstormed the other night, it wasn't even on that list. As I start this, I'm not sure I have answers. I'm not sure what, if any answers I will find. But as I admitted in the post for Day 1, sometimes I need to write it out to find what's deep within. I need to explore it for myself, so here goes....

I'm not quite sure how we got there. I think we were discussing my tendency to write rather than to articulate with my voice and exploring why that is. Obviously, writing gives me time and space to clarify my thoughts. But... beyond that... I admitted that writing is a way to deal with things logically rather than deal with emotion. In exploring that I admitted that when I have a problem with someone, I am much more likely to sit down and write out a thoughtful email than to speak to them face to face. I do not want to deal with the emotion of a face to face confrontation. Not just my emotions, but the other person's emotions (that is actually on the list... but another post).

We then spent a lot of the session talking about the need to be assertive – that healthy balance between passive (my natural tendency) and aggressive. There's a lot I need to unpack and consider myself. But I walked out knowing one thing for sure:

My fear for Day Five:
I am afraid of conflict and confrontation.

Any and all conflict. Any and all confrontation. It doesn't matter if it's posting a viewpoint on facebook that I might have to defend, or if it's telling someone that the way they are behaving is hurtful. I hate conflict.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves it can be hurtful. Children can scream "I hate you!" So can adults for that matter. You can lose friends. You can make enemies. There are people who will never listen; never admit to being wrong; never try to see your viewpoint. You can feel ostracized; attacked; invalidated. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT)

There are actually a couple of things in this verse that I want to unpack. First:

Speak the truth in love...

Here's the thing: if I am being passive – avoiding conflict – then I am not being truthful. A lie of omission is still a lie. A lie that sits down inside me, and along with the hurt, festers. Not only does it give ground for bitterness, but look at the next part of the sentence:

...growing in every way more and more like Christ

By speaking the truth in love we grow more like Christ! We don't grow by avoiding the conflict and pretending everything is okay, but by speaking the truth in love. Avoiding conflict by being passive actually hinders my growth!

Thing is, not only does it hurt me, but it hurts my brother. Look at the rest of the passage:

As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow
so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

By speaking the truth in love, I also give others the opportunity to become healthy, growing and full of love. Jesus spoke of that in Matthew as well:

“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."
Matthew 18:15 (ESV)

... go and tell him his fault....
If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

I think so many times I get caught on the word sin. I tend to think of the "big" ones (which, I know better – all sin is sin!). But the word "sin" actually comes from an archery term which means "to miss the mark." We can miss the mark in so many ways. It doesn't have to be a "big ten" offense. Just a little off-center. But if that "miss" has affected me; affected our relationship; or is affecting my brother's relationship with Christ, then I need to address it. I need to go to him – not to beat him up, but to open a path for reconciliation (with me as well as with Christ).

In truth, the path of passiveness is a path of selfishness. 

I am protecting myself and my own interests rather than those of my brother. I am putting my self-protection above his growth and reconciliation. And for that I need to look back at Phil 2:4 (which I unpacked here in Day 2).

One more thought:

 My success at being assertive does not depend on the other person's reaction. 

I think this can be seen in the "If" from Matthew 18:15. Jesus tells us our part – go and tell our brother. The rest – if he listens – is up to the other person. My part is still my part, no matter what the other person may do. That's hard for me. And that's where I'm struggling now, I guess. Because I tend to feel like "why bother" if I believe (from past experience) that the response will be one of defensiveness, hurt or anger rather than one of repentance and sorrow. That's just hard!

And here's another kicker. My counselor pointed out that when a person who is normally passive first attempts assertiveness, the first reaction is usually not good (because it's unexpected). That reaction tends to push the passive person right back into the position of being passive. (He's right – I've been there, done that, and given up). But regardless of the result, it's still on me to keep being assertive; to be consistent; to keep putting reconciliation and the other person's growth ahead of my own (perceived) self-protection. To do the right thing. A one-time attempt probably won't be effective. (Please note: I am NOT talking about putting yourself at risk in relationships where there is abuse or there are unhealthy boundaries! Being assertive is in fact, actually setting and holding those boundaries, and not letting the other person walk over you by being passive).

Honestly, I don't feel like I've really expressed myself as well as most of my other posts. I don't feel as settled. I guess probably because I'm still struggling with it. I see the truth, but acting on it is still a challenge. Please comment and share your thoughts. I think I need all the input I can get! :)

Father God, I am so scared of conflict, of upsetting another person – even when I know it is what needs to be done. I know You tell me to go and speak truth, to point out where someone has missed the mark. But, God, that is still so very, very scary for me. Honestly, I don't even know how to pray. So help me want to want what You want. Keep speaking Your truth into my heart. Help me to do what You've called me to do... and leave the rest up to You.

Fear: I am afraid of conflict and confrontation.


  • I am called to speak the truth in love.(Eph 4:15)
  • Speaking the truth helps me to grow more like Christ. (Eph 4:15)
  • Speaking the truth helps my brother to grow. (Eph 4:16)
  • Speaking the truth gives opportunity for reconciliation. (Matthew 18:15)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).


  1. This is so me. I am getting better at it. Thank you for the insight.

  2. I think we are all a bit afraid of confrontation. Also, when we voice our thoughts we open them up to argument. It's so much nicer to write them down and always be right....things get a bit tricky when we have to acknowledge another person's opinion, especially when they may have a valid point. But, if we don't open ourselves up to that we cannot learn and grow.

    1. Good thoughts, aspiritofsimplicty! Especially since I posted a couple days ago on the fear of being wrong (aka need to be right). I think that does have some play into some of my fears (like posting something I might have to defend on FB). Thanks for sharing! :)