Christians need help with confrontations. Let’s face it. There’s a lot of meanness out there. Most of the time we just sit and take it. Others, we walk away and complain to our friends. Rarely do we stand up and respectfully, firmly put someone in their place.
But there are ways to avoid an emotional cheek-turning slap down and assert yourself as a master at the art of telling someone off. However, when Christians do it, it usually looks something like this:
The Art of Telling Someone Off in Christianese
- “God is going to spit you out of his mouth.” One of the more grotesque Bible metaphors, this insult places a person in the awkward position of both imagining himself as phlegm and wondering if you’re going to randomly spit at him at any moment.
- “I don’t have a peace about you [or your relationship, behavior, opinion].” A nice way to say “You suck” while stamping your overly active spiritual authority on the situation. Yes, someone actually said this to me. No, I’m not telling who.
- “You’re operating in the flesh.” This is possibly the creepiest way to confront someone, especially a non-Christian, who likely doesn’t know any other way to live than with his skin on. Seriously? Can we get weirder? I think we can.
- “You need revelation.” This is weirder. I have no clue what this means in conversation. But it sounds awesome in a Wizard of Oz, peek behind the curtain sense.
- “May God have mercy on your soul.” The undertones of sarcasm and foreboding make this a really interesting, instant classic. It’s an intellectual choice, with the eulogy-like ring to it and the added irony that you mean exactly the opposite of what you’re saying.
- “The Lord rebuke you.” Nothing says serious like calling up images of Michael the Archangel battling Lucifer while calling down wrath on your neighbor.
- “I’m wiping the dust off my feet.” I have to admit I’ve said this. (Hangs head.) To a car dealership.
- “I’m removing your spiritual blessing.” Also said this. Same dealership. My inner psycho is ashamed. But it felt really good at the time.
- “Father forgive them. For they know not what they do.” Wrote this in a Twitter battle after someone called me a Pharisee. I don’t recommend it. Although it has a nice martyr effect and lays quite a guilt trip, for anything less than being crucified, the guilt trip ends up being on you.
- “I’m handing you over to Satan.” Probably the least sensitive way to handle a conflict, but saying how you really feel is a big step for most Christians.
Can you see yourself saying any of these? If so, skip right past all the real advice and go to the share button below.
Alright, fine, because I said it… real advice. Here’s how to win when Christianese pales and wisdom prevails.
— Confront the conflict head on.
There are no points for thinking of the perfect reply later and lecturing your armoire. Be a man. Or a woman. Or a pre-recorded tape played into a voicemail. Whatever. But step it up and deal with the issue by going to the person. Remember, you represent a Christ who called out snakes and vipers; he didn’t cower in a corner repeating the Beatitudes to himself.
— Don’t gossip about it.
Go straight to the person. Telling everyone else is for vipers. Be a viper repeller. If you need advice, go to one or two people you know who A) are wiser and trustworthy for godly advice and B) won’t tell anyone.
It’s your responsibility to protect the honor of the person who wronged you. Wha?? Yes. God is responsible for judgment. You are responsible for handling the situation maturely. Tattle-taling as a form of midlife crisis is ungodly and immature.
— Start with the understanding of how to win with people.
Everyone lashes out defensively when you attack them. Don’t. Focus on the issues. Don’t accuse their character. Come in peace and they’ll let you in the city walls, instead of shooting you full of holes.
— Ask them to ask forgiveness and take any necessary steps of reconciliation.
A certain prominent community member lied about one of my family members. I confronted the person in a private meeting and then later in a meeting with another witness (the biblical model of confrontation). He confessed and asked forgiveness, but more was necessary given the people he’d lied to and the person he’d lied about. True repentance makes right what was wronged.
Anyone can say he’s repented in his heart. But repentance shows the fruit of repentance by being more than word-deep, but growing new, luscious fruit on the vine. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. The Bible says to pay back four times what you’ve stolen. This is true in emotional and relational currency, as well.
— Allow the person the dignity of dealing with his or her obligations and wrong personally.
This is crucial. Giving a person the opportunity to step up and confess his own sin to someone (instead of having you tell it) is actually an honor to the person who’s sinned and an important step in his growth. Allow a person a chance to at least express heartfelt sorrow and try to pay back the wrong. This is true in a ministry or any personal relationship. Stepping in as a middle man, cutting them off, and solving it like a quick draw Lone Ranger shows a lack of understanding of true leadership. Let Tonto get a word in. Settle into the background, big guy, and let the person make it right.
In the story above, I asked this person to go to each person he’d lied to (who I knew about), confess, and tell the truth about the person he’d wronged.
We don’t have to be push-overs just because we’re Christians. In fact, we of all people should be as bold as our heroes of the faith. Mine, living or ancient, each have a no-holds barred ruggedness mixed with compassion. Kind of like a carpenter you may know.
The result of my request in the end, I have to admit, sadly, was pathetic. The man never really confessed to them what he promised he would. Apparently, he’d never read How to Ask Forgiveness and Still Come Out on Top.
But hey, you can’t always win. Then, and only then, pray for lightning bolts and hit ’em with a “Get thee behind me, Satan.”